Growing Your Sublimation Business Part Two: Taking Your Business on the Road
If you’ve started a personalization business with sublimation, you know how sublimating stunning full-color photos, logos, and artwork on a host of items brings out the smiles on your customers’ faces.
People come to you because they love the personalized items you offer. They’re durable, unique, and look great.
Maybe you shouldn’t wait for customers to come to you. Maybe it’s time to take your sublimation business on the road and introduce your business to more people.
Back in the early days of sublimation, it took someone with a sense of adventure to even consider taking their sublimation equipment out of their office.
Printers were large and often retrofitted with bulk ink systems that weren’t meant for travel. Print nozzles clogged regularly. That was an inconvenience when you were in the office, but extra frustrating when out at a craft show or fair and customers are waiting for their items. And hauling a heat press around required two people and, if you’re lucky, a cart to get it to where it needed to be.
But all of that has changed in the past 10 years or so. Sublimation printers are made specifically for the process and manufacturers have maximized the hardware to fit in smaller footprints. Sublimation inks come in self-contained cartridges or spill-proof containers, making them easy to transport from location to location without risk of ruining your carpeted trunk liner or car upholstery. And heat presses from reputable manufacturers come in a variety of sizes and are made to withstand the rigors of the road.
Printers for the Road
Taking your sublimation business outside your home or office is a lot simpler than it used to be, thanks in large part to sublimation printer manufactures. Here are a few sublimation printers that are ideal when traveling to and from fairs, festivals, or other events.
The Sawgrass SG500 is an entry-level sublimation printer with a wide range of features. Its compact design prints on sublimation paper up to 8.5” x 14” and makes for a great option for personalizing small to medium sized items like mugs and drinkware, keychains, coasters, and garments (depending on the size of the design).
The Sawgrass SG1000 offers all the features of the SG500 and adds the ability to print to sublimation paper up to 11” x 17” with the included paper tray or up to 13” x 51” with the optional bypass tray. This is great for transferring customized images to t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other garments up to size XL and beyond. The larger print area also gives you the option to print multiple images at the same time. This increases your output and turn-around time which is crucial when you’re in a busy “live” setting such as a craft show or county fair.
Both the SG500 and SG1000 use Sawgrass sublimation ink cartridges that are virtually spill-proof and make it easy to have an extra set on-site.
Epson F570 Pro
If you have a little more cargo room in your vehicle and a friend to help carry it, the Epson F570 Pro can be a great option for taking off-site for events. The large 24" wide print area means you can create personalized sublimation transfers for any size garment or create multiple copies of the same image.
The F570 Pro also features high-capacity inks that offer crisp, clean images and no-mess refills. If you’re looking for a printer that offers higher print capacity and print size, the F570 is a great option.
These sublimation printers work with a Window’s based computer and a wide range of design software, including CorelDraw, Adobe Creative applications, and others.
All of the printers above come with Wi-Fi capabilities. This is a fantastic feature for small to mid-sized events that don’t offer wired internet access and allows you to wirelessly transfer files from your laptop to the printer.
Press for Success
Taking a printer on the road sounds simple... and it is. But don’t forget that you’ll need a heat press to finish off the sublimation process. While heat presses can be heavy and bulky, there are several options available that can give you outstanding press performance and results along with being travel-friendly.
Let’s look at some of the press options available that can help you achieve sublimation success while you’re on the road.
9” x 12” Craft Clamshell Press
Weighing just 40lbs, the Craft Clamshell Press is a good place to start when you’re looking for a travel-friendly heat press. Featuring a 9” x 12” heat platen and clamshell design (top platen lifts up and down), this press is great for flat, small to medium sized items like coasters, can insulators, key chains, and small textiles like scarves and face masks.
Geo Knight DK14S 12” x 14” Swing Away Press
Geo Knight is one of the most reputable names in heat presses, and this American made press is no exception. A step up in size from the Craft Clamshell press, the Geo Knight DK14S features a 12” x 14” platen that swings open, so space will be a little bit of a consideration when traveling to an event. At 70lbs., this press is still travel-friendly and easy to transport with the help of a friend (and maybe a cart).
Geo Knight DC16 14” x 16” Digital Swing Away Press
Like the DK14S, the DC16 is a high-quality swing-away press that opens even more product options for you when you take your sublimation business on the road. This press has enough surface area to press most flat sublimation items as well as small to medium sized garments. At 130lbs., you’ll want to make sure you have a friend with you to help load and unload this press, and a cart to help get the press to its destination.
Geo Knight heat presses feature sturdy, steel construction and will give you years of service both at home and at shows and events.
Hix 15” x 15” Swingman Swing Away Heat Press
The Hix Swingman press is another USA-made option that’s sized perfectly for taking your sublimation business to craft shows and fairs. The 15” x 15” platen offers a nice size for just about any small to medium sized item up to 1.75” thick. The Swingman press weighs 57lbs. and is made from high-quality steel, so it’s both portable and durable.
Johnson Plastics JP450 Multi-Use Drinkware Press
If you’re planning to personalize drinkware at events like fairs and craft shows, a dedicated drinkware press is a must. Weighing only 24lbs., the JP450 comes with a digital timer and four interchangeable heating elements to press a variety of drinkware, including standard 11oz. and 15oz. mugs, latte mugs, tumblers, and water bottles.
There are also a range of larger presses that might be of interest if you’re looking to personalize items such as towels, blankets, and larger shirts and sweatshirts. Whatever items you want to customize and offer your customers, you’ll find the right printer and press combination from Johnson Plastics Plus.
Hix B-250 Cap Press
Sublimation is a great way to personalize ball caps and hats, and the Hix B-250 Cap Press makes a great companion to your business both in the workshop and on the road. Featuring a touchscreen with digital countdown timer and three standard cap platens included, the B-250 will have you personalizing golf caps, ball caps, and youth caps in real time for your customers. And at just 23lbs., the B-250 is easy to take anywhere you want!
Don’t Forget Your "Go Tote”
Now that you’ve got a printer and a heat press, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the necessary supplies to make your event successful. Creating a sealable “go tote” that you can prep ahead of time is a great way to keep yourself organized and make sure your event is a success.
For your “go tote”, you’ll want to make sure you get one that has a good seal to it. While it might be tempting to get the cheapest tote available, one that has a rubberized seal around the top is the best option. Humidity and moisture are not kind to sublimation supplies such as paper and inks, and you never know when you may have to load or unload in the rain or snow. Spending a few extra dollars on a high-quality tote is a great investment to protect your sublimation supplies.
There are some obvious items you’ll want in your “go tote”. A good pair of scissors is a must-have for any sublimation project. Pack an extra pair just in case, as scissors are one of those items that seem to get misplaced in the heat of the moment at fairs and craft shows. Heat tape is another item that you can never have enough of, so keep an extra roll or two in your tote. An extra set of ink cartridges or refill bottles can save the day when you’re working on-site and the orders are rolling in!
Extra sublimation paper is a must-have and should always be in your tote, but don’t forget about a separate notebook for jotting down notes as customers come up and place orders. Whether it’s a call-back number or special instructions for an order, you don’t want to resort to using your sublimation paper for note taking because you forgot a notebook. Along with a notebook, be sure to pack some pens and permanent markers as well and keep them in a separate zip top bag in case they leak while going to your show.
Speaking of zip top bags, it’s good practice to keep a box in your tote. These come in handy for a variety of uses, including packaging up orders and storing any unused supplies for your next event. And finally, make sure you’ve got extension cords and power strip to run your devices as well as any additional platens or attachments you might need for your heat presses.
Before you head out the door with your sublimation printer, heat press, laptop, and tote, it’s a good idea to check with the facility to make sure you’ll have access to the necessary loading and unloading areas as well as electrical outlets. The printers and heat presses mentioned in this blog all run on standard 110v power, however you’ll want to see if the event will provide access to outlets or an extension cord with multiple receptacles.
While most buildings today have handicap-accessible ramps and entrances, it’s always good to confirm that before arrival. If you’re taking one of the larger heat presses mentioned above, you’ll want to make life easier for yourself (and your back) by having a friend help you load your press and printer onto to a cart. And you’ll need an easy path to get that cart to your stand or booth.
Taking sublimation on the road is a great way to expand the reach of your personalization business. Having the right equipment and preparing yourself for the experience can lead you to new customers and new business opportunities.
The service and support teams at Johnson Plastics Plus are available to answer any questions you have about sublimation equipment and supplies and help guide you on your personalization journey. Feel free to reach us at 800-869-7800, via the chat function on jpplus.com, or by email at email@example.com.