Buckle up ‘cause we are on a mission! In the ever-evolving world of technology, there are so many ways to tap into your creative outlet and turn it into a lucrative business in the decorated-apparel industry.FULL STORY
Build Your Business: Shop Talk
Living the Apparel Decorating DreamWith his emphasis on quality and service, John Pinnington is living the dream these days as an apparel decorator
John Pinnington is living the dream these days as a successful screen printer and general apparel decorator. Photo courtesy of AA Printing
Born in Belize City, in Central America, John Pinnington’s early childhood was not an easy one. Pinnington survived on the streets from age 5, pickpocketing, shining shoes and taking food where he could find to help provide for his brothers and sister. When he was 10, his mother married a British soldier, and the family moved, first to England and then Germany.
“I attended boarding school for military kids and then moved back to England, where I went to Catholic college,” Pinnington says. “After college, I had the spirit of an entrepreneur. I wanted to open a dry-cleaning business, but since I was only 17, my stepfather gave me the option of getting a job or joining the army. Well, I joined the army, which was the best thing for me.”
Pinnington was in the military 10 years, finishing with the rank of sergeant, after which he worked as a bodyguard. He moved from London to Los Angeles in 1996, then to Las Vegas in 2001, where he continued doing security work.
One day he needed some printing done locally for a networking event and came across a company that could do same-day jobs. Amazed, he asked to sit down with one of the employees to find out a little bit more about his work. The two spoke for eight hours. Ten months later, Pinnington found himself in the position to buy the company and go into the printing and decorated apparel business on his own with the help of a $4,500 loan from a friend.
When he hired his first employee, Jimmy, he couldn’t pay him right away. Eventually, the business, AA Printing Service took off. Jimmy stayed aboard. The staff grew. Pinnington opened a second location in 2018.
Building an Apparel Decorating Business
Today, Pinnington is extremely particular about the equipment he chooses, only using gear that is long-lasting and provides excellent results. Examples include an Epson F2100 DTG for direct-to-garment (DTG) work, a ROQ system for screen printing and a Ricoma system for embroidery.
“At first, our brand was based on fast turnarounds,” Pinnington says. “[But] I wanted to expand from my existing print business to a T-shirt business. I got a DTG printer, so that we can do fast turn times. For screen printing, we wanted it to be a complement to the DTG, so for anything over 50 to 60 [pieces], we go to screen printing. Embroidery goes hand-in-hand with the [rest of] the apparel side of the business. Without DTG and screen printing, there is no embroidery.”
Screen printing, in particular, has worked will for taking care of large-volume orders, Pinnington says. “It is the most durable apparel printing method, and thanks to the long-lasting ink, each T-shirt will remain great-looking for decades to come,” he adds.
Not that the embroidery side of his business should in any way be seen as a sideline. When a customer comes in with a logo, it is digitized, the thread counts are identified, and AA Printing sets a price. The company is also able to handle both low- and high-volume orders, thanks to the sophistication of its systems.
Overall, AA Printing performs around 80 percent of its services in-house, with larger jobs going to a third party, in which case, thanks to the strong relationship he has with his partners, Pinnington’s jobs take first priority. Pinnington says AA Printing can screen-print up to nine colors using plastisol and water-based inks. Pinnington says the chemicals he uses are all soy- and citrus-based, making them both environmentally friendly and safe for the people working with them.
Similarly, in its DTG processes, AA Printing uses a DTG ink that is safe and dries quickly, soaks into each garment and becomes part of the shirt. This eliminates the chance for the graphic to crack, peel or wash away over time. “We use cutting-edge DTG printing technology and environmentally safe ink to create digital prints that maintain their amazing appearance for years,” Pinnington says. “The DTG printing system works on both white and dark-colored T-shirts. Most DTG orders are shipped within 48 hours to anywhere in the United States and beyond.”
Currently, AA employs seven people, some of whom have been with the company for more than seven years. Pinnington says he knows and appreciates the fact he is fortunate to have found people who are reliable and as passionate about customer service and printing as he is.
Marketing, Promotion and Community
During the first five years he was in business, Pinnington attended every networking event he could find and joined all of the chambers of commerce in the area. Today, he sits on the boards of a few of them. He also makes it a point of supporting as many non-profit organizations as he can.
“There are a few charities I am especially passionate about, including the Wounded Warriors,” he says. “In the very beginning, Facebook was also extremely important in building my business. I would take photos of the shop, who was visiting the shop and the new equipment in the shop. I wanted to let people know we worked really hard within those four walls to give them what they wanted and needed.”
Eventually, he was invited to be interviewed by various television, radio stations and local newspapers, which put a face and name to the business as well. “We gained a great reputation for delivering a needed service,” he says of all the attention.
To this day, he remains steadfast in his commitment to his community and giving back. In particular, he says, he finds helping the area’s youth not only dream big but learn how to make their dreams a reality especially rewarding.
“I think for many young people, any ideas of being successful are sometimes crushed by older people such as parents, teachers, etc., who are unable to give the kids the tools and encouragement to be successful,” he says. “I try do that. I really want to be an example.”
In the 13 years he’s been in business, Pinnington and his staff have made enormous progress. Already successful and with a growing customer base throughout the Las Vegas area and beyond, AA Printing continues to be a regular on local television and radio business shows as well.
Meanwhile, Pinnington remains committed to ensuring all the equipment he needs is ready to go for when major players – like the NFL, which he’ll be working with in the run-up to the 2024 Super Bowl in Las Vegan – come knocking. “I’ve always said I work harder than anybody else in my shop, and as a business owner, I always do,” he says. “I am hands-on, assuring the quality is there and services are efficient. That’s why I’m always involved.”
Jennifer Morrell 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 Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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