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Merchandising your designs: How to get started

The chances are that you’re unlikely to have heard of Shintaro Tsuji – but you’re bound to be familiar with his most famous creation. In the 1960s, the Japanese businessman started a gift company and realised that the products which featured “cute” designs were the best sellers. It was that discovery that inspired him to create his own brand – and so Hello Kitty was born.

More than 50 years on and billions of dollars later, Hello Kitty products are sold around the world, which highlights what can be done if you have a good, creative idea and find a way to bring it to life. Shintaro didn’t design Hello Kitty himself but found someone who could create the character for him, again proof that you don’t necessarily need to be able to put pen to paper to come up with an original – and potentially lucrative -idea.

This story should, however, act as inspiration for anyone who has an idea swirling around in their heads because the merchandise potential is absolutely endless. Cards, books, mugs, posters, wall art – there’s a year-round, never-ending range of possibilities for anyone who cares to give it a go.

It’s certainly the perfect outlet for anyone who is dipping their toes into artistic waters or wants to sell online sites such as Etsy, who knows you could create the next big thing?

Print on demand

At WTTB, our customers also can benefit from our huge library of images which can be used to help create that brand idea, so you don’t need to give up because you can’t draw a straight line. For inspiration, just look at some of the many applications that your brand can be used for its ever-increasing product range, which is constantly growing and which your business can grow alongside.

Mock up what some of your products will look like so you can test the market and see which becomes the most desirable. Show them how they might look in their homes or offices – for example, a row of bespoke mugs in a stylish kitchen or a colourful mouse mat at a desk. Take the guessology out of the customer experience, and the chances are you’ll get much better results.

Of course, with so many options, there is always the worry about having to make a huge outlay for stock. Luckily that’s absolutely not the case thanks to our print-on-demand options when you can just place your orders as you need them. To make the experience even more seamless, we can shop directly to the customer on your behalf, white labelled, so they won’t ever know that it has come via a third party. The joy of print-on-demand means you can be experimental and try a variety of different designs to see what works before committing yourself.

Don’t underestimate the potential market on a site like Etsy, which worldwide has more than 90 million users. Even the smallest fraction of that market could make a substantial difference to your bottom line. Buyers on this site are in search of the unusual, the unique, and the creative, so you already have a captive audience. If you needed a further incentive, there are many small businesses which have made a seven-figure income purely through print-on-demand.

Find a niche market

Mugs are always a popular product – one Etsy company sells more than 83,000 a year – and a way to success is to create items dedicated to a particular interest group. Think dog lovers, horse riders, golf players, and would-be chefs – you can literally create a whole word around a particular theme and then reap the benefits.

If you have a particular interest or side hustle, see if that would translate into a possible business option. Be inspired by Olivier Gratton-Gagne, who started I Like Maps via Etsy because he – surprise, surprise – liked maps. His idea was to design and print maps of favourite cities or places that could then be turned into wall décor.It was an idea that took off, generating more than £10k of sales and 1000 listings.

There are a whole host of inspiring tales of people who have taken a vague idea and turned it into a profitable sideline. Look for areas where you think there’s a gap in the market, and check out your competition – if you can’t find any, that’s even better!

Think about the opportunities for personalisation, this is always a great plus for Etsy shoppers and something that is easily achievable through print-on-demand. Look at products where people can make something that is a memory of a special experience. How about a yearbook where they can create all of their memories of the previous year?

The benefit of these kind of ideas is that they hope will return to do the same next year – and the year after that.

Bring your ideas to life

Creating bespoke merchandise or bringing your own design to life is easier than you think and a really positive way to help boost your business. It was harnessing the power of cute which led to Hello Kitty becoming a billion-dollar empire, so find your own driving force and see how you can turn that into a lucrative opportunity. It may not make you a billionaire, but with a bit of imagination, it could make you a very nice living!


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