Here at Umai, we are proud to say we are one of the leading anime T-shirt brands on the market. Our road to success has not been easy. In fact, no successful business gets to where it wants to go without a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. Things in our industry are especially challenging. It turns out that selling anime T-shirts can be tricky business.
As you know, anime is one of the hottest pop-culture trends right now. Studios are falling all over themselves to create new content for streaming channels, films, and TV shows. If an entrepreneur is looking to produce anime T-shirts and sweatshirts, what is the business model going to look like?
This is an important question for the simple fact that the artwork has to come from somewhere. A T-shirt company either has to license existing artwork or create its own original pieces. A combination of both works, too. But both choices have their pros and cons.
Appealing to the Culture
The first key to success in the anime T-shirt business is appealing to the culture. Think of it as satisfying the customer. Note that the anime crowd is very fussy; they know what they like and dislike. Anime fans are so particular that they tend to zero-in on certain types of characters or themes. They will not look at anything outside of their limited preferences.
To a T-shirt designer, this presents a big challenge. How do you design T-shirts with broad-based appeal? How do you cater to specific preferences while maintaining the largest possible audience? It is not easy to do. Not only that, but the entrepreneur also has to go back to the source of their artwork.
Licensing Existing Material
A T-shirt designer looking to take advantage of the hottest anime properties really has no choice but to license existing material. Content creators are typically happy to oblige, for a fee. It is in their best interest to do so. After all, a successful merchandising campaign can support a creator's goals for producing new content.
Licensing existing material is certainly one way to go. It can be very lucrative if the T-shirt designer hits on the right franchises to sell. But licensing is also expensive. Content creators and publishers know how valuable popular content is, and they want their piece of the pie.
Creating Original Material
A cheaper way to go is to create your own original material. That is what we have chosen to do here at Umai. However, we didn't go that route to save money. Rather, one of the founders of our company was already creating original anime artwork long before the first T-shirt was printed. It just seemed natural to utilize those pieces because we knew they were good.
A big advantage of sticking with original material is that there are never any licensing fees involved. Likewise, there are no worries of copyright infringement. Original artwork can be applied to all our anime T-shirts, sweatshirts, phone cases, and posters without any worries.
As an added bonus, we have the ability to license our work to other companies if we so decide. That does not mean we have or will, but the option is always on the table. Licensing could offer the opportunity to boost revenues and expand our reach.
At any rate, producing and selling anime T-shirts is tricky business for the simple fact that content has to come from somewhere. We just happened to have hit on a successful model driven by our own original artwork. It has worked well thus far.