How it Works

Cotton Bureau works a little differently than most other t-shirt shops. Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything, and if still you have questions, don’t hesitate to shoot us an email.

What is Cotton Bureau?

Cotton Bureau is an online platform for a highly-curated collection of t-shirts and apparel.

We help designers and illustrators, causes and charities, and creative communities (podcasters, app and game developers, design agencies, blogs and media outlets, etc.) turn their ideas into real products.

Plain english: people send us their t-shirt ideas, we evaluate them to see if they're right for us. If they make the cut—and only about 15% do—we put them on the site for sale for a limited time and do all the hard work of printing, shipping, and customer service.

How does Cotton Bureau work?

We guide you through the entire process of preparing a shirt design for sale.

We make sure your artwork is print-ready (and provide light creative direction if necessary), choose shirt colors, fabrics, and ink types, determine pricing, help you with your account and profile, etc. Once everything is good to go, you let us know when you’d like your shirt to launch.

And just like that, your shirt is live. The clock starts ticking on a two-week pre-order campaign on the site to sell as many shirts as possible. When the campaign ends, we charge all the customers who ordered it, print all the shirts we need (in exact quantities, colors, and sizes), and ship them out as soon as possible (usually a couple weeks after the campaign ends). They come in, they go out...no inventory to manage, no muss, no fuss. We print shirts right here in Pittsburgh (using the same shop who has printed every one of our t-shirts since 2011), we ship all shirts ourselves from our office, and handle all the customer service (returns, refunds, exchanges, lost packages, etc.) forever. This costs you nothing out of pocket.

Why should I work with Cotton Bureau instead of some other print-me-a-shirt service?

  • Only the best designs
  • The finest-quality shirts and apparel
  • Dependable printing and production
  • Slick online shopping experience
  • Attentive customer service

Listen, there are a zillion places on the internet to get a crappy t-shirt made, but we're not one of them. We’ve made a name for ourselves by focusing on quality at every turn: the best designers and communities, comfy and stylish tees, a rock-solid print shop, a slick and accessible website experience, and caring and swift customer service.

If we team up on a t-shirt together, you can rest assured that it won't be for sale next to someone's charity 5K tee, printed on low quality scratchy tees with the wrong color ink, and shipped three weeks late by people you can’t reach via email. We’ve been doing this for years, and we’re getting better all the time. We got this.

Sounds great, what do I have to do?

 

You have two responsibilities: design the artwork for the shirt and promote the hell out of it.

Because of our vast connections in the design and illustration world, we can help with the first part. But when it comes to promotion, we really lean on you to do the heavy lifting. Use every tool at your disposal early and often (social media, email newsletters, website links, text messages, hand-written letters, smoke signals, etc.) Ask your friends, family, and followers to help out. Whether you’re an individual designer with a few followers on Instagram or a super-popular podcast with hundreds of thousands of listeners, your shirt won’t sell unless you promote it.

How much money will I make?

Whether you just want to make a few extra bucks, raise money for a worthy cause, or generate actual revenue for your business, Cotton Bureau can help.

Based on the details of the shirt—number of ink colors, fabric type, etc.—we give you a base price per shirt, usually between $18–23. You choose a per-shirt profit margin to add to that base cost which gives us our retail cost (usually around $28–32...remember, these are premium shirts, not some rag you’re gonna be washing your car with in two months).

Here's how profit works: sell 12+ shirts during your campaign and your shirt will get produced, sell 25+ and you also get a share of the profit. But if you sell a lot of shirts during your two-week campaign, we want to reward you for that, so if you reach 50+, 75+, 100+, 150+, 600+, or 1,200+ shirts sold, you’ll get an extra dollar per shirt at every level for every shirt sold. So let's say your base profit is $5/shirt. Sell 25 tees and you'll earn $125, but sell 1,200 shirts and you'll earn $13,200 ($5/shirt + $6/shirt extra x 1,200 shirts). Pretty cool, huh?

What happens once the sale is over?

 

Many of our shirts have returned again and again.

Once your shirt goes to print, it heads to the Wall of Fame, where people can sign up to request that we bring the shirt back. Once the number of requests signals a real demand for a future print run—usually around 40–50—we recommend bringing it back, and when we relaunch it, everyone who requested it gets an email that it's for sale. Or we can launch new shirts together.

What else can we do together?

Lots of things, it turns out.

Screen-printed apparel sold via pre-order is our wheelhouse, but if you wanna talk about anything else—hats, tote bags, pins, shorter quicker-turnaround campaigns, or even a more standard inventory/fulfillment model—we're flexible. Give us a shout we'll work something out.

You've seen enough, tTime to submit a design.

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