What I Learned From Tie-Dye T-Shirts

Today, I’m taking you back to April 11, 2012, when I announced this status to the world:

Aside from church events, I don’t think I ever actually wore tie-dye t-shirts. I actually don’t think I even particularly liked them. But, like I shared in my last blog post, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I knew that others liked them. I knew that I was capable of learning how to make them.

I saw an opportunity.

What was that opportunity? College decision time. When I was a senior in high school, I found myself getting ready to go to college with a bank account that I wasn’t too happy with. Don’t get me wrong, I worked every weekend and a few days during the week doing odd jobs like babysitting, but I wanted a bigger cushion. I knew I’d want to join Greek life, go out to eat with friends, and, let’s be honest, buy all the college gear.

What I noticed about the college gear, though, was the price tag. $24.99 for a t-shirt that every other freshman will be wearing? No thanks. Here’s where the idea came into play. I was surrounded by other people in the same stage of life. I was surrounded by other people who wanted to show off their college colors but didn’t want to break the bank.

Enter tie-dye t-shirts.

I came up with an idea. I’d blend one of my favorite things (creating) with an item everyone needs (clothing) with a purpose that appealed to where they were at that point in life (college prep). Not only that, but I also offered customization. Once I had the idea, I got to work. I researched the best types of powdered dye, the best concentration to use, and how to prep a shirt and complete it. I ordered dye, squirt bottles, rubber bands, and got to work. I bought bulk packs of Hanes t-shirts (without the tags, of course) and learned all the techniques.

I set up shop in my parents’ basement where I had an assembly line of rubber bands, dye, shirts, and baggies. Once I was done, I’d label a bag and let it soak overnight. To be honest, I’m a little impressed looking back. I was creating a mini tie-dye empire. I made each shirt for around $3 and sold them for $12. I had a $9 profit and sold close to 100 shirts, although I don’t exactly remember. Also, please don’t report me for tax fraud.

My gold and purple design for JMU (where I thought I would go)

Here’s what I learned. When you give people a product that satisfies a need and appeals to what they want, you get customers. People loved them. I would have messages everyday asking for certain colors and sizes. It was my first successful business idea, and I was on fire.

I learned a lot about setting prices, about using quality products, and about investing your time into creating things. But what was the biggest lesson I learned?

You just have to start.

I hate the term “fake it until you make it,” but it’s kind of true. In this scenario, I was a total newbie to the world of tie-dye. Like I said, I didn’t even wear it myself. In fact, I didn’t really love it. But what I did love was making people happy. I loved that with a shirt that came at an affordable price, people could show off their new college decision. It gave them something to feel proud about. You might be thinking that sounds dramatic, but as a college senior, it’s your biggest accomplishment thus far. I didn’t know anything about tie-dye, but I learned. I watched videos, looked online, and tried and failed (many times).

Who knows where that little inkling of an idea will take you. Who knows what your “tie-dye t-shirt” is. This idea is actually how I met my husband, as he bought one out of my dorm room during the first week of freshman year. Although his was discounted for $10 because he was a CNU student, my first promotion.

This opportunity that I went after…it worked. That’s what I learned from tie-dye t-shirts. I look forward to my future blog post about THIS business, where I share all the things I learned from it, too.

Until next time,

Caroline

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