There are lots of things that can help you run your sneaker business. Computer software, website subscriptions, tools for painting, etc. Lots of things can be helpful, but also come with their own financial cost. When you're beginning your career customizing sneakers, making the decisions about getting the most bang for your buck is vital. As time goes on and your business grows, spend more and invest your money. Those decisions might include a new camera, new computer, your own studio space, hiring help along with a lot of other things.
But in your first year of business, what purchases will stretch your dollar the farthest? Over time I've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on different things. Everything from equipment, my team, legal, marketing, you name it. But there are 3 things I would recommend every beginning sneaker artist get. Yes you can function without these 3 things. But you don't have to. Spending money on these 3 things I've listed below has the highest ROI of anything you can possibly spend your money on in the first year of starting your custom sneaker business.
Here are the 3 most important things I've purchased for my custom sneaker business:
3. Silhouette Cameo 4
This machine took my professional looking sneakers to the next level. When I had clients asking for logos or text, I was now able to let them pick fonts of their choice, do intricate repetitive patterns, and multi color logos. It comes with it's own software called Silhouette Studio which is easy to learn. It's almost like a simplified Adobe Illustrator. The Trace tool allows you to vector any image you put in the software and instantly cut out a stencil. You can then use transfer tape to transfer the vinyl onto the shoes and paint in your image. Using an airbrush works best, but you don't need it. Painting with a paintbrush works great too.
I know it seems like a silly thing to include in my top 3 all time list, but it's that important. My Cameo speeds up my workflow and saves bundles of time. Well worth every penny. You can get it on Amazon HERE.
2. DYMO 4XL Label Writer + Postage Scale + Stamps.com Subscription
Many sneaker artists still drive to the post office. Even worse they stand in line and fill out shipping addresses at the Post Office Counter. Showing you're driving to the Post Office is NOT a flex. Driving to the post office and standing in line should be something of last resort.
What you should be doing is pringing out your shipping label and slapping it on your shipping box after your done. Then you can schedule a package pick up the next day. This is a major time saver. No waiting in line. And since it's a thermal printer, no ink! You can literally print 100,000 labels and never change an ink cartridge. Because the Dymo Label Writer doesn't have any ink cartridges.
The Stamps.com subscription costs $18/mo but will pay for itself if you ship more than 1 package per week. You get discounted shipping rates and is always cheaper than what you would pay at the post office. The subscription pays for its self in 1 package if you consider the time it takes to go to the post office and wait in line. I probably would keep my subscription even if I quit my sneaker business because it's that convenient. The fact that a stamps.com subscription with the label writer is in my top 3 most important purchases speaks volumes.
1. iPad Pro + Apple Pencil + Procreate app
Ok, I know, this is more than just 1 thing but I recognize it as a bundle. 5 years ago, I purchased an iPad Pro + Apple Pencil and starting making my clients digital mock ups on Procreate. This was a game changer for me. All of a sudden, my clients could see exactly what they were getting. They could even send me images to superimpose onto the shoes in the mock up. The often gave me Pantone shades to use in the digital mock up to see how they would look on their sneakers.
Creating mockups in Procreate took a little while to learn. But if you dedicate 1 weekend to learning all the tools in the program, your sneaker mock ups will level up really fast. And it's not just mock ups you're creating for customers. I found it helps me visualize the projects I'm about to jump into. It actually makes me paint faster since I have a clear plan by the time I start working on the shoes. I even make mock ups for myself now on projects that don't have paying customers. I'm quick with it, and they're that important.
Price: The best part is, these small powerful machines have gone way down in price. You don't need a new one. You can get an older model and it will work just fine. Also, Procreate doesn't charge a monthly fee either! It's only $10. You pay once and it's yours forever. And they updated it often, so you're always gaining access to cool new features. You can get it HERE.
Are you a full time sneaker artist that runs your business?