Melissa Buening is the Founder of Ecommerce Movers and Shakers and The Minnesota Nice Company.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Ecommerce Movers and Shakers will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Shopify is a great ecommerce platform for a beginner with no capital to start an apparel business on. This is the store I created using the resources I’ll describe below – The Minnesota Nice Company.
You are able to start an apparel business on Shopify with no capital because there are apparel printing companies that have free applications on Shopify that allow you to design products and then have the companies print and send them to your customers once orders are made (also known as print on demand applications or dropshipping). This means you do not need to keep inventory and ship products yourself.
Here’s how to build your online apparel store:
Start by signing up for a free trial of Shopify.
You’ll need to sign up with the email address you want associated with your store and the name you want for your store. After you sign up, you’ll be taken to your Shopify dashboard.
Add Collections for your products.
Collections are groups for your products. You will be able to use them in your navigation and add them to sections on your home page. Some of the Collections I added to The Minnesota Nice Company store are: Men’s Long Sleeve Tees, Baseball Shirts, Women’s Tanks, Men’s Clothing, Baby Onesies, and Toddler Tees.
Here are the products that are available via the print on demand applications that I will show you how to integrate with your Shopify store:
Printful’s products are here.
teelaunch’s products are here.
In order to add a collection, click on “Products” on your Shopify dashboard.
Click on “Collections”.
Click on the “Create collection” button.
Give your collection a title. Select the conditions you want to use for adding products to the collection. You might want to revisit the conditions for each collection after you add products if you are unsure of what you specifically want in each collection. If that is the case, then select the “Manually select products” option. Click on the “Save” button.
Add the Print On Demand Applications.
Click on “Apps” on your Shopify dashboard.
Click on the “Visit Shopify App Store” button.
I used two Print On Demand Applications for The Minnesota Nice Company called “teelaunch” and “Printful”. I chose to use both applications because teelaunch offered custom printed products at lower prices relative to other applications in the Shopify app store and Printful offered additional clothing styles and products that teelaunch didn’t offer, as well as the ability to create custom embroidered products. I’ll show you how to install and add products for the two applications I used. There are tons of other product sourcing applications to explore here.
The direct link to the teelaunch app page is here.
If you want to read about how teelaunch was started, check out the Founder’s story here: Christopher Hamze Is Enabling Shopify Merchants to Easily Print-On-Demand with teelaunch
Click on the “Get” button.
Click on the “Install app” button.
Click on the “Account” button.
Fill out the information for your account and select the options that will work best for you for processing orders. Click on the “Save Account Info” button when you are done. *You can’t add products to your store until you have completed filling out your account information.
Click on the “New Product” button.
Click on the product you want to add to your store and then click on the “Start Designing” button located at the bottom of the page. Teelaunch has multiple categories of products besides apparel if you want to offer additional products to your store.
Select the colors and sizes you want to offer. All of the sizes are preselected, so if you click on one of the sizes it will remove it as an option. None of the colors are preselected, so if you check one of the color boxes it will add it as an option. If you click on one of the color squares, then the product preview image will change to display that color.
Click on the “Choose File” button.
Select the artwork you would like to place on your product. Your artwork will be automatically placed on the product. Click on the options you would like for the placement of your artwork.
If the product you chose has the option of adding artwork to the back side, then you can go ahead and add artwork there as well if you’d like by clicking on the “Flip Front/Back” button, clicking on the “Choose File” button, and following the same process of placing your artwork where you want it.
Once you have your artwork placed, click on the “Review and Publish Designs” button.
Give your product a title, write a product description if you don’t want the one teelaunch pre-fills in the box for you, add the product to the Shopify Collection you’d like it to be in, add tags for the product if you’d like (tags help customers sort products in a collection by color, style, etc.), and add the selling price for your product.
When you are done adding all of that information click on the “Publish to your Store” button.
Repeat this process for any other apparel products you want to add to your store via teelaunch.
Go to Printful’s website and sign up for an account.
Click on “Sign up” in the upper right corner.
Fill in your information and click the “Sign up” button.
Scroll down and click on “Create your store”.
Click on the “Choose platform” button.
Click on the “Connect” button in the Shopify box.
Click on the “Get” button.
Click on the “Install app” button.
In the “Connect to an existing account” box, sign in with the email and password you used to sign up for Printful.
Click on the “Connect store to [your email address]” button.
Click on the “Add product” button.
Click on the category you want to add a product from.
Click on the product you want to add to your store.
Select the colors and sizes you want to offer. All of the sizes are preselected, so if you click on one of the sizes it will be removed as an option. Only the first color is preselected, so if you check one of the color boxes it will be added as an option.
Click on “Upload file”.
Click on the “Choose file” button.
Upload the artwork you want to place on your product. Once uploaded, your artwork will appear as an option to choose from. Hover over the artwork and a “Choose” button will appear. Click on the button.
Your artwork will be placed on your product.
You can now drag your artwork to anywhere you want it placed on your product within the print area. You can also resize your artwork by clicking and dragging the bottom right corner of your artwork.
Once you have your artwork placed how you want it, click on the “Proceed to mockups” button.
Choose the mockup image and format you would like to use. The number of mockup images available to choose from varies from product to product. Click on the “Proceed to description” button.
Give your product a title, write a product description if you don’t want the one Printful pre-fills in the box for you, choose to attach the size guide or not, choose the size guide’s measurement system, and add tags for the product if you’d like.
When you are done adding all of that information, click on the “Proceed to pricing” button.
Choose the retail price you want for each size of your product. Leave the Publish product checkbox checked. Choose the collections you want your product to be in. Click on the “Submit to store” button.
Repeat this process for any other apparel products you want to add to your store via Printful. For the products with embroidery, you will need to select the embroidery type and thread colors you would like. If you would like more information about setting up embroidered products through Printful go here.
Once you have submitted all of the products to your store that you would like, click on “Your store’s not ready yet! Finish setting it up.”
Click on “Set up billing and payments”.
Fill in your payment information and then click on the “Save Payment Method” button.
Customize the look and feel of your store.
Shopify provides a few free theme options in various styles. View the free Shopify themes here. I used the Debut theme for The Minnesota Nice Company. The Debut theme is the one that is already installed in your store when you sign up for Shopify. If you want to use the Debut theme, then skip the next 5 steps. If you want to use one of the other free themes, then proceed with these steps:
1. Click on “Online Store” on your Shopify dashboard.
2. Click on the “Explore free themes” button.
3. Click on the theme you would like to use for your store. Select the style you want to use (if multiple are available for the theme). Then click on the “Add [theme name]” button.
4. Next, you will want to publish the theme that you just added. Click on “Actions” and a dropdown will appear. Click on “Publish”.
5. Click on the “Publish” button.
Customize the theme
Click on the “Customize” button.
Go crazy customizing the colors you want to use on your site, adding your logo, and choosing various other aspects of your site via “Theme settings”. Add, edit, and remove sections on your home page via “Sections”. Customizing your theme is pretty intuitive, so I won’t go into every detail here. Make sure you hit the “Save” button in the top right corner after you make changes! Once you are done customizing, click on the Shopify logo in the upper left corner to get back to your Shopify dashboard.
Customize the navigation
Click on “Navigation” under the “Online Store” heading.
The “Footer menu” is the navigation at the bottom of each page on your site. The “Main menu” is the navigation at the top of each page on your site. If you would like to change the menu items for either of the menus, click on the “Footer menu” or “Main menu” text.
If you want to add a menu item, click on the “Add menu item” text.
Type in the words you would like to be shown in the menu in the “Name” field. Click into the “Link” field and a dropdown of options will appear. If you click on “Collections” or “Products” you will be able to select a specific collection or product. Click on the “Add” button to add it to the menu.
When you are done adding menu items, click on the “Save” button. Your menu items are now visible in your store.
Edit your preferences
Click on “Preferences” under the “Online Store” heading.
Give the homepage of your site a title and description. This is the information that will show up in search engines.
If you want to add Google Analytics code or a Facebook Pixel ID to your site, you can do that here.
Click on the “Save” button to save your changes.
Customize your domain
If you have an existing domain or would like to buy a domain to use for your site, click on “Domains” under the “Online Store” heading.
Click on the option you would like and Shopify will walk you through the steps to connect the domain.
Edit your settings
Click on “Settings”.
You will see various settings that you can edit. The ones I’ll show you how to edit are: General, Payment providers, Checkout, Shipping, Taxes, and Notifications. Click on “General”.
Add your Store details, Store address, and edit the Standards and formats on this page. Click on the “Save” button.
Click on “Settings” to go back to the main settings page.
Click on “Payment providers”. You will be brought to a page where you can set up the various ways in which you would like to accept payments from your customers and if you would like to automatically or manually capture payments. When you are done setting up your payments, click on “Settings” to go back to the main settings page.
Click on “Checkout”. You will be brought to a page where you can set up various aspects of your checkout experience. When you are done setting up your checkout experience, click on “Settings” to go back to the main settings page.
Click on “Shipping”. You will be brought to a page where you can set up “Shipping origin” and “Zones and rates”. Since you are using dropshipping services for your products, you don’t need to worry about the rest of the sections on this page. Make sure the address in the “Shipping origin” section is the correct return address. In the “Zones and rates” section edit the Shipping zones to reflect the locations you would like to ship to and the associated shipping rates you would like to offer your customers. When you are done setting up your shipping options, click on “Settings” to go back to the main settings page.
Click on “Taxes”. You will be brought to a page where you can set up how your store calculates taxes at checkout. This will vary based on your location and specific products you are selling in your store. Refer to your state or country’s tax laws and laws regarding dropshipping to find the correct rates.
Shopify has a feature that will automatically calculate taxes for you based on the physical presence you add. Click on the destination text, like “United States”, to edit the automatic tax calculations. You can also add a tax override on this page. One reason you would add a tax override is if your state doesn’t require you to collect sales tax on something like clothing.
Go back to the main “Settings” page when you are done setting up taxes. Click on “Notifications”. You will be able to view and edit email notifications on this page. Click on any of the blue text on this page to view or edit the text of a specific email. Click on the “Customize” button to edit the logo and accent color used in each email. You can also edit whether or not you want to receive email notifications when you receive a new order on the main Notifications page. If you like the emails that Shopify has already created for you, then don’t worry about editing them. Editing the accent color to match your branding and adding your logo are nice touches, though 🙂 .
Click on the “Select a plan” button at the bottom of the page. Select the plan that you would like. You won’t be charged for your plan until your trial is over.
Launch your store!
Yep, you’re done setting up everything. Head on over to “Preferences” under “Online Store”. Scroll down to the “Password page” section. Uncheck the “Enable password page” box and click on the “Save” button. Your store is now live!
The process for accepting orders once they are placed through your store will depend on the settings you selected in the previous steps.
Both Printful and teelaunch will automatically send shipment notification emails to your customers that include tracking information once their products ship.
If you opted to “Manually select products” when you initially set up your Collections, then don’t forget to click into each collection and select the products you want in each.
Refer to your Payout Schedule on the Home screen of your Shopify Dashboard to find out when funds are scheduled to be paid out to you. This is especially helpful if you plan on waiting until the funds are in your account before you submit an order to Printful or teelaunch for fulfillment. Both Printful and teelaunch will charge you right away when you submit an order to them.
Shopify’s Help Center is a great resource for learning how to use the ecommerce platform beyond what I taught you here.