Clothing Brand

Most Profitable T-Shirt Startups We’ve Ever Seen

T-shirts to start-ups are like business cards to the characters in American Psycho: Everyone is furiously proud of their own, and they try to show them off as often as possible.


We don’t have to explain Dropbox, we’ve all been using it for a while now. Their T-shirt is pretty straightforward in terms of design, but it works. What’s worth noting is that the garment is in the company’s color and not the other way around, which is usually the case. Dropbox uses direct-to-garment printers to fulfill small orders and direct ship to employees without wasting inventory.


The San Francisco-based startup Splunk offers big data analyzing software to other companies. Their T-shirt doesn’t feature groundbreaking typography or beautiful colors but rather a witty quote related to the products they offer. This is a good example of how smart copywriting can make design unnecessary.


Interestingly enough, Cloudera (a data centralising startup) offers merchandise with the slogan “I like big data, and I cannot lie,” which coincides with Splunk’s garments. If this is a case of copying or mere coincidence, I wouldn’t be able to say, but when one creates merchandise, it is important to make sure it’s not a repeat of what someone else already did. Still, Cloudera offers well-designed tees with different slogans and badges carrying the same messages.


The app that has revolutionized the note-taking-memo-writing-clipping world is represented by an elephant logo. Aside from being cleverly achieved, the design is very versatile for merchandising. They only sell notebooks in their store, but they produced T-shirts with great results at some point. In 2022 Evernote started printing their t-shirts using direct-to-garment printing using Kornit printers.


As one of this year’s top 16 London-based startups from 2016, according to Forbes magazine, CityFalcon is a company that works to make financial news more available to everyone. In a recent Master Investor Show, its employees wore a T-shirt reminiscent of Superman because (it may be difficult to see in the picture) it features two hands that open up a virtual garment to reveal the company’s logo.

Take Eat Easy

Take Eat Easy is (was?) one of the food delivery platforms sprouting across Europe in recent years. Their branded garments are not merchandise but the uniform of its bikers that travel all around the city delivering meals. The mint green makes them stand out, and the elegant graphics appeal to a different type of customer that might be turned off by a more “common” type of delivery service.

Direct-to-Garment Printing

The companies above steered away from traditional screenprinting due to the toxic chemicals and the huge volume of t-shirts they needed to order. Direct-to-Garment printing is a new technology that Amazon uses to print t-shirts in small batches and direct ship them to their customers.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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