If one thing is certain about moms, it’s that they are incredibly resourceful. Over the last few years, the gig economy has upended the working world, and many of the side-hustle mavens who have emerged are mothers who have turned to the custom garment industry. Some have even turned it into a new full-time, self-employed career.
The garment industry is not only booming — with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.22% between 2022 and 2027 — but is appealing because it gives mothers a chance to flex their creative muscles. Henry Ma, CEO of embroidery machine and transfer printer machine supplier Ricoma, has seen the custom garment industry explode firsthand.
“For years, the demand for custom apparel has skyrocketed,” Ma says, “and it’s only getting more popular. With the right tools and knowledge, you can easily make over $1,000 or more per month in this line of work.”
As Ma explains, how well a person does with their own garment business comes down to how much they are willing to work their businesses, market themselves, and spend time fulfilling orders. What many mothers like about a business such as this is how easy it can be to fit around their regular schedule of kids’ activities and, perhaps, another job.
The appeal of custom apparel
The reason custom apparel — such as embroidered or printed t-shirts, uniforms, hats, or other products — is so appealing is that it is needed by many different groups. Businesses, sports teams, the kids’ extracurricular groups, and gatherings or parties can all benefit from someone local who can supply custom garments.
“Groups like these are also more likely to become return customers for your custom apparel business,” says Ma. “The more ingrained a mother may be with the group, the better she can market and use word-of-mouth to further awareness of her business.”
A garment business is also appealing because of the relatively low start-up costs for mothers. As Ricoma’s CEO, Ma is proud of the number of home businesses his company has helped fuel with its affordable embroidery machines, sewing machines, and heat presses. Often, starting a custom apparel business requires no money down on the machine and low monthly payments to get started, and materials like transfer papers, blank shirts, and thread are all relatively inexpensive as well. “With start-up costs this low, custom apparel business owners can see a return on their investment in no time flat,” says Ma.
The idea of getting started with custom garment design can seem a bit daunting at first, especially if one has never attempted to start their own business or side hustle before. But, as Ma describes, the process of getting started is quite easy, especially with Ricoma’s many tutorials and workshops available to learn embroidery and heat-transfer processes, and even marketing approaches. “Although embroidery isn’t exactly a ‘plug and play’ process, the learning curve is extremely minimal,” Ma explains.
It may take time to learn how to use the apparel decorating equipment that most people use to start a custom garment business, but many moms have an approach of excitement when it comes to learning something new and taking on the challenge to master a new skill. The trick, according to Ma, is simply to make sure they have the right resources and the right attitude.
One thing that moms have going for them in any business venture — including the custom apparel industry — is the ability to personally connect to their target market. Moms have established themselves as a formidable force online as social media influencers, community leaders in local groups, and as go-to organizers for their kid’s schools and teams.
Knowing one’s target market well and having an “in” with them helps create a personal connection to others can be leveraged with a custom apparel business. For example, the team that a “mompreneur” creates custom uniforms for will be the same team she will be cheering on from the stands. A personal touch with the garments they create will be appreciated by her customers, such as the kids’ sports uniforms that can be emblazoned with an embroidered mascot image or a nickname. Additionally, groups holding local events in the community will appreciate custom garments that make them feel part of a close-knit team, or help them remember a once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding or graduation.
Even with a personal connection, however, small business entrepreneurs need to continue innovating and marketing to engage their target market and continue to make a profit from their garment business. “You need to figure out ways to offer new, relevant products that keep you on-trend and keep customers coming back for more,” Ma notes.
Women are making their place in the business world, and with 42% of all businesses in the US owned by women, they are making it known that they can create profitable ventures. The garment industry has long been dominated by women, and this surge of custom garment popularity is poised to be taken over by well-connected, creative moms.
Now, the entire family can be involved in starting a new business involving custom clothing items that can be enjoyed by a number of customers. All it takes is the will to get started and take that first step.