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1. Is a coffee mug business profitable?

How to start a coffee mug business: A step-by-step guide [2024]

Updated Jan 15 2024

Never underestimate the power of a good cup of coffee… or the power of a good custom coffee mug! Between funny sayings that add a smile to your morning brew and unique designs that allow you to sip your coffee in style, custom-printed mugs can significantly upgrade your daily dose of caffeine. Even better? You can print coffee mugs with your designs from the comfort of your home!

With a reliable print on demand service, it’s never been easier to print custom coffee mugs with your favorite phrases and photographs while earning a profit on your unique designs. As a lucrative opportunity for anyone wanting to start their own online store from home, discover everything you need to know about starting a coffee mug business in this step-by-step guide.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • A coffee mug business can be a profitable opportunity for experienced graphic designers, ecommerce entrepreneurs, novice creatives, and hobbyists.

  • A successful mug printing business requires a specific niche market and an established sales channel, complete with proper store policies and detailed product listings.

  • A trusted print on demand partner can help reduce the financial risk and upfront investment necessary to produce and sell custom mugs globally.

Is a coffee mug business profitable?

If you thought coffee was popular, wait until you learn about coffee mugs! The coffee mug industry is massive and only continues to grow in popularity each year. Once valued at $21.39 billion in 2021, the global mug market is projected to reach $44.21 billion by 2029 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5% across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

As the consumer demand for coffee mugs steadily climbs, the market size for print on demand is also anticipated to grow simultaneously. Valued at $4.9 billion in 2021, the global print on demand market is expected to reach an incredible $39.4 billion by 2029. Of the print on demand market, the home products segment — including mugs — is projected to register the highest CAGR of 27.7%.

The growth of both the coffee mug industry and the mug printing industry can equal significant profit potential for those who want to launch a small (but scalable) home business. Rather than invest in costly mug printing equipment, small businesses can partner with a print on demand service and personalize an online storefront to produce and sell custom mug designs anywhere in the world.

Starting a custom mug printing business with print on demand

So, what is print on demand, anyway? Print on demand is a fulfillment alternative in which an online business partners with a third-party supplier to print, package, and ship customer orders. In a print on demand business model, a customer places an order through an online store, and a print on demand provider receives the order details to create the product and send it to the customer.

There are several benefits to launching a custom coffee mug printing business with print on demand (POD), the primary benefit being that POD is a low-risk, cost-effective method to produce and sell custom items from home. Partnering with a POD service means you never have to purchase or store inventory for your business, which can be a steep initial investment for first-time business owners. 

Likewise, with a POD service responsible for hassle-free order fulfillment and shipping, you can save on expensive printing costs, additional equipment fees — such as a heat press and heat-resistant tape — and shipping costs. Significant savings allow you to test several custom designs and gauge consumer demand without investing extra money into your business.

How to start a coffee mug business step-by-step with POD

Starting a profitable coffee mug business from home has never been so effortless! All you need to get started is a solid mug printing business plan and a reliable print on demand service. Fortunately, we can help with both of those! Here at Gelato, thousands of creators and ecommerce entrepreneurs trust our print on demand resources to launch successful storefronts of customized products. 

Discover how to start a coffee mug business from home in our simple step-by-step guide!

1. Find a niche market

niche market

The first step to launching a profitable coffee mug business is to decide on a niche market. A niche market is a smaller, more specific consumer segment within a larger target market. In the case of coffee mugs, the larger target market could be anyone seeking a new mug. In contrast, the niche market could be custom mugs for animal lovers or personalized mugs with popular funny sayings.

To find a niche market for your mug business, consider your hobbies and interests to identify a specific market that appeals to you. Then, do some market research to understand the type of consumer within that niche and the types of product designs they might purchase. Remember to find a niche market with apparent consumer demand to ensure your products drive profit.

2. Find a print on demand service

Once you decide on a niche for your custom mugs, the next step to start a mug printing business is to partner with a print on demand service. This step is essential to the productivity and profitability of your mug business, as your print on demand partner will control business inventory, process customer orders, and generate custom mugs with minimal input from you, the business owner. 

As you browse potential POD partners, remember that the quality of a custom coffee mug relies on the functionality of a print on demand supplier. For top-tier coffee mugs, you must select a POD supplier with a robust mug selection (more on this below!) and reliable production capabilities. Your POD partner should also boast an expansive delivery network for global orders.

For the most effortless time launching a coffee mug business from home, partner with a trusted POD supplier like Gelato. Our unrivaled selection of customizable mugs is only topped by our unparalleled customer service. And with local production capabilities in 32 countries worldwide, no other POD partner can beat Gelato’s accelerated delivery times and sustainable shipping options.

3. Select your mugs

mugs selection

With a POD service, you can begin to select custom coffee mugs for your mug business. Of course, the types of mugs you offer through your own mug printing business rely on the types of products your POD supplier keeps in stock — so be sure to select a print on demand partner with an impressive product collection! Then, consider the types of mugs your target audience might like. 

For instance, custom travel mugs and enamel mugs are the industry standard for niche markets like sports team fanatics. In contrast, latte mugs and slim porcelain mugs are a fan-favorite for true coffee enthusiasts. If you’d rather deviate away from standard ceramic mugs, experiment with mugs with colorful handles or magic mugs that reveal custom prints when exposed to hot liquids instead.

4. Design your mugs

Now, time for the fun part: creating your own designs! There are many avenues to explore for your mug designs, whether you check out popular ecommerce trends or scope out competitors in your niche market for inspiration. As you brainstorm new ideas for your mug business, remember to use high-quality graphics and fonts that are easy to read so that your design is clear to your customers.

To ramp up the readability of your design, consider incorporating a few contrasting colors, like black and white or blue and orange. However, do not overdo the number of elements you include in one design. Trying to cram several different fonts and graphics onto one mug design can easily confuse potential customers — plus, the design will not look high-quality once printed.

Pro Tip: Upgrade to a Gelato subscription plan to unlock millions of stock images, graphics, and fonts for your mug designs!

5. Choose a sales channel

sales channel

Once you’ve partnered with a print on demand service, selected your desired mugs, and created your custom mug designs, you can finally move forward with a sales channel for your products. To decide on a sales channel for your coffee mug business, you must pick between an ecommerce platform vs. an ecommerce marketplace, then weigh the pros and cons of each.

An ecommerce platform refers to a sales channel you own via a unique domain name, such as www.yourmugbusiness.com. Top ecommerce platforms for selling coffee mugs include Shopify, Squarespace, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. While these provide ultimate customization for your online store, they also incur steep platform fees that can eat into your business’s profit margin. 

An ecommerce marketplace refers to a sales channel you share on a community website via a personalized storefront. Top ecommerce marketplaces for selling custom coffee mugs include Esty and Amazon. Though ecommerce marketplaces allow for less customization and ownership over your sales channel, they incur cheaper fees than you may prefer if profit is top of mind. 

Pro Tip: Unsure which sales channel to choose? We have an entire blog post on the top channels for custom products!

6. Establish your mug business

At this point in our guide for how to start a coffee mug business, you can officially establish a storefront! Each sales channel will provide a walkthrough to launch your storefront. First, select a memorable name for your mug business, then follow the steps to set up your online store on your chosen sales channel. From here, you can customize your storefront to reflect your niche market.

After you’ve updated your store theme and uploaded your business logo, follow these steps. 

Decide on pricing and store policies

If you want to start a profitable coffee mug business, you must pay close attention to your pricing strategy. It’s essential to price your mugs by calculating the cost of creating and shipping them alongside your desired profit margin. For instance, if it costs $14 to print and ship one ceramic mug, and you want to make at least $5 on each mug purchase, you must price each ceramic mug at $19. 

As you contemplate how to price your custom mugs, take a look at the price points and policies for other mug businesses. To remain nimble in a competitive landscape, your mugs must be at a similar price point to your competitors but not too low that they appear low-quality. Consider how your competitors set up necessary payment and shipping options and return and refund policies. 

Add your coffee mugs to your store

With setup underway, you can add your custom coffee mugs to your online store. Each product listing should contain a few high-quality images of your custom mugs. Remember to snap images at multiple angles to capture the entire product design. If the product has color-changing abilities, such as a magic mug, take photos of the design before and after the liquid is added.

Next, create detailed product descriptions for each of your custom mug designs. Include relevant details that can encourage a purchase decision, such as the mug’s size and material, unique functions, and proper instructions for washing and microwaving it. Optimize your product titles with appropriate keywords to attract customers and improve your visibility on marketplaces.

7. Promote your custom mugs

custom mugs promotion

Let’s start making money, shall we? For the best chances of earning profit with your business, promote your custom mugs with targeted marketing campaigns. Leverage your custom mugs with targeted marketing campaigns for the best chances at earning profit with your business a variety of digital marketing strategies to drive traffic (and potential customers) to your online store, such as search engine optimization (SEO) to improve rankings and gain visibility for your product listings.

Use your website to build an email list, then use email marketing initiatives like a monthly newsletter to share new mug designs and discounts with your audience. As you grow your email list, promote your custom designs on social media via organic posts and paid advertisements. You can even collaborate with social media influencers who can promote your mugs to their audience!

Launch a profitable coffee mug business with ease

A successful mug printing business is a few steps away! You can begin earning money on custom coffee mugs — all from the comfort of your home — by selecting a niche market and partnering with a reliable print on demand service. Create your designs, launch your storefront, and promote your products with the confidence your POD partner will handle the rest. 

If you want to start a mug printing business, streamline your productivity and profitability with a print on demand service like Gelato. Small businesses prefer Gelato for our extensive product catalog and expansive production capabilities. With localized production in every corner of the globe, Gelato POD can transform your coffee mug ideas into a bonafide business opportunity. 

Create a business selling custom coffee mugs today with Gelato’s high-quality POD services.


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