May '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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20 || P R I N T W E A R M A Y 2 0 1 8 STITCH SOLUTIONS B Y J E N N I F E R C O X Jennifer Cox is the president and co-founder of the Na- tional Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), a pro- fessional organization for apparel decoration business owners. NNEP supports the success of NNEP members with best practices, ideas, sources, solutions, volume- buying benefits, and services. Cox was recognized as a Top 50 Small Business Influencer and Community Choice Leader by Small Biz Trends in 2013, is recognized as one of the industry's "Most Creative Thinkers," and repeatedly ranks in the top 40 on the industry's "Power List." Reach her at or go to I t is time to look at some cold, hard truths in our industry. We are hurting ourselves and our industry, and the only peo- ple that can change is us. If you are paying yourself and any staff a decent living wage, you are free to turn the page and look for something more interesting to read. If you are not yet paying yourself or anyone else a wage that provides a sustainable financial foundation for your household, please keep reading. PAY IT FORWARD From what I can tell, less than half the business owners in our in- dustry are taking a consistent paycheck that provides a significant contribution to their household income. If you are working less than 10 hours a week in your embroidery and apparel decoration business, taking a very modest paycheck may be reasonable. But even putting in just 10 hours a week consistently, you should be receiving some sort of consistent pay. Paying yourself is not sup- posed to happen only when there are funds available in the busi- ness account, nor should what you pay yourself be driven solely by what is left in the account. If that is the situation you find yourself in, it is time to address a few things. First, decide if you really do want to operate a business. It is completely fine to discover that you love the process of creating decorated apparel and products and that you do not want to deal with the busi- ness side of the process. Or, you decide that you are now ready to run it like a business, which involves earning a profit, paying taxes, and making payroll, even if it is just for yourself. This is not an arbitrary de- cision. Owning a business needs to be a deliberate de- cision. One of the main rea- sons is that if you are pricing your work so low that you are not able to pay yourself reasonable wages, there is something amiss with your pricing. You are giving it away, thereby lowering the value of embroidered and decorated apparel in your area. If you would like help understanding pricing and want to know how to set your prices so that you earn profits, email me at for a free pricing worksheet and pricing tool. Would you go work at a local business, an office job, a delivery job, or even as a greeter at a big-box store and not expect to get paid? I imagine that you would expect to get paid at least a mini- mum hourly rate for the time that you spend at that job. Why does the idea of paying yourself for working in your own business feel different? THE BIGGER PICTURE If you have decided that you do want to have a business, there is another im- portant reason to begin paying your- self: your future financial security. If you are not paying yourself now, you are not participating in fund- ing your retirement through So- cial Security or any other program. Let's set aside the entire conversation about whether the Social Security system will still be viable at some point in the future, as nei- ther of us has any control over how it will play out in the decades to come. I do know that if we do not put any money consistently aside now, we will have nothing to rely upon later. When I realized that fewer than half of the busi- ness owners in our industry are taking a paycheck and therefore contributing to their future financial security, it scared me. A lot of us are in the baby boomer generation, and retirement is not that far away. If you are planning to sell your business to fund your retirement, you are putting a lot of your financial hopes Money Matters Why you NEED to be paying yourself

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