Two weeks ago, I launched Fit For A Hero Apparel – a custom t-shirt shop on Etsy specializing in Disney designs on dri-fit/athletic-material shirts. The idea is that athleisure apparel is comfortable to appeal to people going to Disney theme parks, sweating, and running around all day as well as to appeal to people literally running around in runDisney races and looking for themed shirts for costumes and post-race outfits.
I admittedly did a rather soft, low key launch. I created a new Instagram account and Facebook page for the store and made a first post on each. I also shared the news of the store opening on my personal social media pages to share with my network. I’m currently at 25 followers on Instagram and 11 likes on Facebook, two weeks later.
I’ve also had no orders come through Etsy. I had one request for a custom order come over Thanksgiving, but unrelated to the store’s products.
That’s not such a hot launch. Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience so far.
“Get Rich Quick” Stories are the exception, not the rule
When I was doing research on how to start this business, best practices for it, etc., I read many articles talking about how so-and-so launched online shirt shop and made hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in days after launching. I found multiple of these stories. I bought in and thought that could happen to me too. Why not? If they can do it, so can I right?
Instead, I’ve realized those were fluke scenarios and they were in the right time, at the right place, to have that success. The reality is that there is so much competition in this niche that it’s hard to stand out (which brings me to my next lesson learned).
Shirt Shops, especially Disney ones, are a dime a dozen
I knew this before starting my own store honestly. After all, I have bought from multiple Disney Etsy stores over the past several months. I still thought I could stand out enough (primarily by offering dri-fit and focusing on athleisure apparel) to make it right away. Instead, I’ve learned that designs are so over done and any design idea I had was either ridiculously simple or a quick Google search would reveal that five other shops had already thought of it first.
For example, after seeing Ralph Breaks The Internet in theaters on the night of release, I was inspired by the (spoiler) Disney Princess’ comfy shirts/outfits and wanted to re-create versions of those shirt designs for my store. When I started gathering graphics and beginning to make the designs, I realized multiple shops already had executed the same idea within 24 hours of the movie’s release. I thought I was ahead of the game by seeing it at one of the first show times and acting right away, but there was already competition there.
Drop Shipping T-Shirts isn’t as fun as making them yourself, but it’s necessary to make profit
I launched the store using a third-party site called Printify that would let me upload a design, put it on a product (i.e. a shirt), and publish it to my Etsy store to sell. When a customer buys the shirt, Printify prints and ships it directly to the customer. The only part of the process I’m involved in is designing and then following up with order tracking + all the marketing.
While that’s certainly part of what I want to do, I also enjoy making shirts myself (using my Cricut), wanted to put together packaging, write thank you notes, and so on to complete orders. But doing that involves buying all the materials and spending a lot more time, which raises the cost of the product and decreases my profit margin to a point that’s not worth doing.
I was excited to learn drop shipping was a thing I can do, but it’s not nearly as fulfilling for me as making things and actually getting to craft on my own.
So what are my next steps for this business?
I’m currently contemplating whether to stay on Etsy or not, first of all. The listing rate, while only .20 cents per item, is annoying when I’m not generating the sales I anticipated and discourages me from making several listings. I might choose to put up a page on this site and implement an independent payment processor to take custom orders (so I can create shirts myself) and only sell a handful of pre-made products that are timely and truly original.
I’ve also recently visited a new vendor flea market type of store locally called Vendors’ Village that has space available for people to rent out monthly. It’s an investment, but I could pre-order some products and sell them there instead of doing solely online sales. This is something I’ll look at long-term and down the road as I clarify my goals with this business.
Short term, I’m leaving things as they are and continuing to promote and sell what I can. So if you’re interested, don’t hesitate to make a purchase on the Etsy shop as long as it’s up. I do appreciate your support.
I share this reflection and information for anyone considering their own, similar business launch. There are a lot of blogs out there giving tips, and most of them come from giant, overnight success stories. I believe this is a more typical story of a online store launch, so hopefully it is helpful to you. If you have questions or want to chat about anything I’ve shared, don’t hesitate to reach out!