Manufacturing & Delivering Custom Merch (The Student's Guide to Starting a Profitable Custom Merch Business) - Part 5

Everest Guerra

Everest Guerra

Custom t-shirt manufacturing

Welcome to part 5 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 👋


Designing Your Custom Merch (The Student's Guide to Starting a Profitable Custom Merch Business) - Part 4This guide covers essential topics such as creating high-quality designs, tips for your target audience, outsourcing design work, legal considerations and licensing, design software and cutting-edge tools for managing the design process.

Overview of the Manufacturing and Delivery Process

Running a successful custom merch business involves more than just designing eye-catching products; it also requires a thorough understanding of the entire manufacturing and delivery process. This knowledge allows you to streamline operations, make informed decisions, and consistently deliver high-quality merchandise that meets your customers' expectations. Here is an overview of the key steps involved in the manufacturing and delivery process:

  1. Design Creation: This crucial first step involves brainstorming ideas, refining concepts, and developing the final design for your custom merchandise. The design should appeal to your target audience and be suitable for your chosen printing technique. You may create the designs yourself or collaborate with professional designers.

  2. Selecting a Manufacturing Partner: Your manufacturing partner will help bring your designs to life by producing your custom merch. Look for a partner with a strong track record in quality, affordability, and reliability. This step also involves selecting the right printing technique for your specific needs, considering factors like design complexity, durability, and cost.

  3. Production: Once you have finalized the design and chosen your manufacturing partner, the production phase begins. This includes printing or embroidering your designs onto blank apparel or accessories, ensuring consistent quality throughout the production run. It's essential to maintain open communication with your partner to monitor the process and address any issues promptly.

  4. Quality Control: Upon completion of production, conduct a thorough quality check of your custom merch to identify and rectify any defects or inconsistencies. With a trusted partner, it's possible to perform quality checks remotely, saving time and resources. Establish a clear agreement with your manufacturing partner regarding quality control, refunds, or replacements in case of defective merchandise.

  5. Packaging: For most orders, the garments are shipped to a single address and packaged together. In the case of individual shipping, it's crucial to find a partner who can support this requirement, although it may involve additional costs. Invest in quality packaging materials, such as poly mailers or boxes, packing tape, and protective inserts like bubble wrap or tissue paper. Include branded elements like thank-you cards, stickers, or custom-printed packaging to reinforce your brand identity.

  6. Shipping and Delivery: The manufacturer will typically handle shipping and deliver the customized products to a single destination. To ensure customer satisfaction, work with a trustworthy courier service to guarantee your custom merch reaches your customers promptly and in excellent condition. Provide customers with accurate tracking information and consider offering free shipping for orders over a certain value to incentivize purchases.

By understanding each step in the manufacturing and delivery process, you can optimize your custom merch business's operations and consistently deliver high-quality products that delight your customers.

Choosing the Ideal Manufacturing Partner

Selecting the right manufacturing partner is crucial to the success of your custom merch business. A reliable partner will ensure consistent quality, adhere to deadlines, and provide excellent customer service. When choosing a manufacturing partner, consider the following factors:

  1. Location and Accessibility: A manufacturing partner that is located close to your target market or has a robust distribution network will help minimize shipping times and costs. Additionally, choosing a partner that is easily accessible will facilitate better communication and collaboration.

  2. Cost-Effectiveness: To maximize your profit margins, opt for a manufacturing partner that offers competitive pricing without compromising quality. Always compare pricing options from multiple partners and negotiate to obtain the best rates.

  3. Consistency and Expertise: Look for a partner with a proven track record of producing high-quality custom merch. Research their portfolio and gather feedback from previous clients to ensure they can consistently deliver excellent results. Check if they have experience with the specific printing techniques you require, such as screen printing, DTG printing, heat transfer, embroidery, or sublimation.

  4. Flexible Packaging and Shipping Options: It's important to choose a manufacturing partner that offers flexible packaging and shipping options to cater to your specific needs. This includes handling individual shipping or bulk shipments to a single address, as well as offering additional services like branded packaging, at a reasonable cost.

  5. Quality Control and Issue Resolution: A dependable manufacturing partner should have a stringent quality control process in place, and be willing to address any issues promptly. Ensure there is a clear agreement regarding quality control, refunds, or replacements in case of defective merchandise.

  6. Scalability: As your custom merch business grows, you need a partner that can scale their production capabilities to meet increasing demand. Evaluate their capacity to handle large orders and deliver products within a reasonable timeframe without sacrificing quality.

  7. Communication and Responsiveness: Effective communication is essential to keep your business running smoothly. Opt for a partner who is responsive to your inquiries, open to feedback, and proactive in addressing any concerns that may arise during the production process.

By carefully considering these factors, you can choose an ideal manufacturing partner that aligns with your business goals and helps you deliver top-quality custom merchandise to your customers. Remember, start with a partner that fits your current needs. If you find that a partner isn’t able to scale as your business grows, you’ll easily be able to find a new one that can.

Ensuring Seamless Delivery to Your Customers

A seamless delivery experience is crucial to maintaining customer satisfaction and fostering repeat business. When your custom merch reaches your customers promptly and in excellent condition, it leaves a positive impression that can translate into loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals. Here are some tips to ensure a seamless delivery experience for your customers:

  1. Coordinate with Your Manufacturing Partner: Develop a clear understanding of your manufacturing partner's shipping capabilities, turnaround times, and shipping options. Ensure they can accommodate your preferred shipping method and that their delivery timelines align with your customers' expectations.

  2. Provide Accurate Shipping Information: Clearly communicate the expected delivery timeframes to your customers at the point of purchase. Make sure your customers provide accurate shipping information, including their full name, address, and contact details. This will help minimize delivery issues and reduce the likelihood of returned or lost packages.

  3. Offer Tracking Information: Provide your customers with a tracking number and a link to the courier's tracking website, so they can monitor the progress of their shipment. This not only keeps them informed but also helps build trust in your brand.

  4. Communicate with Your Customers: Keep the lines of communication open with your customers throughout the entire delivery process. Notify them of any potential delays or issues that may arise, and be responsive to their inquiries or concerns. Excellent communication is key to maintaining customer satisfaction and fostering long-term relationships.

  5. Gather Feedback: Request feedback from your customers about their delivery experience. This will help you identify areas for improvement and ensure you continue to provide a seamless delivery experience in the future.

By implementing these strategies, you can ensure a smooth delivery process for your custom merch, leading to satisfied customers and a positive reputation for your business.

Comparing the Pros and Cons of Various Printing Techniques

Choosing the right printing technique for your custom merch is vital, as it directly impacts the final product's quality, appearance, and durability. In many cases, your customer will choose the printing technique for their needs, and it is your job to educate them on the pros and cons (save this list!). Each method has its unique advantages and drawbacks, and understanding these differences will help you select the best technique for your specific needs.

Screen Printing


  • Excellent for bulk orders due to lower per-unit cost.

  • High-quality, vibrant, and long-lasting prints.

  • Suitable for printing on various materials and surfaces.


  • High setup costs, making it less suitable for small orders.

  • Limited in design complexity and color range.

  • Longer production time compared to some other techniques.

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing


  • Allows for intricate, full-color designs with photographic detail.

  • Low setup costs make it ideal for small orders and on-demand printing.

  • Faster production time compared to screen printing.


  • Print quality may be less vibrant compared to screen printing.

  • Best suited for 100% cotton or high cotton blend materials.

  • Slower printing process, making it less ideal for bulk orders.

Heat Transfer


  • Suitable for small orders and a wide range of materials.

  • Allows for full-color designs and photographic images.

  • Faster turnaround time compared to screen printing.


  • Print may be less durable and prone to fading or cracking over time.

  • Some heat transfer methods may result in a thick or plastic-like feel.

  • Can be labor-intensive for bulk orders.



  • Offers a high-end, professional appearance.

  • Highly durable, with embroidered designs lasting the life of the garment.

  • Suitable for various materials, including thicker fabrics like hats and jackets.


  • Limited to simpler designs with a smaller color range.

  • Higher production costs, making it less ideal for budget-conscious projects.

  • Can be challenging to reproduce small text or intricate details.



  • Full-color, high-resolution designs with a smooth, soft feel.

  • Extremely durable, as the ink is infused directly into the fabric.

  • Ideal for all-over printing and complex designs without added cost.


  • Limited to polyester or polyester blend fabrics, which can impact garment quality and comfort.

  • Not suitable for dark-colored garments.

  • Requires specialized equipment and materials, which may impact production costs.

By weighing the pros and cons of these printing techniques, you can select the best method for your custom merch business that aligns with your design requirements, target audience, and budget constraints.

Printing TechniqueIdeal for Large OrdersIdeal for Small OrdersWorks with Multicolor DesignsWorks with Intricate DesignsDurabilityCost-EffectivenessSuitable Materials
Screen PrintingYesNoNoNoHighHighMost textiles, various other materials
Direct-to-Garment (DTG)NoYesYesYesMediumMediumTextiles, primarily cotton
Heat TransferNoYesYesLimitedLowLowTextiles, ceramics, metals
EmbroideryYesYesLimitedNoHighMediumTextiles, especially hats and jackets
SublimationYesYesYesYesHighMediumPrimarily polyester materials

Managing and Rectifying Production Errors

Despite your best efforts, production errors can occur in the custom merch industry. It's essential to have a plan in place to address such issues, minimize their impact on your business, and maintain customer satisfaction. Here are some tips for managing and rectifying production errors:

  1. Implement a Strong Quality Control Process: Work closely with your manufacturing partner to establish a robust quality control process. This should include multiple checkpoints throughout the production process to identify and correct any issues before the merchandise reaches your customers.

  2. Develop Clear Communication Channels: Maintain open lines of communication with your manufacturing partner and be proactive in addressing any concerns or issues that may arise during production. Quick and effective communication can help minimize delays and prevent errors from escalating.

  3. Educate Your Customers: Inform your customers about the possibility of minor variations in color, print, or garment sizing due to the nature of custom merch production. By managing expectations upfront, you can reduce the likelihood of dissatisfaction stemming from minor inconsistencies.

  4. Create a Comprehensive Issue Resolution Policy: Develop a clear policy for handling production errors, outlining the steps your team should follow when errors are identified. This includes steps for communicating with your manufacturing partner, determining the cause of the error, and rectifying the issue.

  5. Offer a Transparent Refund or Replacement Policy: Have a customer-friendly refund or replacement policy in place to address any production errors that may have slipped through quality control. This policy should outline the circumstances under which a refund or replacement will be provided and the necessary steps customers should follow to initiate the process.

  6. Analyze and Learn from Mistakes: Regularly review any production errors that have occurred and analyze their root causes. Use this information to refine your production processes and quality control measures, preventing similar issues from happening in the future.

  7. Maintain a Strong Customer Service Focus: Keep the lines of communication open with your customers and provide prompt, empathetic, and effective support when production errors occur. Demonstrating a commitment to resolving issues and maintaining customer satisfaction can help protect your brand reputation and foster long-term customer relationships.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage and rectify production errors, maintain the quality of your custom merch, and ensure a positive experience for your customers.

Volume Pricing and Negotiation Strategies

In this section, we'll discuss how to take advantage of volume pricing and employ effective negotiation strategies to secure the best possible deals with your manufacturing partners. By doing so, you can reduce your production costs, increase your profit margins, and maintain competitive pricing for your customers.

Understanding Volume Pricing

Volume pricing is a common practice in the manufacturing industry, where manufacturers offer lower per-unit costs when you place larger orders. This is because larger orders allow manufacturers to take advantage of economies of scale, resulting in reduced production costs. As a custom merch entrepreneur, leveraging volume pricing can help you minimize your expenses while maximizing your profits.

Assessing Your Order Volume

Before negotiating with your manufacturing partners, it's essential to have a clear understanding of your order volume. Analyze your sales data and inventory requirements to determine the typical size and frequency of your orders. This information will serve as a foundation for your negotiations and help you secure better deals.

Negotiation Strategies

When negotiating with manufacturers, keep the following strategies in mind to improve your chances of securing favorable volume pricing:

  1. Do your research: Understand the market rates for the products and services you require. This knowledge will give you a better idea of what to expect during negotiations and help you avoid overpaying.

  2. Build relationships: Establishing strong relationships with your manufacturing partners can lead to more favorable pricing terms over time. Be professional, responsive, and open to feedback, and demonstrate that you're a reliable and trustworthy client.

  3. Be flexible: If you have flexibility in your production schedule or can adapt to the manufacturer's preferred materials or processes, you may be able to secure better pricing. Be open to discussing potential changes that could benefit both parties.

  4. Leverage multiple quotes: Obtain quotes from multiple manufacturers to gain a better understanding of the price range for your desired products and services. Use this information to negotiate better deals with your preferred manufacturing partner.

By employing these volume pricing and negotiation strategies, you can reduce your manufacturing costs, increase your profit margins, and ultimately, grow your custom merch business more effectively.


It's essential to recognize the importance of a streamlined manufacturing process and efficient delivery system in the success of your custom merch business. By selecting the right manufacturing partner, understanding the various printing techniques, and managing production errors, you can ensure that your products meet the highest quality standards. Additionally, leveraging volume pricing and effective negotiation strategies will help you optimize your production costs and maximize profits, while still offering competitive pricing to your customers.

Remember that providing a seamless delivery experience is also crucial in building customer satisfaction and fostering loyalty within your target market. By focusing on delivering high-quality custom merch promptly, you'll create positive experiences for your customers, encouraging repeat business and strengthening your reputation in the market. As you continue to grow and scale your custom merch business, the insights and strategies discussed in this chapter will serve as a solid foundation for the successful operation and management of your manufacturing and delivery processes.

Next up

Marketing and Selling Custom Merch (The Student's Guide to Starting a Profitable Custom Merch Business) - Part 6Discover effective marketing and selling strategies for custom merch in our comprehensive guide for college students. Explore online and offline marketing, pricing optimization, community building, and excellent customer service. Harness analytics and data-driven decisions to grow your business into a profitable college side hustle.

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