Our crash course through the apparel decoration industry
Carlos and I both had day jobs when we began screen printing small quantities of shirts in our converted garage. It started off as fewer than 20 shirts for my dad’s band and quickly snowballed into hundreds of individual “one offs” per week for our 2 Etsy stores.
From the very beginning, we were whole-heartedly dedicated to producing garments that we ourselves would wear, vowing to never make “that kind of shirt.” You know the one. The coarse shirt with the thick patch of ink that you never wear that sits in the back of your drawer waiting for its inevitable trip to a thrift store. We knew that we wanted only soft shirts that fit perfectly and were accentuated with the perfect print. This type of priority translated easily into our key business plan: creating shirts that people want to wear is capital to ensure easy brand equity for any and all businesses. After all, tshirts are some of the most undervalued marketing materials.
Just look around you. The person next to you is probably wearing a printed shirt. In fact, YOU are probably wearing a printed shirt! They are truly everywhere and without even thinking about it, we are either tacitly or intentionally endorsing whatever we are brandishing across our bodies every day. So why not use this opportunity to push your own product or business?
Armed with this idea, we set off to find the perfect shop shirt, the shirt that we would endorse to our customers. We set up wholesale accounts with all the major, and minor, shirt manufacturers and spent several week’s pay to order in different styles and types of shirts. Once the blanks arrived, we set off to test print them all. We then subjected those printed samples to rigorous testing of washing and drying to see how they held up to such scrutiny, this included measuring shrinkage and how the print holds up. We settled on one brand, Bella+Canvas, due in no small part to the fact that the shirt as a printable surface is superior to comparable shirts in pricing and materials make-up. I’ll be writing an entire blog post about the benefits of choosing a fine tshirt, such as Bella+Canvas so stay tuned!
We went on printing out of our converted garage for far longer than was feasible. In fact, in order to run our full-scale operation we had to rid ourselves of excess, such as our couch, tables, chairs, TV, and other niceties, to make room for screens, screens, and more screens! We had over 300 archived screens at one point to keep up with the demand across our Etsy shops. Pretty soon, local companies heard about us through word-of-mouth from friends, family, and neighbors, and we began taking on larger jobs. At one point we were commissioned by a local retail shop to screenprint 3000 tea towels. If we hadn’t known before that we had to move our operation out of the house, this project gave us the kick in the pants we were needing.
So began the long, tedious task of finding a space that, firstly, fit our budget and also offered the necessary power requirements and adequate square feet. Needless to say, we didn’t find one for over a year and when we were just about to give up we found it. It didn’t have the power we needed but we felt like we could work around that. It wasn’t in the part of the city we wanted most (we were shooting for industrial), but it is just off one of the busiest streets in town, so we felt we could take advantage of the drive-by and walk-in traffic. The thing we liked best was that it fit our tight budget.
We worked on the new space for 2 weeks, getting it up to snuff and up to our high standards. We wanted to present a different type of printshop. One that concentrates on shirt quality as much as print quality–never compromising, never failing on either. We have succeeded in our goals and have brought to our hometown the high quality printshop that it deserves.
Right at home in our new shop, we have expanded our wholesale client base and stayed steady in all our online stores. We’ve expanded our capabilities far and wide over the last 5 months since: a 8-color, 10-station automatic screen printer capable of printing 600 shirts an hour; a vinyl cutter for decals, and names and numbers making us competitive in the school spirit wear market, and many other incredible upgrades such as this website and new software that makes our lives easier.
We haven’t let all these upgrades go to our heads. We are still the humble little printshop that could working out of our garage. Give us a call today to book your job and we promise you will not be disappointed.
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