Embroidery machine

Shopping for Success: Choosing the Right Embroidery Machine for Your Start-Up

You’ve updated your business plan to include social marketing, registered your company name with the state, filed for your federal tax id number and recognized a niche market in your community. Next it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of your new embroidery business; the equipment itself. Here are some thoughts on what to consider when choosing your embroidery machine. 

Qualifying need

If you don’t already have an embroidery machine, or an idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to get down to business.

The criteria that drives your choice will significantly affect the speed at which you begin turning a profit. And, while the wrong decision will not doom you to failure, it will take longer to undo a mistake than it will to do the proper research to make the decision that is right for you in the first place.

Starting your search for the best machine for your business can be an overwhelming task. Fortunately, to help alleviate some of this stress, Melco’s Mike Angel has come up with the top five questions to ask when deciding to purchase a new embroidery machine:

  1. Which is the fastest to learn and the easiest to use? Which will get up and running quickly and enable me to start making money?
  2. Which is the easiest to grow my business? I want to grow in stages; which machine will keep up?
  3. Is there personalized assistance or training that addresses my business needs?
  4. What equipment and technology is available for me to decorate the widest variety of goods?
  5. Who has the support network that will enable me to succeed? Who offers a social network, a forum of like businesses with whom I can get in touch? Who can advise me how to stay on trend as fashions change?

With the customer thinking along these lines, and sharing some of the specifics of their business plan, the sales person’s role becomes one more of matchmaking than heavy-duty selling. “The very first thing I recommend,” explains Ed Levy, Hirsch International, “is matching the machine with the need. What is your niche? Will you be doing contract work?  Personalization? The business model is as important as the budget when considering which machine to purchase. He adds, that it may arguably be more important to gauge needs more than budget as sometimes people will want to start out with the cheapest, and end up paying more in the long run because the cheapest machine might not meet their needs.

To this sentiment, Barudan’s Bob Stone stresses that he would qualify a start-up buyer by asking how many pieces they expect to produce, and what their volume expectations are. Both of these questions will help determine whether the buyer should be looking at single-head equipment or multi-head machines.

New or used?

When it comes to choosing a new machine or a used one, there are definite pros and cons to each. If you are going to go used, it’s advisable to stick with top brand since you will most likely have better records and support, not to mention superior construction.

Stone adds to find out as much as you can about the machine when buying used. “If you don’t know anything about a machine’s history, you have no idea how well it was maintained.” By looking up the serial number, many companies can pull previous owner history and sometimes even service records. However, it should be noted that this is often the exception and not the rule.

In favor of new equipment, besides an untarnished history, new equipment also boasts the latest advancements in features and technology. “If the used machine is an old one, you’ll miss out on that,” says Levy.

Levy also adds, “In the single-head world, the machines hold their value pretty well, especially the top brands, so how much are you really saving by buying used? And since maintenance dictates the life span of a machine, and the cost to run it, it is better to start out with a service warranty and to know the history of a machine.”

Extras for your investment

Service warranties and training should be a huge factor when considering which machine to purchase. Machine companies offer anywhere from one to five years warranty. “You have to consider any down time,” advises Levy, “and the long-term availability of parts, should something go wrong.”

The decision of which company to go with will last the lifetime of the machine, and this includes and equipment and technique training. Available training comes in many forms. It can be webinar-based, on-site so you are learning on your own machine, or at a learning center. And while machines are becoming more user friendly, they also pack more features, so training is not just pertinent but smart, ensuring that you get the most out of your machine.

How much will it cost?

For quality equipment, you should expect to pay anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000, depending on the software package you decide to go with. But, as Angel points out, “if you think of five-year amortization, then you are committing to a monthly payment of $250 to $350, whether you  are leasing, paying yourself back, or financing. And while buying outright is always ideal, it’s important to research which type of payment makes the most sense for the individual company. Levy adds that he always advises his customers to check with their accountant to come up with a plan.

It should also be noted, that if you are shopping for price alone, you most likely won’t end up with a top-notch machine. Stone stresses that, “You have to have quality in order to succeed. One of the first questions I am asked is, why are things so expensive? If they have the time to listen, I will go through all the reasons.”

Whether going for new equipment or used, financing with a lease or buying outright, one of the most important things to consider is the manufacturer’s dedication to support. Look for companies that offer on-going education, training, and on-demand or easily accessible customer service.

Angel notes that some companies have entire teams dedicated to helping decorators reach their overall goals. “The team has to keep up with everything from function to fashion, in order to help.” He further clarifies by stating, if a distressed customer calls in about a broken needle, this team will help figure out why. If 3D embroidery is popular where they are and they are struggling to do puff embroidery on caps, the customer service team can walk the decorator through the process. This added level of attention and support will be crucial going forward with your new business so be sure to research exactly what each manufacturer offers.

By taking the time to research these critical components of your embroidery equipment, you’ll be off to a running start with your new business. Just be sure to do your due diligence and find the right machine for your needs.