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Build Your Business: Shop Talk
A Different Decorator
Stephen Terrell wanted to prove the naysayers wrong when they said his way of doing business wouldn’t work. That desire ultimately catapulted his company, Print Works, to notable success in a relatively short time period.
Terrell, the company’s owner and general manager, started Paris, Texas-based Print Works in his dining room a little more than four years ago. His formula was relatively simple: He saw in previous jobs what worked and what didn’t, and decided to run his business his way.
“I always thought that if I could make the strategy, I would do it different — just different,” Terrell says.
Because of his experience in and love of manufacturing, an apparel-centered business seemed to be a perfect fit.
“Yes, we make shirts, just as many other companies do,” says Taylor Martin, Print Works’ director of marketing and business development. “But we do it differently. Stephen was tired of the customer service hassle and nightmare that ordering T-shirts was, and he knew it didn’t have to be that way.”
In the beginning, Terrell worked a day job while growing the company and spending little time sleeping. He committed to Print Works full-time in June 2014 and hasn’t looked back. At the end of 2015, the company had achieved 147% financial growth compared to the previous year.
“To grow a business, you must have passion and a strong self-evaluation, and surround yourself with other strong people,” Martin says. “Print Works’ senior leadership team is the perfect mix of people, jobs and strengths. Our growth is related to the ability to see bottlenecks or challenges and elevate them before they are an issue.”
Strategy Leads to Success
Print Works’ diverse customer base includes small (local) and large (national) accounts, and the marketing structure for each is different. The latter are handled with a one-on-one approach, showing key sales, new products or different ideas that can accommodate a customer’s needs. The former requires a wide marketing range, like radio opportunities and sponsored community events.
“Our sales strategy of small sales showrooms in multiple locations is playing a key role in local business,” Martin says. “We love helping a small business’s idea of a logo come to life on a tee or hat.”
Print Works even launched its own clothing brand — Hummingbird Apparel — and recently opened a second location in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. Investments are made to keep the company updated with current computers, design software and processes, and it recently introduced a completely electronic ordering system.
Terrell purchased a Little Buddy oven to correctly cure ink on apparel, as well as a 24-inch vinyl cutter, heat press and four-needle home embroidery machine, followed by a large manual press, automatic press and tunnel oven. Embroidery was expanded with a one-head, 16-needle machine and digitizing software, and a second heat press was added.
Soon after, another 4-head, 16-needle embroidery machine was added and the dark room was enlarged. Finally, two 6-head, 16-needle Tajima embroidery machines and another 24-inch vinyl cutter were purchased.
Company Nuts & Bolts
Print Works has 27 total employees between its two locations, including Terrell; Martin; John Bratcher, director of sales; and Stephanie Connot, director of Hummingbird Apparel. The company currently is in the process of hiring a director of operations.
The sales team works with customers and nails down details, while the marketing and design team ensures the company’s name is fresh in customers’ minds.
“The addition of the sales and marketing teams was a leap of faith we had to take to achieve the growth we wanted,” Martin says. “The addition of these teams was really a turning point in the business.”
Another decision that has paid off has been the expansion to multiple production shifts, which run from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. and 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Martin says two shifts allow the business to sustain more orders without increasing equipment costs.
Print Works tackles the common growing pains of cash flow from turning apparel orders around quickly, then waiting for payment. The company’s rapid growth results in change that can come just as quickly, so employees must be able to adapt.
Another challenge can be timing. “With such growth, the onboarding time is short, which makes the training time even shorter,” Martin says. “Strong employees, as well as operator training programs, are the key ways we keep our growth from overruling us.”
Print Works’ web stores provide a strong customer service push. The company does not charge fees for the service, regardless of whether it’s a full, year-round web store or a fund-raising store that is only briefly active to generate sales for a specific cause. During the last calendar year, Print Works gave back $25,000 to the communities in which it operates.
Daily social media posts keep the Print Works name trending, so much so that a local chamber of commerce named the company its 2015 Business of the Year.
Future plans include adding a second automatic press and oven, expanding the marketing and design team’s offices, and a strategic sales push. After three years of solid growth, it’s clear Terrell’s way of doing business is working — and those naysayers may now be believers.
Jennifer A. Morrell is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. To comment on this article, email Jennifer at email@example.com.
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