business start up, mug printing, sublimation -

I Didn't Choose The Mug Life, The Mug Life Chose Me

We (my wife and I) have been at this mug printing business malarky for just over 4 years now - 18th July 2019 - to be exact, so in order to properly start this new series of blogs, I need to take you way way way back to the beginning - where it all started.

A little while before we started, we had been offered a mug printing business by a lady that was selling and moving to France. We had been buying mugs from her for a few years for our teamwear business - The Gordon Group. We really wanted to buy it from her. It was well established, her designs were great, she had some top clients and an online store and I am sure we could have developed it even further. But the major stumbling block.... finance. The money she was asking for was a fair reflection on the work she had put into the business. It's just we didn't have that sort of cash lying around and we didn't want to take the risk borrowing it.

But the thing is, we really wanted to make mugs. So I went about trawling the net for the best way to establish a mug printing business. It became an obsession. I had heard about sublimation before with The Gordon Group. Football shirts that had badges and sponsor logos engrained into the fabric. So I was familiar with the concept but not how it worked with mugs. 

I spent many hours on YouTube watching tutorial videos.

The first mug that we printed came out pretty decent. Apart from the size and positioning.

When I thought I knew everything we took the plunge and bought a mug press, a printer and a box of mugs and set off on our merry way. In the beginning we ruined a lot of mugs and I mean loads. What the tutorials failed to tell us is that the bottom of a mug is much thicker than the top. Designed in such a way so that every time you set it down it doesn't break. Makes sense I guess. But what this also means, is that it will require much longer in a heat press in order to 'cook properly'. That was issue number one. Issue number two was how long do we actually need to press these mugs for? 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes? The tutorials said 3 minutes, but do you start timing when the clock starts on the machine, or wait until the temperature is back up to 180 degrees (that's the magic number). Issue number three: what size should the logos be. We love a full wrap here at HQ and what size would be best so parts aren't faded at the edges? 

All this adds up to a pretty big trial and error session on our behalf. 

Like I said, we ruined quite a lot of mugs in the beginning. But we got there in the end. We persevered and we now produce mugs with an unrivalled finish. Do we know it all now? We think we have the process pretty much nailed down, but of course we still ruin the odd mug. It is all part of the process. But it's now 1 in 100-200 rather 1 in 10. 

We have received some great feedback on the quality of our mug prints, especially the black Ceefax mugs