How To Start A Custom Tumbler or Mug Business From Home

Making custom mugs and tumblers is a great home business because you only need a few things to get started, the business model has low overhead, and you get to be creative and make products that make people smile! Let’s take a look at what you need to get this type of business started.

What Inventory Do You Need for Your Custom Tumbler or Mug Business?

Tumblers and Mugs

Your base product will be tumblers and mugs. First, decide if you will offer one or the other – or both. From there, decide if you will be selling them with your own custom designs or make them to order. If working with your own designs, you’ll be better off buying wholesale batches so you can build up your stock. If making to order, either keep the raw materials on hand, or head to a craft store to pick up what you need.

There are advantage and disadvantages to both methods. The wholesale method requires you to have storage space and limits the different styles you offer, but you have a ready supply to ship on demand. The individual method is a bit more work but allows for more specific customization for the client. They may want a specific saying on a blue mug, for example, instead of just the basic white mug and images you have in stock.

That being said, you should always have some blank product on hand as you will likely get a few calls for rush orders. Last minute birthday or anniversary gifts can form a good part of your revenue if you are prepared to take those frantic requests.

Vinyl

There are two ways to make your custom tumblers and mugs: adhesive vinyl or printable vinyl.

Adhesive vinyl

Adhesive vinyl is not printable. It comes in a wide range of colors, patterns, and finishes. While you can cut it with scissors, the most common way to cut adhesive vinyl is with a machine like the Cricut® or Silhouette. This method allows you to create very intricate and highly customized designs that can include delicate filigree, swirling fonts, or other fine details.

To transfer the design to the tumbler or mug, you have two options. Transfer tape allows you to move your design without having to pick up and place all the different elements such as leaves, lettering, dots, etc. The tape also provides the adhesive to attach the design to the mug.

Self-adhesive vinyl

Printable self-adhesive vinyl comes in glossy, clear, or matte and while it has a high element of waterproofing built in, you can further increase it’s durability with a laminating sheet. Printable vinyl is the more popular choice for larger, simpler designs and clip art, but it can also be cut using a Cricut® or similar machine, giving you the option to create a range of more complicated designs as well. Additionally, self-adhesive vinyl is the best choice for photo-based projects.

The draw of self-adhesive vinyl is that you can print directly onto it, then simply peel and stick your design.

You’ll need a home computer or tablet and any type of design software. Alternately, if you are an artist you can draw or paint your design, then simply scan it into a .jpeg, .tiff, or other workable picture format.

Waterslide vinyl

What if your design is very basic, block font based, and you don’t have the steadiest of hands? No problem. Waterslide vinyl is another printable option and it works great for images up to 5760 DPI. That is considered a rather low resolution, but it is still clear and sharp for simple imagery. The best feature of waterslide vinyl is that the adhesive is slow drying, giving you the opportunity to slide/adjust your design until it is perfectly placed. Once it dries, though, it forms a very long lasting bond. Rather than adding a laminating sheet to waterslide, a clear acrylic sealer is recommended once the design is in place.

Shipping

How are going to get your products to your customers? Advertising online is the best way to reach a large target market quickly, but it also creates a customer base that can be out of state, or even out of the country. Be sure to check local and international shipping rates, along with the cost of safely packaging your product so it arrives undamaged at the destination. Factor the costs of shipping into your price, or have a separate shipping charge that the customer pays based on their location.

You Definitely Need a Website

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is the value of the internet! The ability to work from home and sell from home is helping many people stay afloat financially. Even when markets and events open up again and you can sell your products at them in person, giving your customers the ability to order your tumblers and mugs online should be an important part of your business. Tie in e-commerce with easy plug-ins from PayPal, or build the site on an e-commerce platform like Shopify or Amazon.

Marketing Materials

You already have the computer and vinyl, so you can make your own marketing materials. As a creative business, you have every opportunity to increase sales with creative marketing. Why use paper business cards when you can create magnetic ones instead? And forget handing out pens with your logo – try a small Christmas ornament or trivet to give your customers a hint at what you can design. You’ll spend the same or less on something like this as you would to order a batch of pens or other branded products, but what you create will have a more lasting impact (and could lead to more custom orders and suggestions from your clients for special projects).

A Plan

Don’t assume that just because you are working from home and working by yourself that you are not a viable business. Every type of business needs a plan. Without one, you miss gaps in your process or in target market.

Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated. It can fit on a single sheet of paper. You simply need to determine:

  • What am I selling?
  • Who am I selling to?
  • How am I getting my product to my buyers?
  • How will I market myself?

The biggest question to ask yourself is: why am I doing this? That answer will drive your business and your decisions. If you are doing it to share your own artwork with the world, you will base your model on stocked inventory that you create, and your marketing on the people seeking artistic hand-made products. If you are creating tumblers and mugs to generate income, you will tap into the event and planning (weddings, corporate events) and giftware market.

Not every day is easy, but you will have fun!

Creative jobs are fun but there will be times when deadlines, shipping delays, or tricky projects that fall behind frustrate you. That’s okay. Every business, even home based ones, come with some stressful days – and few things are as stressful as entrepreneurship! However, few things are as rewarding as entrepreneurship too. If you love to be creative and artistic and want to channel those attributes into a business, making custom mugs and tumblers could be for you.

Conclusion

To start a home based custom tumbler or mug business from home, you need a supply of blank drinkware. This could be a bulk or individual purchase depending on your business model. You must also decide if your designs will be made using adhesive vinyl, printable vinyl, or both. Adhesive vinyl is not printable but can be cut into incredibly delicate designs. Transfer tape is used to move and adhere the design. Printable vinyl is self adhesive and it’s easy to print your design right onto the product. Waterslide lets you move the design around before it sets and is sealed with a fixative spray (sold separately). Taking the time to plan out your business and thinking ahead with regards to your shipping and marketing will greatly increase your chances of success. It’s not always easy to have a home business, but for creative types, a custom tumbler or mug business can be a very rewarding venture.

Royal Elements sells adhesive vinyl, laminating sheets, printable vinyl, and waterside vinyl so you can easily get started on your business. Learn more by visiting our online Amazon storefront at https://www.amazon.com/royalelements. We love to see the projects you make using Royal Elements vinyl. Post your results online with the hashtag #royalelementsstickers so we can feature your designs on our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube).

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