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1. How big is the tote bag industry?

Your guide to starting a tote bag business in 2024

Updated Jan 15 2024

When creating a popular product to sell online, versatility and functionality should be at the top of your list.

Consumers continue to seek merchandise that will make their lives easier and more sustainable, and tote bags efficiently check both boxes.

That's why tote bags are such a highly coveted item; their large size makes them perfect for everyday use, from grocery shopping to work, school, or play.

If you've been thinking about jumping into the market and creating custom tote bags to sell online, now is the time!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • The tote bag market is projected to reach $3.6 billion this decade, making it a lucrative way to create a profitable business

  • Designing a tote bag based on your target audience's interests will create highly coveted products

  • Your brand identity will solidify you as a credible tote bag business with values and personality

How big is the tote bag industry?

By 2030, the tote bag market is expected to reach nearly $3.6 billion, making this sustainable product one of the fastest-growing products of the decade.

Tote bags are one of the most popular product ideas for online stores, with impressive profit margins and little environmental impact. For eco-conscious consumers around the world, tote bags offer a way to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing quality or functionality.

How to start a tote bag business step-by-step

Not only is a tote bag business highly profitable, but it's relatively straightforward to get started. Follow this step-by-step guide, and your online store will be up and running in no time.

1. Find your niche

finding niche

Finding and defining your niche is an essential first step in your tote bag business. This will determine your target audience, what kind of designs or fabrics you offer, and what your persona and message will be.

What's trending?

Use social media and Google Trends to analyze what consumers are searching for using keywords. Trends can help point you in the right direction to offer a product that is highly sought after that you can put your spin on.

Tap into your passion

This is your business idea and will require your energy, time, and effort, so be sure you are creating designs you're passionate about! This will bring out your creativity and originality.

Potential niches

Whether you're an animal lover, sports fan, music-obsessed, or a quintessential plant lady/ man, you can bring new flavors to many potential niches.

You could position your tote bag business as a sustainability shop and sell eco-friendly tote bags, or position yourself as the Farmer's market tote bag business and sell totes in various sizes that are designed for produce shopping. The options are endless!

2. Understand your target customers

Any new business must understand its target customers, their pain points, interests, and what they're shopping for.

Consider your target audience's demographics, including their age, gender identity, location, interests, style, and shopping behaviors. This information will help you understand what designs they would buy and what other factors are valuable, like sustainability or product versatility.

You should also know what marketing efforts will be most effective for each demographic. For example, if you're targeting teens and young adults, you can gain valuable insight into this demographic by exploring TikTok and the FYP page. Additionally, Instagram insight will likely garner the most accurate information about millennials' shopping patterns.

3. Build your brand identity

building identity

Your brand identity defines everything about your business, from what you stand for to the products you sell, your values, and why you started a tote bags business in the first place. Follow these steps to define your brand identity successfully.

Create your brand

Consider the goals of your company as you create your brand. Maybe you love animals and want to incorporate some into your branding, or you want to provide consumers with sustainable tote bags to help the environment. Your values and mission can help steer you in the right direction as you think of a business name and create the messaging behind your values and purpose.

You'll also need to select a color scheme of 2 to 3 colors that represent your business's identity and personality. These colors should complement each other well; they'll be used on your website, social media profiles, newsletters, packaging, and more.

Design a logo

Your logo will become the way your brand is recognized online and in person, so create something simple and memorable. You can hire a graphic designer to help craft something unique if graphic design isn't your strong suit.

4. Choose a print on demand service

Print on demand services is an effective and economical way for tote bag businesses to launch on a budget. Rather than investing significantly upfront on inventory, fulfillment, shipping, and staff to support, a print on demand supplier handles most of the heavy lifting.

Why print on demand?

As the shop owner, you'll create the designs and choose the tote bags you want to sell in your online store. When you work with a print on demand supplier like Gelato, they handle everything past the initial purchase, from printing the product to fulfilling the order and shipping it to the customer.

This model is ideal for a new business because you can focus on doing what you love, whether creating designs, connecting with customers, or focusing on other aspects of your company.

What to look for in a POD supplier

When shopping for a supplier, consider the benefits they can offer you and your customer. If you are an eco-focused brand, you'll want to partner with a supplier who makes a conscious effort to be more sustainable in their printing and shipping practices.

Compare pricing plans between different suppliers, and read up on what existing customers say about their customer service. As a new business, you may need to reach out to their support staff, and you'll want to partner with a company that prioritizes its customers.

5. Design your tote bags

designing tote bags

Now that you've got your ducks in a row, it's time to start creating your designs!

The design process

Start by tapping into your creativity and what inspires you within your chosen niche. This includes animals, movies, the environment, social movements, or song lyrics. Sketch out any design ideas you have in your head by putting pencil to paper.

Whether you're an artist or an amateur, brain dumps are an effective way to start making sense of the ideas in your head and creating a cohesive, relevant design for your target audience.

You may have an idea for a design, but you can't get it right. Consider hiring a graphic designer to help get your ideas across the finish line.

When creating, keep your designs simple and avoid excessive clutter. This will make it easier for your audience to connect with your images because they're simple.

Once your designs are sketched and finalized, use design software to create digital mock-ups of your designs and make them print-ready. Gelato+ customers can access the Design Editor tool to ensure their designs look how they want and make any tweaks or modifications.

Order samples

Ordering samples from your print on demand supplier is crucial in starting your own business selling tote bags. This step allows you to gauge the product quality and visualize how your designs look on each tote bag.

If you're happy with the final product, take product images that you can use for your product listing, social media posts, paid ads, and promotions.

6. Set up a storefront

Next up, you've got to choose a home for your online store. Selecting a sales channel for your tote bags is vital because it impacts your visibility to customers and your business's profitability.

The best platforms for selling custom tote bags are ecommerce platforms and online marketplaces. Keep reading to determine if you should set up shop with an ecommerce store or sell in a one-size-fits-all marketplace setting.

Ecommerce platforms

Using an ecommerce platform for your online store allows you to sell directly to customers through a custom website.

These platforms, including Shopify and SquareSpace, offer rich, customized experiences for businesses who want to personalize their website and have complete control over the shopping experience. You'll have access to templates to list your items and drag-and-drop features to make your website unique.

The downfall of ecommerce platforms is that your traffic depends entirely on your efforts. Complete control of your site means you are responsible for driving traffic to your products. You'll also have to pay some upfront costs to get set up on the platform, which may hinder some new businesses.

Online marketplaces

An online marketplace is an environment where you and other businesses compete for the same potential buyers. Sites like eBay and Etsy are prime examples of online marketplaces. A consumer searches for keywords like "tote bags with flowers" and is presented with hundreds of variations of this search term.

The competition is stiff in this setting, but there are a few benefits to running your online store through Etsy. Typically, no money is required upfront, but you will get charged a transaction fee for every purchase. This cost may add up for businesses selling few products and not be a wise investment.

Businesses on marketplaces have few opportunities to showcase their branding or personality; the storefront usually consists of your business logo and individual product listings. There's not a lot of freedom to be creative with your brand in this setting.

Create your online store

Once you've chosen a platform, create your storefront using the brand identity you defined in step #3. Make the possible customizations so your personality and values shine through to your customers.

Set up payment processing and determine the shipping options you want to offer customers. Clarify the refund and return policy for tote bags so your customers know what to expect when purchasing.

Create your product listings

Add each tote bag to your online store using the high-quality images from your sample orders. Imagery substantially impacts the buying experience; if you fail to showcase your tote bags through quality photographs, potential customers will be less inclined to buy anything from your store.

Lastly, write detailed product descriptions about your tote bags, including each size and dimension, the bag's materials and sustainability, and any other important details you want customers to know.

7. Promote your custom tote bags

promoting custom bags

Marketing your bags online is the most effective way to ensure your online store is successful and significantly increases your profits.

Market your tote bags

Use social media to advertise your tote bags to your audience. Interact with your followers, host giveaways, collect their email addresses, and announce new tote bag designs. Social media is the best way to connect with potential customers and establish your business in your niche.

You can also collaborate with influencers in your niche to promote your bags to their followers. Create a discount code for their followers to encourage sales and increase visibility to your online store.

Email marketing

Leverage email marketing to communicate with your customers away from social media. Send content about product updates and new launches, and share unique promo codes with your subscribers to drive sales to your website.

Tote bag design tips

You should follow a few design strategies when creating your tote bag designs.


Keep your designs clean and simple, and avoid creating busy graphics or distracting visuals. Keep in mind that many tote bags are designed to be used daily or regularly, so a simpler design is more likely to be used regularly.


Whether you're using photos, text, or other visual elements, use the highest quality images and other design elements. Set your resolutions at the appropriate DPI for print and ensure your designs look great on every tote bag material you want to sell in your store.


Creating unique designs is the best way to do business, grow a solid customer base, and maintain a good reputation in your niche. Copying designs from other creators is not a recommended approach to business and can result in legal consequences. Avoid it entirely by tapping into your creative juices and creating something new and unique for your target audience.

Design and sell beautiful custom tote bags with Gelato

The massive increase in tote bags in recent years makes it an extremely lucrative business idea, and there's no time like the present to get started! With a print on demand partner and some unique designs, you'll be well on your way to creating your customers' new favorite bag.

Ready to start your tote bags business? With Gelato as your print on demand partner, your customers will be blown away at the quality of your products and how fast their order ships. Get started today!


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