The Shop + Charity

From Hobby to Business with Cricut: My Entrepreneur Story

September 22, 2020

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cricut. All opinions are 100% mine.

Oh, boy. At the beginning of 2020, I didn’t think I would be running a small custom print shop out of the 7′ x 7′ space by my front entrance of my townhouse BUT HERE I AM, DOIN’ JUST THAT!

I went from not knowing what a Cricut was (or any vinyl cutter) in February 2020 to opening my own printed apparel and drinkware shop in July 2020, that did $1,000 in sales on opening day and has continued with 4-figure months since then. WHAT?!

Today, I’m partnering with Cricut to tell my story of entrepreneurship (and hopefully inspire you to do the same if you have been wanting to!). So buckle up for this wild ride!

Why a Craft Business?

I’ve always liked making things but I never considered myself crafty. To me, crafts were hobbies only and didn’t make money (wrong!) or only for super-talented, creative, good-with-their-hands people (which I am not).

I have created 2 print-on-demand businesses in the past and liked designing clothes and mugs to sell years ago. But I always thought I’d have to get someone else to print it for me. I figured that was never something that could be done at home, and especially not by me! But, the margins were so low with print on demand and I didn’t like how I couldn’t see it before it went out to a customer to make sure it was 100% what I wanted it to look like. (#CraftyControlFreak)

Back in April, Cricut reached out and sent me a Joy machine as part of a promotional campaign for Instagram. I said sure because it looked neat and much less intimidating than the larger, pro machines. As a “non-crafter”, I could handle that, right?

A few weeks after trying it out, I was sooo hooked!

I started by making a vision therapy light box tool for Jaxon to help his CVI (materials used for this here). Then, I made labels for things around the house. Then I thought…

“Wait a minute! Can’t I make shirts for the twins with this? Mugs?”

And I decided to explore making more projects.

I first made mugs with Infusible Ink patterns and was absolutely in love with the possibilities! I love that they look professionally-printed and my customers love that they’re dishwasher safe.

(And bonus: you don’t need a heat press to make these! You can make them in a convection oven, like a toaster oven – as long as it’s not one that you use to cook food!)

How My Cricut Machine Makes it All Possible

I made shirts for the boys and a mug with my Joy machine, but quickly realized if I wanted to make adult size shirts, my best bet was to upgrade to the Explore Air 2.

Why? Because the Joy is awesome, but it cuts 4.5″ wide. It’s so portable and easy to use that it’s great for small projects, like mugs, koozies, kids clothes, labels etc, and I use it a lot to make cards too.

But for adult shirts, I really needed more width and the Explore Air 2 (and Maker) cut to 12″ wide – which is perfect for all adult shirt sizes. (The typical width of a shirt design is 10″, plus or minus 1-2″ depending on size, like if it’s an XS or 3XL I adjust it to fit the shirt best.)

I love that my Cricut machines can cut a variety of materials, including thick glitter vinyls and thin, buttery soft ones, and everything in between. There are so many finishes to create with, like metallic foil, patterns, textures, velvets, shiny, matte, etc. My Cricut is all I need to create shirts with all of them.

I also love how easy they are to use. Not only to cut the material but to apply it to shirts. In addition to heat transfer vinyls, I also use sublimation printing in my business which is a lot trickier. That requires a separate printer and is very precise on placement, heat and pressure. With adhesive materials like vinyl and my heat press, I can make fool-proof shirts. It’s perfect for beginners.

With vinyl, if you don’t get it stuck to the shirt correctly the first press, you can always re-press it until it’s perfect. With sublimation, you really only get one shot and there are lots of little things that can go wrong (trust me, I’ve done them all!).

As a summary, heat transfer vinyl shirts are easy to make, easy to troubleshoot and — most importantly for business — profitable.

How I Learned to Make T-Shirts and More

In short: a lot of YouTube.

I started off learning to make mugs and then watched a ton of tutorials about making t-shirts with both iron-on vinyl and the sublimation process (I use both).

I also have my own tutorial if you’re wanting to make a t-shirt with your Cricut. 🙂

So yeah, I basically watched a ton of YouTube videos, bought all the equipment I needed (heat press, sublimation printer, all the colours of heat transfer vinyl I would use), and set everything up in my TINY little office space.

And I mean TINY. I mean, look at this.

This is the front entrance of my house. I store my inventory in the black cabinet in the back and, well, everything else is where you see it! One day I dream of having an actual studio space, like a whole room in our new house when we move (hopefully!) or even a she-shed in the backyard.

But when you want to achieve something, you can’t make up obstacles to be in your way when they don’t need to be. It would have been easy for me to say, “I don’t have the space for this.” Well, I do. It’s just cramped, a little uncomfy to work in and not at all “Instagram aesthetic worthy” — but so what! It WORKS.

Use the tools you have and stop daydreaming about the ones you don’t and just do it already, is my motto.

After I set up my little studio and did about 1,000 test runs of products, I launched my shop in July 2020 to my amazing Instagram friends. I say friends because while it would be impossible to have 11,000+ close friends, it does feel that way sometimes. And I think the word “audience” sounds a bit douchey.

Thanks to all the support from my friends :), my shop is already taking off with both regular sales and custom order projects!

I made $1,000 in the first 24 hours of sales alone!

I print, pack, fulfill and ship all orders by myself from the tiny cubicle space you see above! I really love packing up orders. It makes me feel so accomplished and grateful. I even love going to the post office and hauling my big reusable grocery bags full of boxes and packages across the parking lot to drop off.

The whole walk there I always think about the people’s orders I have with me that day and hope they’ll like them, and just so grateful for their support. OKAY! Ending the cheese there…. you get the idea!

Struggles Along the Way to Success

Think starting a business is as easy as unboxing a Cricut, watching a YouTube video, creating a listing on Etsy or a Shopify store and makin’ it rain dolla dolla bills?

Sorry, no.

That’s not how it works. BUT! It’s not hard either. It just takes a desire to learn and succeed.

Briefly, here are a few of the pitfalls I ran into…

  • Shipping! OMG is it ever complicated… package size, weight, location, carriers… rates are so different even in the same province! It’s quite expensive to ship in Canada so it definitely puts me at a disadvantage to American competitors, but hey, it’s conquerable! I use ClickShip and Canada Post for my shipments.
  • Inventory! When you sell shirts, you suddenly realize you need to stock every size of every colour… EEEK. That adds up to a LOT of shirts!
  • I also attempted to do “just in time” ordering (i.e. order shirts from my supplier as people order them so I only had to buy the product I needed to make). However, shipping times and unpredictable backorders made this not a good strategy. I had to bite the bullet and invest a LOT of money in inventory to make consistent sales. (Ouch.)
  • This may not be a problem for you if you live close to a wholesale supplier and/or don’t sell that many variations of shirt styles/colours.
  • Tech issues!! From my printer not printing to ink banding to heat press issues to shipping label buying to the Wi-Fi in my basement being CRAP! SO many issues! Luckily my Cricut machines use Bluetooth so I’m always able to cut my projects easily! 😛
  • TIME. Nothin’ like setting up for a 30 shirt print run only to have your baby wake up crying… GAH. Such is life.

But you know what all those things have in common? They’re solvable.

With enough elbow grease, internet research and plain luck and trial and error, they are completely solvable.

(Well, maybe not the crying baby part but hey, nothing’s perfect.)

My Why: Giving Back to Charity

Since the boys were in NICU, I’ve wanted to start a non-profit organization to help other families of babies who had TTTS during pregnancy, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy or really, any of the boys’ same diagnoses (lol). But there are quite a few laws for starting a “real” non-profit here and it would simply be too much of a time investment for me currently (having to raise money, board of directors, taxes etc).

SO. Back in April, I had a brilliant idea: what if I could turn my new crafting hobby into a business… AND combine that with charitable giving?!

So, 20% of profits from all sales in the shop (and custom orders) are placed into a separate account. That money will go to Canadian families who have kids with cerebral palsy to help pay for private physiotherapy or occupational therapy!

Jaxon at physio, Sept 2020.

In Canada, it varies by province, but it’s both extremely difficult to get high-quality PT and OT from the public system (due to infrequent appointments, inexperienced staff, funding, wait lists and many other factors – even just geography!). I am most familiar with the BC system living here of course and, well, it leaves MUCH to be desired…

That’s why I am focusing on Canadian families at this time. But one day when the shop is UBER successful and I have tons of money to give away, heck I’d love to make it global. 🙂

Having this driving reason behind the shop makes me so excited to print and pack every single order.

However small an impact it is, I hope it will mean a lot to the families who receive the donations, and even more so, I hope it will one day help lead to drastic changes in BC health and children’s services policies and funding.

SO THANK YOU for supporting my shop! It means the absolute world to me.

And, thanks to Cricut, for making it all happen in the first place by getting me hooked on your ridiculously adorable and easy-to-use machines. 😉

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