Build Your Business:

The Music Man

Press Press Merch owner Greg Szechenyi is focused on creating a company that will hold a special place for his employees and the community at large.

September 8, 2014

It all started with some T-shirts – or the lack thereof. Ask Greg Szechenyi how he got started in the decorated apparel business, and the diehard musician will tell you he just needed some shirts to promote his band. When he couldn’t find any that jumped out at him, he borrowed a small kit, stapled some mesh to a frame and let her rip.

The shirts were a hit with his band and its followers — and just about every other band that saw them. Szechenyi’s work had made a connection. Before long, he had tapped into a network of local and regional bands struggling with the same issue. And then a funny thing happened — the business started to take off. Realizing the reality of the situation, he made the decision to focus on building the business. The part-time hobby that grew out of necessity would become a full-time gig.

Press Press Merch launched in 2002 in Roanoke, Va. But to get the full Press Press Merch experience, you have to know the whole story — the tale about a young man with a dream to conquer the world of music. By the age of 15, Szechenyi was booking local shows for his band (and others). After he finished high school, his musical exploits would take him across the United States and Canada.

Booking shows. Coordinating schedules. Following up with promoters. The day-to-day grind would help craft an entrepreneurial persona that would come to define Szechenyi. “It took my work ethic to a whole new level. It was then that I truly realized that if it needed to be done, I would be the one who was going to do it.”

That work ethic — and everything about it — would drive him. Today, while he may not physically do everything at Press Press Merch, it is Szechenyi who inspires his team to push upward and onward. “It’s up to me to make sure momentum is kept up. I learned the importance of relationships and being honest during my time in bands. I have carried that over to the business. It has absolutely been a defining factor in our continued growth and success.”

Today, in addition to musicians, the screen printing and embroidery shop has a full stable of clients across all markets, including the local school and corporate work. At the beginning of 2013, Press Press Merch purchased another local company that focused in education and corporate niches, which helped diversify its mix.

Press Press Merch offers graphic (logo or identity) design, screen printing, embroidery and promotional products. Szechenyi says the company makes itself available in all parts of the project for its clients, with 50% of its work being in-house custom designs. It also offers finishing products for its garments, including poly-bagging, tagging and custom relabeling.

The 9,000-square-foot facility includes a screen printing department that runs two automatics (M&R 8/10 Sportsman and 6/8 Sportsman) as well as an M&R 4/4 Sidewinder for sampling and smaller jobs. Other equipment includes an M&R Sprint 2000 gas dryer and three flashes that rotate between the presses. The firm also has a vinyl plotter and a variety of heat presses for its sports teams and banner needs.

The 10-person team, which includes Szechenyi, is complemented by three part-timers that help out when needed. “Press Press Merch is an environment of hard work, controlled insanity and fun,” Szechenyi says. “Our staff is made up of like-minded young adults who make us a success with dedication to our consistent output of quality apparel and other goods.”

The name Press Press Merch was inspired by the style of music and art Szechenyi favored just out of high school. He admits that he didn’t put too much thought into it. “I just needed a name.” Once the company took off, Szechenyi actually thought about changing the name to something a little more descriptive to the general public. He contemplated extending “Merch” to “Merchandise.” “[But] it is a unique name. It sticks with people. People get it now.”

Not unlike any other screen printing or embroidery shop today, Szechenyi has managed to navigate his company through the ups and downs of an industry fighting for its share of today’s consumer attention. “I have encountered growing pains, personnel issues and personal hurdles all while learning to trust the great people I have employed to help propel the business,” Szechenyi says.

But the most substantial challenge he ever faced happened about a year ago, when after wrapping the largest order he ever had (60,000 pieces), Szechenyi found out the customer couldn’t pay for the order.

“The financial strain just to retain the relationships with our vendors was enormous,” Szechenyi recalls. “Our cash flow, personally and of the business, was destroyed. And that doesn’t even account for the collateral damage throughout the shop — moral, momentum, etc. Amazingly, we are still here a year later and busier than ever.”

Szechenyi admits that it took him some time to see past everything and focus on the big picture. “That we were able to survive such a hit only made us a stronger, smarter and better company.”

That’s why when he looks ahead today, Szechenyi focuses on the positives, knowing that surrounding himself with a good team has made Press Press Merch bigger and better than ever.

“We just launched a new website that we’re really excited about, so we’re expecting to see an uptick in businesses from it,” Szechenyi says. “Social media plays a huge role in our business and our promotional model. Instagram is our go-to outlet. It really allows us to show our clients the types of products we carry. That is what sets us apart. We also post our images and descriptions to Facebook to reach those who are not yet on Instagram. The variety of products that we offer is so wide that no matter what we post, unless it’s a T-shirt, we have clients calling us to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you did blank.’”

Along with those efforts, Szechenyi says Press Press Merch is going to focus on finishing the year out strong. Its biggest goal in 2015 is to install an embroidery department in house as the company currently outsources those jobs. Additionally, the firm is focusing its efforts to work more with bands and artists. “That’s our roots, and that’s what truly excites us.”

The most pressing thing on Szechenyi’s to-do list is to organize and streamline all aspects of the shop. “Even though that is a big picture item on the list, it is something we consciously work on every day. The future holds bright lights and success. Physical changes such as in-house embroidery and the projects that will grow from that are exciting and motivating.”

Most importantly, Szechenyi is focused on creating a company that will hold a special place for his employees and the community at large. “I want Press Press Merch to mean more than just a check and some T-shirts to my employees. I’m lucky to have such an amazing staff behind me. They allow Press Press Merch to take all the steps necessary — whenever necessary — to get the job done. I want this to be a place people can do that for years to come. The best advice I have ever received was to know, learn and respect your limits. I still struggle with that every day, but it’s getting easier.”

Michael J. Pallerino is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. For more information or to comment on this article, email Michael at

Press Press Merch At A Glance

Company Name: Press Press Merch
Address: 128 Albemarle Ave. SE, Roanoke, VA 24013
Founded: 2002
No. of Employees: 10 full time, 3 part time
Decorating Methods Offered: Screen printing, embroidery, promotional products, graphic design
Company Website:
On Facebook:
On Twitter: @PressPressMerch
On Instagram: /PressPressMerch