Getting Started in Dye Sublimation Printing
What NOT to Do...

A Couple of Guy's Opinions
Snatched off the DSSI Forum (and edited slightly) with Permission of the Posters

What NOT to Do... - Part 1

by David Lavaneri, DGL Engraving, February 2001

1) Do NOT use a small format printer with cartridges, unless you are producing name badges, jewelry, or items with very small image areas, and a sizeable profit margin.

2) Do NOT invest in an Epson 3000 printer if you will NEVER print a transfer larger than an 8.5x11 sheet of paper will handle.

3) Do NOT consider using a small format printer for full bleed mouse pads or large image areas, without utilizing some form of a bulk ink delivery system.

4) Do NOT buy sublimation equipment or supplies from companies which will only sell you the products and offer no technical support.

I'm sure the list could continue, ad infinitum, but here is the most crucial advice:

5) Do NOT consider entering the sublimation industry before a thorough reading of the DSSI forum on Delphi.

David "The Stunt Engraver" Lavaneri
DGL Engraving
Port Hueneme, CA

What NOT to Do - Part 2 

by Larry Cohn, Fun Faces Foto Gifts, Feb. 2001

6) DO NOT do it just because you can, it's a cool idea, and it's new and sexy to you. First do enough soul-searching and research to determine if you really think you can get a payoff from this business, and if you are willing to invest the time, money, and effort needed to make it work. In order to answer that question, I've come up with the following checkpoints:

a) Decide what your initial product(s) will be, (hopefully very limited and focused).

b) Decide what market(s) you are initially planning to go after, (again, hopefully very limited and focused). Sports teams? Retail? Businesses? (Small? Medium? Large?) Etc.

c) Decide how you initially plan to market your products and services, (Internet, mall, store, shows, flyers, mail order, whatever?) Then try to find out if this plan is realistic. If you chose the mall route, for instance, are there malls in your area that would rent to you and allow you to sell those products? You might be surprised to find out how hard it sometimes is to get into a mall, or how high the rent and other costs can be.

d) Determine your competition, and how your product/service/pricing is going to stack up to theirs. I don't just mean other sublimators. Example: If you're planning to sell t-shirts, you are competing at various levels against everyone from screen printers to color laser copier transfer guys like Kinko's.

e) Determine if you actually have enough cash on hand, or credit available, to get the business going. Include all incidental expenses, and including 3 months of reserve cash in case it takes awhile to start making sales. Don't forget to put some factor in for experimentation cost, the cost of products scrapped by you, and the cost of products rejected by the customer (redo's). Then add a minimum safety factor (15%?) to handle all the gotchas that you can't possibly foresee. And don't quit your day job yet.

f) Determine what kind of total effort it really is going to take to run the business. Here you will find yourself in the Land of Gotchas. Don't forget the hours that you expect your spouse or kids to help you out. Don't forget the taxes, the paperwork, the research, the marketing, the hiring, training and firing of employees, buying equipment, fixing equipment, selling old equipment, keeping inventory, to name just a few "time suckers". You may find that the time you spend actually producing orders may be incidental to the total time your business requires to survive and prosper. What is your safe limit before your life goes to hell and your family life suffers? 50 hours/wk? 80 hours/wk? 110 hours/wk?

Now here comes the inevitable Saturday night rant...

7) DO NOT believe any of the above information that comes from a vendor trying to sell you a system or a "business opportunity".

We've all heard this type of pitch:

"Be your own boss! "
"Set your own hours! Work as much or as little as you want!"
"Work from your living room in your underwear! "
"So compact, the system will fit in the trunk of your car! "
"Go anywhere and make money!" (they then list 200 venues such as malls, car shows, flea markets, etc)
"Customers will line up to hand you mountains of cash! "
"10,000% profit margin!"
"So easy, a child could run it!"
"So easy, a child could learn it in 10 minutes! "

You have to ask yourself when you hear this, "If it's so lucrative, then why aren't YOU (the salesman) out there quietly making your wheelbarrow-full loads of cash instead of wasting your time trying to get me into the business?"

While most vendors are not evil (!), (and I'm not talking about the many, many reputable vendors out there), there is definitely a potential for bias at the time of sale. You would think from hearing some of the sales pitches that there are so many unlimited opportunities, that it would be impossible to go wrong. Your job is to try to take a colder, arms length view of the business, away from the hype. Remember that while there may be some truth to a pitch, that doesn't make it all true, or true in your situation.

You might try talking to some people who have been in the biz awhile and don't mind sharing their experiences (don't try this with people who will perceive you as a potential threat). (Note: the DSSI forum is great for that because it's less likely that someone who gives advice will be giving it to a direct competitor.)  By the way, don't automatically assume that if you talk to someone who is failing in the business that you are interested in, that "this person is simply not as smart or clever or industrious as me, and I WILL make money even though this person is not". That's probably your ego talking.  In a couple of years you might find yourself on the other end of that same conversation!

Conversely, you may not necessarily be able to duplicate the success of someone else in the business, because that person might have been at the right place at the right time, or knew the right people (to get a great contract, for example), or had some serious financial backing, or had a unique combination of skills and qualities that resulted in his or her success.

You might just study (spy on) other similar businesses awhile (just don't be obvious, rude, or obnoxious about it).  Try to figure out, for example, what's their average sale, and how long does it take to make the sale and produce the product?  What kind of product quality problems, if any, are they having? What is the employee environment?  What is the general customer attitude?  Does the business seem to be successful?  What are the slow sales periods?  You can sometimes glean valuable information by simply placing a small order with them.

You could work as an employee for one of these businesses for a short while. You could do this completely above board if you chose a business that is located outside of your directly competitive area, and then bluntly ask the owner if you could work awhile for the experience.

The point is to do your research first, and then if it still adds up for you, then jump in and invest your money. I have seen way too many sad souls who did it the other way around, took it on the chin really hard, then eventually got out of the biz and moved on,
leaving a pile of almost worthless equipment and supplies in their wake, as well as lost opportunity and time.

Respectfully submitted,


The above postings are: Copyright 2001 David Lavaneri and Larry Cohn All rights reserved, and may not be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the author(s).