We are attending the NBM show in Long Beach this week. This was our first trade we attended a few years ago when we won Ryonet Pick Me Contest. For me, Kelley, this time I am much better equipped to find vendors and ask questions to increase business than I was before. I have learned so much just in one day. From meeting the guys form The Rhinestone World to Synergy 17 to Siser, its been a great experience. Meeting Ross Hunter from Reviation Industries was great too. He is super knowledgeable. Tomorrow I will be taking video to tell more abut the show. Here are just a few highlights from today.
We have made some changes to The T-Shirt Guy. We are now a LLC! YEAH! Along with that came more paperwork, and luckily more business! We had to redo the office a good bit (at least my side of the office) and we have all of our jobs up on a whiteboard now. For those of you that don’t know, Kyle and I do totally separate parts of this business. He is the graphics and design guy. He is amazing at taking the sketch on the cocktail napkin and making into a brilliant graphic to print or cut on vinyl. Or bling! With the vinyl we have added window clings, custom one offs if needed, and names/numbers. I LOVE doing the rhinestones but all of these additions take up more and more space. We are moving in about a week and will have a bigger office and a little bit of storage inside that should help the two of us get even more organized. Oh, we added a button machine to the mix as well and promo products too! Whew! We are busy!
As the days go by and we are busier and busier thankfully, I started to think the other day about where this whole T-shirt business started. Many people know our story that we bought VERY basic screen printing equipment in order to make T-shirts for our son’s cub scout troop. That was over four years ago. After making those shirts we really didn’t do much else with the equipment except made a few fun shirts for our family. I don’t know what point we decided to try out making money with screen printing, but I had a good chuckle when I thought about how difficult printing seemed then.
When we printed, we were MESSY! Everything was covered in ink, cleaning up was a nightmare, even exposing screens was awful. I didn’t really do much with the screen printing then, Kyle did most of it. I would sit with him in our dark room (i.e. the bathroom) while he exposed screens for 12 1/2 minutes exactly, and I might have helped him wash out screens, but I just wasn’t into the whole process. After we did get our first equipment and found out Ryonet had classes to help learn the process better, I arranged the whole class and trip for Kyle. I went with him, but not to the class. I spent the two days in Portland and had a great time! I just figured this was his hobby.
I don’t know when I started printing, but I remember asking Kyle if I could try it. I wasn’t great at it and it was more difficult than it looked, but I liked the end result. So somewhere along the line I started printing and Kyle let me! He always said the printing stressed him out because he didn’t want to mess it up. I enjoyed the time to see what I could come up with and how the mesh, ink, shirt relationship worked.
By the time I had done a couple of prints, Ryonet decided to have a contest to help a new business or a not yet existing business expand their potential with the Pick Me Contest. The contest would consist of an initial video telling about the company or soon to be company that you would like to have. And then people got to vote for their favorite. And we won!
We won lots of great equipment that really helped us sculpt our small hobby into a “real” business. The silver press, exposure unit, and tons of great ink were just the beginning of what I found to be a fabulous business. We also were treated to another class but this time were able to go to LA at the new Ryonet LA facility. It was my turn to learn more about screen printing and I was definitely hooked! Foil, glitter, and other specialty inks caught my eye and I was anxious to learn more.
Now fast forward almost two years and we have definitely expanded. We do not print full-time just yet, but we do work steadily. We have several repeat customers including the Archery Club, and Student/Teacher softball game at Northwest Career and Technical Academy, several other school groups, two teams, Batitudes and Team Intensity, with the Northwest Girls Softball League, and we just keep getting more and more repeats. We are always glad to get calls for new business and strive to provide a great experience for our customers.
Our products don’t just revolve around printing anymore. We do car vinyl decals, buttons, lots of rhinestones, numbers and letters for jerseys or other shirts, and promotional products. I look around now and see our business as an opportunity for my family to work together to make a better life together. That’s why we started this business and it is nice to know that we have followed through with our family in mind.
Over the past month or so we have been busy planning out a new web site. We hired the design firm Virtual Tours Production to create our new online experience for us. As we don’t want to let the whole cat out of the bag just yet but we did want to give you just a glimpse of what to expect. Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
We haven’t updated in while due to being busy! YEAH! My Christmas present for the company was an “arsenal” of screens. Twenty larger screens to print bigger designs and give us more of a variety of ways to print. We have a larger inventory of inks and have the right screens to use to print now. Glitter inks, glow in the dark, and shimmers are some of my favorites so now we are ready to expand our selection for customers! Next time you want that extra special shirt made, ask us to show you some glitter, shimmer, or glow to see how a little addtion goes a long way!
About six months ago I was contacted about making totebags for friends that were getting married in Jamaica. The couple wanted to give all of their guests a special gift for making the trip to Jamaica to see their wedding. Although we took our time on both sides coming up with a design, I started shopping for just the perfect bag right away. I know when Kyle and I went to Jamaica there was a large variety of bags to choose from and I wanted this bag to be a good size and quality. After doing some research I purchased four bags from www.shirtspace.com that I wanted to see in person. I am so glad that I did! Although all of them had “khaki” or “tan” in the description, not all of them were the color that I pictured. One was listed as khaki, but arrived as a dark olive green!
After deciding on a large canvas bag that had an inside pocket and zipped closed, it was time to order the bags. We worked with the couple to narrow down design choices. Ulitmately they came up with a design that we just tweaked for printing. We decided to use a light blue pearl ink, but have Transfer Express make the designs for us. We have used Transfer Express before and they do great work as well as have excellent customer service. After just a few days of placing the order, our designs arrived. I printed a bag right away and was thrilled with the results! A couple of days later I printed the rest of the bags and shipped them out to the happy couple!
We were very pleased to see pictures from Jamaica of our bags being used readily. We recieved a post card from the couple today that said, “Thank you so much for the bags! Our guests used them everyday. It was easy to spot our group on the beach by the collection of bags. Everyone commented how great they looked. We appreciate you guys taking the time to make them for us. Thank you!!!!” Those few lines say it all. We love our customers and we love making our customers happy!
Today we are working on some photos that Ryonet requested. As we won the first www.ryonetblog.com Pick Me Contest, Ryonet is doing an article on our company and the continued success of our business. As we’ve looked back over the past year, a lot has changed for us and we have learned a great deal. We are thankful to everyone at Ryonet. Over the next couple of weeks we will highlight some of our successes, some trials and tribulations, and tell you our favorite moments from the last year!
Our friends at Ryonet are featured on CNBC this morning. Check them out!
The fun part of printing is doing stuff for ourselves or just for fun. Kyle graduated from college on June 4, 2011 so we made koozies for the get together we had that night. You can see we incorporated the University of Phoenix logo with his graduation date. Koozies are always a big hit in our house but this was an easy party favor for our friends. We like www.discountkoozies.com for our koozie purchases. Congrats Kyle!
As I discussed before, I am taking over more of the business. One of the thorns in my side has been emulsion application. So we needed screens coated but Kyle was working on other things and this means that I needed to figure this emulsion thing out! Before I could coat the screens, I had to mix the emulsion first. We use DXP Diazo-Photopolymer Dual Cure Direct Emulsion from www.silkscreeningsupplies.com. This emulsion we are comfortable with and know how to expose really well. The emulsion is easy to mix needing just a small amount of distilled water that is added to the sensitizer powder that comes with the emulsion. After the water is added to the powder, just pour the newly formed liquid into the emulsion container. MIX WELL! After the emulsion and sensitizer are well mixed, leave the emulsion with the lid off just slightly to settle. This allows time for the air bubbles to rise to the surface for a smoother emulsion. All of this mixing and settling needs to be done in a light sensitive emvironment.
After a couple of hours, I returned to coat the screens. The coating process is normally what Kyle does. He is just better at it. But this was the day that I needed to get screens done so I had to figure this all out. I poured the emulsion into the scoop coater and had 6 screens all ready to go. My biggest flaw is not getting the emulsion on smooth, but this day I did pretty well! I have watched Kyle coat a lot of screens and asked a bunch of questions. It must have all paid off because I only had one of the six that had a few streaks. I was pleased.
My next part of this process is to learn more about planning our jobs with the emulsion and mesh sizes we use. In other words, all the screens we do now are just 1 coat on each side. But as I get more jobs, I need to plan if I am printing with white or other color inks so I can make a better stencil.