Introduction (The Student's Guide to Starting a Profitable Custom Merch Business) - Part 1

Everest Guerra

Everest Guerra

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Welcome to part 1 of an 8 part guide to starting your own campus merch business. Each week we'll release a new part until the guide is complete. Once all issues have been released, we'll make the complete guide available in PDF form. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to me! Hope you enjoy đź‘‹

If you’re reading this guide, congrats! You’re well on your journey to becoming an entrepreneur and controlling your destiny. Not only have you stumbled upon the perfect student side-hustle, but you’re joining a community of people with shared goals and interests who can ultimately help you on your way to success.

Starting a business in college is hard. It’s typical for a college student to spend 40+ hours each week in class or doing school-related work, not to mention all of the clubs, organizations, and social groups they are involved in. That’s why when evaluating what type of business you want to start it’s important to consider how much time and energy you’ll have to put in. Thankfully, with the help of this guide, you can start a profitable business while only spending 4 hours each week managing it.

Throughout this guide, you'll learn how to identify your niche and target audience, create high-quality designs, source materials and suppliers, market and sell your custom merch, and manage and scale your business. The best part, you don’t need to be an expert in any of these fields. Instead, I’ll show you how to leverage your campus network and a few online tools to get your business off the ground and start generating revenue right away. Whether you're looking to make extra spending money or start a full-time business, this guide will give you the tools and knowledge you need to succeed.

So what are you waiting for? If I was able to do it, so can you! Let's get started on building your own custom merch empire today.

About the author

Let me introduce myself. My name is Everest, and I was once in your shoes - a college student at the University of Michigan, looking for a way to make money while balancing a busy academic schedule. My journey began in 2017 when, as a young sophomore, I started a custom merch business called Greek Dressing (archived website).

Inspired by my passion for design and entrepreneurship, I dove headfirst into the world of custom merch. It all started with a simple idea: create unique, high-quality products that would cater to the needs of collegiate organizations. As the business grew, I quickly realized the potential of this side hustle and expanded my reach.

By the time I graduated, I had assembled a team of a dozen student ambassadors who helped me sell merchandise to over 50 collegiate organizations across the United States. Our success didn't go unnoticed, and in August 2020, my thriving business was acquired by a much larger collegiate merch company, Greek House.

My entrepreneurial journey didn't end there. Today, I am the co-founder of PromoPepper, a popular promo industry newsletter that provides the latest news, trends, and insights to professionals in the field. I am also the founder of Stitchi, a full-service promo marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses create memorable promotional campaigns.

Throughout my journey, I've learned valuable lessons about the custom merch business, and I want to share those insights with you in this comprehensive guide. My goal is to empower you with the knowledge, tools, and resources needed to create a successful side hustle while still enjoying your college experience.

So, come along as we embark on this exciting journey together, and let's turn your passion for custom merch into a thriving business.

Why custom merch is the perfect side hustle for college students

College students are often in need of extra cash to help pay for tuition, textbooks, and other expenses. However, it can be challenging to find a job that offers the flexibility needed to balance coursework, social life, and extracurricular activities. This is where custom merch comes in as the perfect side hustle for college students.

With just four hours a week, you can start a custom merch business and earn a decent income. The beauty of this side hustle is that it doesn't require a large investment of time or money, making it accessible to anyone.

Minimal Time Allocation

As a college student, you have a lot on your plate. Between classes, studying, and social activities, finding time to work can be a challenge. With a custom merch business, you can work around your schedule and dedicate as little as four hours a week to your side hustle. This allows you to earn money without sacrificing your academic or social life.

For example, you can allocate time on weekends or evenings after classes to work on your designs, manage orders, or communicate with customers. This flexible schedule allows you to remain focused on your studies while still running a profitable business.

Minimal Funding Needed

Starting a custom merch business requires minimal funding, making it an ideal option for cash-strapped college students. In many cases, all you need is a laptop, design software, and access to a printer. You can also outsource design work to graphic design students who are looking to build their portfolios and earn some extra money.

Additionally, by utilizing print-on-demand services such as Printful or Printify, you can minimize your upfront costs and only pay for the products you sell. This eliminates the need for a large inventory investment, reducing your financial risk.

Another way to lower the startup cost is by taking advantage of college grants and university resources. Many colleges and universities offer grants, scholarships, or funding opportunities specifically for student entrepreneurs. These financial resources can help you cover initial startup costs such as purchasing design software, legal fees, marketing materials, or even attending industry conferences to gain knowledge and make connections in the custom merch business.

Pro Tip: To find out if your college or university offers such opportunities, visit your school's entrepreneurship center, career services, or financial aid office. They can provide you with information on available grants, scholarships, or funding programs and guide you through the application process.

Furthermore, universities often have resources and facilities that you can use to support your custom merch business. These resources may include computer labs with design software, makerspaces with printing equipment, or business development workshops and mentorship programs to help you learn valuable entrepreneurial skills.

Ample Peers to Support Various Needs

College campuses are full of talented individuals who can help you grow your custom merch business. For example, graphic design students can help you create high-quality designs, while marketing students can help you promote your products. There is also a ready market for your custom merch on campus, as your peers are likely to be interested in unique and personalized products that reflect their school spirit and individual style.

Furthermore, you can leverage campus events and organizations to promote your products. For instance, collaborate with sports teams, clubs, or fraternities and sororities to create custom merchandise for their events. This not only increases your brand visibility but also helps you build a loyal customer base on campus.

Real-Life Learning Experience

Running a custom merch business while in college also provides invaluable real-life learning experiences. As an entrepreneur, you'll learn essential skills such as time management, budgeting, marketing, and customer service, which will be highly beneficial for your future career.

Moreover, this hands-on experience can also be a great addition to your resume, showcasing your entrepreneurial spirit and ability to balance multiple responsibilities.

In conclusion, custom merch is the perfect side hustle for college students due to its minimal time allocation, minimal funding needed, ample support from peers, and the opportunity to gain real-life learning experiences. With the right strategy and execution, you can turn your custom merch business into a profitable venture that can help you achieve your financial goals while still enjoying your college experience.

What you will learn in this guide

In this comprehensive guide, "Cash in on Merch: The Student's Guide to Starting a Profitable Custom Merch Business with Just 4 Hours a Week," we aim to provide you with all the tools, knowledge, and resources necessary to create and grow a successful custom merch business while balancing your college life. Our guide is structured in a step-by-step manner, making it engaging and easy to follow.

Here is a brief overview of the key topics covered in each chapter:

  1. Understanding the Custom Merch Business: Get familiar with the basics of custom merch, including the production process, why it's popular, and successful examples of entrepreneurs who built thriving businesses in this space.

  2. Identifying Your Niche and Target Audience: Learn the importance of finding your niche and understanding your target audience to create products that resonate and sell.

  3. Designing Your Custom Merch: Discover tips and tricks for creating high-quality designs, finding design help, and navigating legal considerations.

  4. Manufacturing & Delivering Custom Merch: Delve into the process of sourcing materials, partnering with manufacturers, and ensuring timely delivery to your customers.

  5. Marketing and Selling Your Custom Merch: Master the art of promoting your custom merch through various marketing channels, building an online presence, and optimizing your pricing strategy.

  6. Managing and Scaling Your Custom Merch Business: Learn how to effectively manage your time, finances, and legal responsibilities while also developing key partnerships and expanding your product offerings to scale your business.

Throughout the guide, you'll find practical advice, real-life examples, and helpful resources designed to help you turn your custom merch business into a profitable venture. We emphasize the unique advantages of starting this side hustle as a college student, such as the minimal time and financial investment required and the ample support available within your campus community.

In summary, "Cash in on Merch" is an essential read for any college student seeking to launch a lucrative side hustle with limited time and resources. By following the guidance provided in this guide, you'll be well on your way to creating a thriving custom merch business while still enjoying your college experience.

Thanks for reading Part 1 of our guide on how to launch a campus merch business as a student. If you enjoyed reading this, please consider sharing it with others you think might be interested. If you have any suggestions for how to make the guide more effective, I greatly welcome and appreciate feedback

Next up

Understanding the Custom Merch Business - (The Student's Guide to Starting a Profitable Custom Merch Business) - Part 2Explore custom merch creation, its popularity drivers, and inspiring success stories from student entrepreneurs in this guide. Perfect for aspiring student entrepreneurs and anyone interested in the potential of this industry.

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