Marketing Custom Apparel to Schools

Marketing Custom Apparel to Schools

Schools are a profitable niche market that can provide custom apparel businesses with long-term customers. 

Marketing Custom Apparel to Schools

There are approximately 55 million students in schools (K-12) across the United States. If you take into consideration those students’ parents, grandparents, family, and friends, you can start to see a large market opportunity for custom apparel.

One of the great things about the school market, is that there is a recurring market, and there are always new potential customers. If you’re not already in the school market, we’ll go over how to approach schools and to grow your business through them. If you’ve already got a school or two you make custom apparel for, great! We’ll go over how to potentially expand that business.

To help you get an idea of how big the opportunity is, here is a few custom apparel ideas for schools:

  • Uniforms – Most private schools require students to wear uniforms. Polo shirts, sweaters, ties, and even skirts can be embroidered with the school logo/crest.
  • Special event t-shirts – We’ve seen some schools that encourage students to buy school t-shirts for field trips, special events, or even simply show off their school spirit.
  • Club t-shirts – After school clubs such as the drama club, yearbook, computer club, especially if those clubs host events could benefit from club t-shirts.
  • Sports teams – These teams need everything from number jerseys, to embroidered jackets. With new students joining the teams every year there is always a need for new apparel.
  • Proud Parent t-shirts – It’s a great idea to offer parents and grandparents the opportunity to show their support for their kids with custom t-shirts.
  • Patches and Decals – Simple school logo patches will go a long way and allows students and parents to show their support on their own personal items. Decals can be printed out for parents to put on their cars.

You want to approach schools with the idea of being mutually beneficial. Not only can you provide quality custom apparel for their school teams, but also custom apparel that the school can sell to students, parents, grandparents, etc. becoming a fundraiser for the schools, teams, clubs, etc. Now that you have and idea of how much you can offer, you need to understand how to contact and prospect schools.

If you have children, you already have a connection with the school. You just now need to make sure everyone knows what you do – create some custom shirts for your kids, they can either be unique school pride shirts or just create designs. You want people asking where your kids got the t-shirt from. You also want to be comfortable bringing up what you do in front of others. But even if you don’t have children, there are still easy ways to approach schools.

Education staff are busy people, and so often times they want or need businesses to come to them. It makes things easier for them. A simple online search will show you all the schools in your county or town. You can then narrow down your list by the type of school you want to reach out to first – elementary, middle, high schools, private, etc. Once you go to the school’s website, you’ll find the names of the principles and phone numbers, so you’ll easily be able to find the information you need to contact them.

Once you’ve gathered that information you’re ready to approach the schools. The easiest way is to either call, or stop by and speak to a secretary. Asking them if they can direct you to the right person to talk with about creating custom apparel for them.

Another approach may be to go to a Parent-Teacher-Student-Association meeting, or post of their Facebook page if they have one, letting them know that you do custom apparel and would love to talk to someone about creating custom t-shirts for parents. Not only can you get customers for creating school apparel, but also potentially for those parents’ businesses as well.

Showing samples to the schools is a great way to help get them onboard. Especially if you have something unique to offer. If you do bling, perhaps the school has never seen their logo all done in rhinestones before. Or on a different blank. Creating something for each school does require a little bit of an upfront investment, but if even 3 out of the 10 schools you approach start working with you, you’ll more than cover the expenses.

If you can, going in person to drop off the samples is the most effective method. Create a little script for yourself so that you’re prepared. The more you do it, the more comfortable it’ll become.

Even if the school doesn’t agree on the spot to start buying from you, make sure you get a business card, name, phone number, or email of the decision maker. It allows you to follow up with them, and put them on your email list.

Once you start working with a school there is an easy way to start taking orders from students, parents, and their friends. Instead of having to do a pen and paper fundraiser where the school or club has to take all the orders, collect the money in cash and then submit the order to you, all of that can be done individually online. You can create a custom website for each school through DecoNetwork. The website is branded for that school. The school can log in and place their orders for jerseys, etc. payed for by the school, and parents and students can go directly to the website to make their orders and pay for them online – making fundraising easier for everyone. The website will also handle the commission the school collects, and the payout you collect.

Schools are a large market and as such they may seem intimidating or difficult to get into, however, you’d be surprised how many schools don’t have a custom apparel company to work with, or don’t use custom apparel to fund-raise. If you take the time to reach out to them, and do it properly you can build yourself a long-term customer with a mutually beneficial relationship.



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