How to Start a Rhinestone Studded T-Shirt Business

Starting a rhinestone studded T-shirt business is easier than ever with modern equipment. Pre-made or custom-designed and cut rhinestone heat-applied transfers allow complex designs to be made quickly, eliminating the old-fashioned hand machine method of applying one rhinestone at a time. Starting the business is similar to other businesses, with equipment and training available from specialty suppliers. There are no industry-specific licenses or permits required.

Obtain all necessary local and state business and tax permits and register with the IRS for a tax identification number. If you will operate the business as a corporation, LLC or partnership, fill out the necessary forms and file with your state's Secretary of State. Each area has different requirements, so your local, state and IRS website will have details of all necessary filings, or you may call the appropriate office for help and information.

Set up your shop space in a spare room, basement, garage or small rental storefront. There are no special utility or ventilation needs, but climate control is recommended to help maintain normal operating temperature recovery with your heat application equipment. Unless you are operating a storefront, space requirements will be well under 200 square feet. Be sure you have plenty of storage areas for stock and working surfaces for creating transfers and laying out garments.

Contact suppliers for equipment and supplies. Suppliers will often have money-saving turn-key rhinestone equipment, supply and training packages. These may be found by searching online. Basic equipment needs will include a heat press, cutter/plotter for cutting designs, computer with design program, rhinestone assortment and related application supplies.

Purchase an initial supply of T-shirts and other garments from a wholesale garment distributor in your area or from one found online. You will need to open a wholesale account and provide your state tax registration number or certificate (depending on state).

Purchase printed marketing and advertising materials from your local printer such as fliers, stationery, business cards, invoice and work-order forms.


  • You may start your company with only a heat press, shirts and a supply of custom manufactured rhinestone heat transfers obtained through suppliers until the business turns a profit. This approach will save thousands of dollars, as a computer and cutter/plotter will not be necessary at the start.


  • Heat transfer machines operate at several hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Follow all safety precautions and ensure that your machine has an automatic shut-off feature for safety and utility savings.

    Cutter/plotters use very sharp blades to cut rhinestone transfer pattern material. Use extreme caution and follow all safety instructions included with the machine.