July '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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20 || P R I N T W E A R J U LY 2 0 1 8 Jennifer Cox is the president and co-founder of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), a professional organization for apparel decoration busi- ness owners. NNEP supports the success of NNEP mem- bers with best practices, ideas, sources, solutions, vol- ume-buying benefits, and services. Cox was recognized as a Top 50 Small Business Influencer and Community Choice STITCH SOLUTIONS B Y J E N N I F E R C O X 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 L ast year, I planted pansies in containers along one edge of the patio off the back of our home. They bloomed from the spring all through the summer and even into the fall, adding a riot of color. Early this spring, volunteer pansy plants began pop- ping up between the bricks all over that side of the patio. In spite of the winter we had and the minimal room to thrive, several dozen intrepid pansies have made their presence known on my patio. The hard truth of our industry is that we are selling a commodity; products that anyone can get anywhere. The good news is that we are not selling just the products. Our secret weapon is that we are selling what we do on, with, and to the shirts, hats, jackets, uni- forms, bags, and everything else we work with. In order to succeed in an environment where all embroidery and apparel decoration professionals have access to the same products and many of the same methods and kinds of equipment to add logos, designs, and customization, you need to find a way to stand out and thrive where others do not. You need to be like the pansies on my patio! PLANT YOURSELF There are a wide variety of ways that you can make your business stand out and get no- ticed. You can serve a market that other embroidery busi- ness owners either cannot, or that others overlook. Do you have an interest, skill, hobby, or knowledge base that is unique? That may be an excel- lent opportunity for your busi- ness because you are uniquely qualified to meet the needs of people that share your interest. For example, I know noth- ing about remote control air- planes. But what I do know is that people that build and fly their RC airplanes have several key ingredients to make them an ideal potential customer base for the right embroidery business owner. They spend a good bit of money on their hobby. They get to- gether with other people to fly their planes. There are events and gatherings for these folks. There are magazines, websites, and on- line groups for them. They like to let other people know that this is something they enjoy doing. They have the desire, money, and opportunity for custom apparel and products that reflect their in- volvement in RC airplanes. Be like a pansy and plant yourself in the culture of your unique interests, hobbies, and skills. Do you enjoy woodworking? There are many communities for woodwork- ers, from the folks that make crafts to the folks that build furniture to those that turn wood, and the list goes on and on. Do you like to spend your free time baking cupcakes? Believe it or not, there is a community of bak- ers that are all about cupcakes, and they would love to wear fun apparel that speaks to their hobby. If you en- joy camping, you are surrounded by other people that share your enjoy- ment of that pastime. Another way that you can make your business stand out is to do something that the other businesses in your area or your niche market are not doing. If no one else offers deliv- ery but you deliver every order, you have upped your game in a way that is usually greatly appreciated and al- ways remembered. If the businesses around you bulk orders, offer to bag and label large or mixed orders individually, making the job of distributing the order easy and efficient for your customer. Look at what other busi- nesses are doing, and then look for ways to do something different than the standard that is currently in place. One effective way to discover what you may want to do differ- Lessons from Flowers

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