How to Get Started in the Embroidery Business Part 1

Stitch It International
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

You want to start an embroidery company. And why not when embroidery business is a booming segment of the multi-billion dollar apparel decorating industry, and may be started as easy as from a spare room in your home? But where do you start or turn to first? Which machine suits your business best?

Embroidery is defined as conducting a graphic design to goods and fabrics using a single, multi, or dual embroidery machine. You know this, now what?

First, take a look at these key questions and draw up answers that will help shape your business and what you want out of it. We’ll walk you through them and offer a bit of insight on how our machines and services can help you also.



What are some reasons people want to start an embroidery business?

We like to think it’s for the pure joy of working with embroidery machines (possibly a SWF one)! But there are many reasons as to why someone might want to start their own apparel decorating business. People like the idea of being their own boss and no longer having to work for anyone else. Starting your own business provides the potential for financial security and allows you to use your own skills and knowledge in a creative and challenging way.

But in the end, if you’re going to buy a new professional embroidery machine for business, it has to be profitable – numbers don’t lie. With the right business plan and disciplined marketing, your business can grow at an unbelievable rate.

Everyone buys embroidered goods. All types of business and organizations buy logo wear or printed clothing and other decorated goods to help build brand identity or communicate a message. We have become a customized nation and are always looking for individualized, “design your own” type products. In fact, over 70% of Americans wear personalized or printed on clothing every day.

We at Stitch It International have over a combined 50 years of experience in the industry, in every facet. From selling machines, to managing large commercial operations, to running small embroidery businesses. We know it’s important when starting a business to get as much information as you can about an industry before you buy into it. So we decided to put together this basic Embroidery Business Start-up Plan. This information will help guide you through the thought process and give you a foundation of knowledge if you are thinking about getting starting in the embroidery industry!

You can operate your business full-time or part-time, in your home or out of a rented facility, but the bulk of embroiderers work from home. There are many reasons why, however the main reason is that it usually starts out as a second source of income. People continue to work a job while getting the business off the ground or use it as retirement income.


How do I find my niche market?

Now that you are interested in the embroidery and custom apparel industry, you probably have been looking more closely and noticing it everywhere you go. We’re sure you’re surprised to see how much embroidery you look at each day. Caps, shirts, jackets, bags, linens, uniforms and more are decorated with all types of techniques. Whether its corporate logos, monograms, club names or stylish t-shirt designs, you can understand how it’s turned into a 47 billion dollar a year industry!


So, who makes all of these embroidered and printed goods?

While most of today’s fashion embroidery clothing found in retail chain stores or department stores is produced by large companies, smaller local shops create the majority of other items.

In many custom t-shirt business cases, the local school or business would rather work with someone they know locally than send it out of town to a larger embroiderer they can’t deal with face-to-face…that’s where you come in.


Who will your embroidery customers be?

Take a moment right now and write down a list of at least five potential customers just from the people you know personally. This gives you an idea on who you will target and branch off ideas on how you can best serve them:








Did you think of people you know at area schools, churches and charities? Are there any business owners that you see socially?

Now do the same list of people that YOU buy from or use on a regular basis that have uniforms of some kind. This includes where you get your oil changed, independent stores you frequent, restaurants you dine at or sports teams your children are a part of.

NOW make a list of 5 people or business that you know that would be a good source of REFERRALS. Referrals are when someone recommends you or makes your information available to their friends or customers. Some great sources of referrals for embroidery machine businesses are; dry cleaners, other apparel decorating shops that might print t-shirts but not embroider, and sign/graphics businesses that deal with start ups on their own on a regular basis.

NOW sit down with a blank list and your closest friends and associates and ask them to answer the same questions.

If you actually ran out of ideas at 5 each, you’ve got 15 places and people to start with. If you have 3 friends do the same, you’ve got 45 potential customers to help get your custom embroidery business off the ground!


What skills and equipment are needed to run an embroidery business?

You don’t need special skills to operate a commercial embroidery machine, just proper training. It will make it much easier if you have some familiarity with design software or a basic understanding of how applications like that work. As always, basic computer skills are a must.

With the new equipment on the market today and easy-to-use digitizing software, creating designs and logos are easy. But producing high-quality, commercial designs that can be sold to anyone does take TRAINING. Be sure to ask for training when you can (we offer hands on training for as long as you want).


What is the Best Embroidery Machine?

Of course, the better the hardware and software, the more you’ll be able to produce, so the more profit you will make. Luckily, SWF has two  single head 15 needle machines , the SWF 1501C and 1501T, that are perfect for start ups!

The first choice, we’ve already made for you right here in this article. It’s whether to buy a six needle, or 15 needle machine. Six needle embroidery machines are designed mostly for monogramming, which is a big part of any small embroidery shop. Where the six needle monogramming machine falls short is the fact it has to constantly swap thread colors. With only six colors to choose from, it’s very likely that you’ll be swapping colors from job-to-job, which wastes your time and introduces the opportunity for errors.

On the other hand, a 15 needle single head will handle 99% of custom embroidery orders, and it’s only the rare logo that would need more colors than that. These facts, coupled with a very small difference in cost, are why we are sure that the 15 needle machines are best.

You can read more about the SWF 1501 series commercial embroidery machines here when you’re ready. Below are brief overviews of machines that may work for your start up.


Single Head Machines for Start Ups


SWF 1501C Single Head Compact Machine

The 1501 C is our most popular SWF Single Head machine because with 15 needles, a small foot print and the quick cap change system, it just makes perfect sense for a start up or home based embroidery business.

But don’t let it’s small stature fool you! There are many larger businesses that ONLY use the 1501C because its great pricing, professional features and ability to fit in a small space make it a very product product to have to execute multiple jobs.

Like all of our machines, this one comes with cutting edge training options and a 7 year warranty. See more machine details here.


SWF 1501T Single Head Embroidery Machine


The E-1501T is the big brother to the 1501C, with the same, expansive 15 needle head, large screen control panel and that quick change cap system that comes on all of our SWF systems.

The “T” in the part number stands for “Table!” The flat area you see in the photo is an adjustable table that you can move out of your way for everyday projects, then move up when you embroider onto heavy items like draperies, Carhartt or leather jackets, etc. See more machine details here.



Multi Head Machines for Start Ups


SWF K1504 Multi Head System

The SWF K1504 Multi Head Machine is a production house dream. If you are turning out dozens, or even hundreds of garments with the same left chest logo, cap design or.. anything.. this 4 head system will make you money.


In fact, you should take a close look at buying more than one of the K1504 before you look at larger ones, they’re the perfect size! See more machine details here.



SWF K1506 Multi Head – Commercial Powerhouse


The SWF K1506 Commercial Embroidery Machine is designed to give you all the capacity of a six head and STILL fit your shop depending on which model you choose.

This 6 head, high volume product has all the features that our smaller units have; quick change cap system, automatic oiling, etc., but they all have an even bigger impact in a commercial machine like this one. See more machine details here.

What else do I need to start my business?

There are just a few more things that you HAVE to HAVE to run your embroidery business:

  • Software  – we recommend one of the Sierra or Wilcom Digitizing Software applications
  • Hoops – depending on what your business will focus on, either SWF Hoops or Durkee Hoops are preferred
  • Supplies – including backings, toppings, thread, needles, etc.
  • Hooping Device – for more exact and faster placement of your designs
  • Heat Press – depending on if you plan on offering embroidered patches

Most of these items can be found on our sister site:

SO now you’ve gone through all of these steps. What’s next? Check out Part 2 of How to Get Started in the Embroidery Business that details seven steps on how to establish your business with filing legal documents, developing plans, funding and more.


This article was originally posted on that Stitch It International runs and owns. It has been re-purposed and added to our most up-to-date blog here. 

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