Part 1: The Best Way To Start T-Shirt Business On A Budget ($600 - $1,000)

Part 1: The Best Way To Start T-Shirt Business On A Budget ($600 - $1,000)

When it comes to starting a t-shirt business there are allot of choices to make. The main question asked is "what is the best way to start?" Well the answer to that really depends on how you answer the following questions...

  1. Do you want to start a clothing brand - and include more then t-shirts?
  2. Do you want to start niche t-shirt line - and cater to a specific crowd?
  3. Do you have your own ideas?
  4. Do you want to make things for other people?
  5. Do you want to be in the fashion industry?

No matter how you answer those questions I feel that you can benefit from starting the way and with the things I am about to tell you in this article.

When I started my t-shirt business, which was purely by accident. I had some of the objections that everyone has about the iron on method as most call it before researching the business, but I am referring to heat pressed decoration. The durability of heat press decoration was always a question so i ordered my first set of shirts via screen printing. I always stayed from heat pressing garments until i needed to fill the demand of smaller orders and customization that screen printing just isn't good for.

After learning, using, and selling heat press garments I said to myself why the hell didn't I do this first. None the less I think everyone should start with a heat press and vinyl no matter what the future plans and direction of there business happen to be. Here are a few reasons:

  1. Low Start Up Cost - Compared to other decoration methods in the industry starting a heat press business with vinyl is on the lower end as far as start up cost.
  2. Low Learning Curve - Once you have all the equipment needed you can be producing great looking garments within an hour. I'm not exaggerating here with the right guidance you can be running in no time and that's what I am here for. However if someone decided to do it all on there own it shouldn't that more then a few hours to be producing garments.
  3. Freedom To Produce - With a heat press and vinyl you have the freedom to produce what you want when you want. That's right your in charge and there are no minimums and no placement restrictions.
  4. Transferable Knowledge - When starting with a heat press and vinyl you will gain a tone of knowledge that will easily transfer to other aspects of the business as you grow.
  5. Every Business Needs A Heat Press - A heat press is a good investment and i don't recall walking into a t-shirt shop yet that doesn't have a heat press and even some of the fashion boutiques have them tucked away in a storage closet, separate room, or perhaps the basement.

So now onto what you need to start, but before i so let me add a few things. My goal is to help 1,000 people start t-shirt businesses this article will be a huge part of accomplishing this goal and your help and support will be too. I am here as a tool to share the things I learned the hard way. The links provided below are affiliate links and provide me a small commission to allow me to keep doing what i am doing. So when you go to make your purchases if you could refer back to this article and use the links provided it would be greatly appreciated. After all I don't teach people how to make t-shirts so i can make money, I make money so i can TEACH MORE PEOPLE HOW TO MAKE T-SHIRTS!

Heat Press

The center piece of starting a custom t-shirt business is a heat press. when it comes to heat presses there are cheap ones you can find on amazon which i don't recommend but if you to you should get a extended warranty i went though 3 of these when i started so i prefer starting and recommend everyone start with something a little better.As far as size you don't want to go smaller the 15x15 unless your niche is babies or maybe pets, but even still don't limit yourself touch me.

HPN Presses

Price and Feature wise HPN Craft and Signature press have to be the best presses to start with. The Craft Series comes in at $350 for the 15"x15" with a slide out drawer that allows you to work away from the heat and the Signature Series having the slide out drawer and an optional auto open that can come in handy because you will be multi tasking. I personally would start with the HPN Signature Series 15x15 with Slide Out and Auto Open, because i know the benefit of having it. However get what your budget allows. So here are the links to these.

►►HPN Craft Pro 15" x 15” $350:
►►HPN Signature Series 15" x 15” $490:
►►HPN Signature Series 16" x 20" $640:

Vinyl Cutters

Silhouette Cameo 4

I started with the cameo and I swear buy it. I have used some other cutters briefly, but cameo is what you should use if your starting out i just don't see the need of starting out any bigger unless your doing high production and at that point you can add more or you can get one of the high end cutters.

You can purchase this on amazon usually at the lowest price usually but if you want to get all your items at once like i do usually you can purchase it with your press from HPN. It's also available in a few colors so if that matters to you like it does me then get the color you like for me I just had to have a black one when it became available. so here is the link for that.

$250 - $280
►► Cameo 4 Heat Press Nation:
►► Cameo 4 Amazon:
►► Cameo 4 PRO WORLD:

Silhouette Cameo 3

The Predecessor of the Cameo 4 was my workhorse since they day it was released up until a few weeks after the cameo 4 was released when I finally made the switch. In all honesty this is a solid machine to start with if your on tight budget. You wont be disappointed or miss out on any upgrades unless you planned on buying the cameo 4 15 or 20 inch versions. The only downside to thsi machine was the Bluetooth which i never got working on my mac however I hear has since been fixed.

►► Silhouette Cameo 3 $203 - $230:


There are a few things you need outside of the main 2 components some optional and some needed so i will break these down here.

Weeder (Needed)

Weeders are used to pull the vinyl off the carrier sheet T-Shirt Side Hustle will have its own soon but right now my favorite and the best one out right now is the Siser Weeder.

►► T-Shirt Side Hustle Official Weeder $15:
►► Siser Weeder $20: |

Teflon Cover (1 of the 2 Needed)

Teflon sheet is used to cover up and protect your vinyl and garment from being directly on the heating element. I personally prefer the Sleeve which holds on to the press, because it saves time and you will never misplace it.

►► Teflon Sheet Pack $10:
►► Upper Platent Sleeve/Protector $30:

Vinyl Remover (Needed)

Mistakes happen and vinyl remover is needed.

►► Vinyl Remover $15:

Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl Color Guide (Optional)

Knowing what a color looks like before you buy it and also having something to show the customer is nice as well so this is a good inexpensive pickup.

►► Siser Color Guide $5:

Heat Press Pillow

Heat press pillows are used to to get even surfaces when you are pressing over or closes to seems, zippers, buttons etc. This is optional but i suggest you get at least one the size of your press, but the whole bundle is nice if you want to get creative.

►► Heat Press Pillow Pack $70: |
►► Siser Heat Press Pillow 16x20 $30:
►► Heat Press Pillow 15x15 $28:

Heat Transfer Vinyl

This guide only includes the price of the hardware needed to get started because ig your starting out on a tight budget vinyl is something you can by as you go. I don't suggest you get a cutter package that comes with vinyl in this case i suggest you buy what you need. 5yds black, 5yds white, then colors that you like or feel you would need for your brand, potential customers, or ideas you may have. You can purchase vinyl by starting your shopping experience with my link anytime or you can go direct below:

►► Heat Press Nation Vinyl:

Back to blog


I saw your vid on FM Expressions and I thank you because my stomach was like, uh, do I really want to chance this experience of buying less than quality transfers.

Also, do you suggest any companies I can trust to bring a product, (transfers), worthy of my customers?
Thank you and God bless you and your family Stan!!

Yvelisse Pyle

Thanks for your help! Very helpful. I tried purchasing the 15 × 15 heat press for 350 by clicking the link but instead it lead me to a 550 dollar machine which I still purchased it. Maybe it was priced less around the time you made your page. I was gonna ask should I buy one on sale or a different press but I didn’t want to buy something you didn’t already use just in case I have more questions thank you again.

renae agundez

Omg I needed to see this!! I’m so lost on where to start. Thank you for this post.

Kiana Quash

Great Post!!

Jimmy Hackworth III

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