5 Ideas for Making Over Your Embroidery Business

Consider diversifying into digital decoration or purchasing specialty equipment, like a clamping system, to take your shop to the next level.

In the market to make some changes to your embroidery business? Try one – or more – of these operational enhancements to help boost your bottom line.

1. Diversify your decoration. Embroidery is great stuff, but it also has some limitations. In fact, the majority of embroidery done today is the application of small left- or right-chest logos on shirts and designs on caps. Nothing wrong with that, but your customers are buying a lot more than just those types of products. In fact, if you were to do some digging, you would probably find that the majority of your clients are buying signage, promotional products, award products, etc. And most of those are being done with digital printing.

There are many forms of digital printing that could easily be added to your shop. Direct-to-garment systems typically start in the $12,000 range and give you plenty of printing options for apparel. Sublimation printer systems start at around $1,600 and give you a tremendous range of printing capabilities that go far beyond apparel, from flip-flops, to coffee mugs, to car flags, to name badges, to floor mats. Laser and inkjet transfer printing systems provide a range of imaging options with the quality of DTG, but typically at a lower cost.

Regardless of what you choose, the cost will typically be a good bit lower than embroidery equipment, yet the range of products will greatly improve what you have to offer.

2. Invest in different styles of cap frames. Most embroidery machines come with one type of cap frame. However, caps come in more than one style. To really deliver top-notch embroidery on a wide range of headwear, you should look into different styles of cap frames for your machine. For example, five-panel baseball caps are in vogue again, and they sew great with a style of cap frame that forms a rectangle around the front panel. But, chances are, you have what’s known as a 270-degree cap frame, which just grasps the cap at the bottom and uses some clips along the side of that front panel. It will work, but it’s not ideal.

3. Add a clamping system. One of the greatest innovations in the embroidery accessories world is the clamping system. It consists of a clamp base that attaches to the pantograph to support interchangeable frames in different sizes. It’s perfect for hard-to-hoop items like karate belts, laptop sleeves, tote bags and more. It’s also useful for doing the sides and backs of headwear.

4. Consider a digitizing system. Not every embroiderer needs to be a digitizer. Good designs come from experienced designers, not software. It also takes a lot of time to create top-quality designs that run great. In reality, you might be able to make a lot more money spending that time making new sales. That said, a digitizing system gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to making edits to existing designs. There may be occasions where you need something tweaked right away and don’t have time to send it off to someone else. It also lets you experiment with new ideas in terms of creativity and production. In addition, if you’re in markets where you’re able to develop and sell your own designs (my core business), then a digitizing system lets you constantly expand your ideas. But, keep in mind, it will take a good bit of practice, learning and experience to become proficient.

5. Hire an employee. Employees can be your greatest asset or worst liability, so you really need to think it through before you decide to develop a staff. My rule of thumb has always been to make sure a staff member paid for themselves and then some, before creating a position.

For example, if you hire a machine operator so you can free up your time for other things, what would you do with that time and what would it be worth? If the machine operator cost you $20/hour (factoring in wages, fees, FICA, taxes, etc.), then they are costing your business $20 more per hour than if you were running the machine yourself. However, if you now spend more time bringing in sales, would that increase in revenue pay for the employee AND increase your profits? If the answer is YES, then it might be an idea worth exploring, just make sure you talk to an accountant first to factor in all the hidden costs.


Jimmy Lamb is an award-winning author and international speaker with more than 25 years of experience in the apparel decoration business. Currently, he is the manager of communication at Sawgrass Technologies.