Build Your Business:

A Playbook for the New Normal

In a post-COVID world, use these strategies to position your custom-apparel business for successful future growth.

By Henry Ma, Contributing Writer

August 2, 2021

As COVID-fighting vaccines are on the rise and lockdowns are being lifted across the country, companies must strategize growth opportunities that consider consumer patterns in a post-pandemic world. Because customers are doing more online transactions than in-store, they’re more aware of their spending habits. This makes community-building, engaging marketing content and long-term business plans an absolute necessity for success.

In general, we’ve seen an upward trajectory of supporting small businesses through COVID times. People can start business from their own homes, and this trend of easy startups will make it more accessible for small businesses to have the early confidence to achieve success and eventually scale to a retail or commercial space.

Custom Designing Your Community
As the pandemic starts to wind down, some companies have moved eschewed going back into the office and will keep remote-working practices intact. In addition, keeping employees at home means that more consumers will buy and are inclined to support local, smaller businesses, which is an excellent opportunity for building an engaged audience for your company.

Carving out a niche market in your community will eventually create a space for your business to expand its footprint. Whether you’re focusing on building a specific vertical in the industry, such as working with schools to embroider emblems and team names, or focusing on specialty products, getting great at filling the gaps will help grow your brand.

Projecting your business as an authority and quality local vendor will create a solid foundation for a consumer base that can eventually expand from the initial products or services. Then, as your business engages with more groups and fills a niche in the custom-apparel industry, you can get as creative as possible when thinking of new markets and avenues for revenue to scale your business.

Online Platforms = Free Marketing
Social media is a great way to stay active and engaged with the community. You can provide constant content for customers and the general public to consume to be better versed with your custom-apparel business and help them be more successful. In tandem, your sales, customer-service and marketing teams can work together to figure out what customers want, understand their problems and craft solutions — whether it’s via content or specific products — to alleviate those pain points.

Daily interactions with customers and potential prospects organically increase engagement and interest in content. The constant feedback loop will help create better products and provide better services and content for customers and, in return, will grow market share.

Industry trends should emphasize how important it is for your business to have a metaphorical finger on the market’s pulse and what the customers want. It’s essential that companies connect with their communities through all these social-media channels so that they’re in tune with customers’ needs and wants. Also, be sure to engage various departments and personnel across the entire organization.

Crafting Your Big-Picture Plan
Everything nowadays is a one-stop-shop. For instance, you can go to Amazon or other e-commerce stores and buy anything you need. At Ricoma, our goal is to provide embroidery and other complementary products so that our customers can also become a one-stop custom apparel shop for their community.

Similarly, understanding the changing industry landscape, competitors and your customers can influence the process of expanding product lines — whether it’s related to embroidery, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, heat transfers or screen printing — and enacting growth strategies as you scale the business to support full- or part-time ventures.

Businesses also can use vendor marketplaces, including one of our newest platforms, Garmeo. Customer orders get routed to the nearest fulfillment site or participating vendors, like your scaling business, which can start receiving orders so customers can enjoy faster turnaround and affordable shipping while you build your business model. With bulk ordering and no minimum quantities on orders, sales outsourcing can take the weight off of wondering how to get in new orders and automate processes so you can focus on other aspects of your business.

Whether you’re thinking of starting a side hustle or figuring out how to increase revenue for your business post-COVID, custom apparel is an open market that takes a little creativity and finding the right community to ignite growth. Social media can be an excellent tool for marketing and connecting with target audiences. Prioritize customers by listening to their needs and factor them in when deciding future investments for your company.

With these tips for success, your business will be booming in no time as we adjust to the new normal in this industry.

An NYU Stern School of Business graduate, Henry Ma is CEO of Ricoma. He has been featured in various decorated-apparel industry publications and on podcasts. He also hosts the Apparel Academy show on YouTube and is continuously striving to be a thought leader on entrepreneurship, digital marketing and social media. For more information or to comment on this article, email Henry at