January 23, 2020
Phil Gandy calls it the “bulldog mindset” — that drive and ambition that was necessary when he started Gandy Ink in San Angelo, Texas, more than 30 years ago.
In 1988, working out of a modest, 1,000-square-foot building, Gandy and his one employee ran the company with a four-color manual screen-printing press and a small dryer. Back then, Gandy Ink only offered printing for local businesses and organizations. But Gandy knew he wanted to venture beyond those confines, so he hired a talented artist and developed a line of preprints to sell to boutique shops.
“We set up at gift markets in Dallas and Atlanta,” says Gandy, the company’s president and CEO. “Sales were growing, but the orders were small. Then in 1990, I came up with the idea to sell spiritwear with awesome graphics to K-12 schools. The colleges and pro teams had great graphics, so why shouldn’t the schools?”
Gandy hired a sales rep and began calling on schools. The idea of school spiritwear was new and unconventional, but the interest was palpable among the company’s clients.
“I knew that if we could just get the shirts in the schools, the kids would love them,” Gandy says. “I came up with the ‘Gandy Guarantee.’ We sent 50 shirts to schools with the promise that if they did not sell, we would take them back. We sold to 160 schools that spring, with many returning for reorders. We were off and running in the school market.”
Gandy says the company’s next big growth spurt in the school market occurred when it offered state playoff shirts with a one- or two-day turnaround. This opened new doors as Gandy and his team began to understand the market better. They realized most school orders were needed quickly and required meeting a strict delivery date.
After only three years in business, Gandy Ink moved into a 5,000-square-foot facility and began offering full services for both screen printing and embroidery. In 1995, the Gandy Ink location doubled in size with a 5,000-square-foot addition.
The next 10 years saw annual growth of 10%-15% per year. Gandy Ink increased its elementary and middle school clientele and, again, outgrew its space. In 2005, a 35,000-square-foot building and four more automatic screen-printing presses were necessary.
Currently, Gandy Ink has grown into a 70,000-square-foot building. “During peak seasons, we run 24 hours a day, six days a week,” Gandy says. “Our greatest asset is our employees, who are the key factor in our success. We have over 150 employees, more than one-third of whom have stayed with the company more than 10 years. Seasonally, we bring in over 50 temporary employees.”
Gandy says as the company has continued to expand, steps have been taken to ensure the net being cast is done so in a direction wide enough to ensure healthy growth. In 2017, Gandy Ink launched Spirit Booster, an online, application-based platform targeting schools, organizations and philanthropic groups in need of a simplified fundraising tool. It’s the company’s first nationally marketed program and already has seen incredible success.
The school market, however, remains Gandy Ink’s main niche. “[The school market] encompasses 90% of our business,” Gandy says. “I have always felt a passion for the school business, and it still excites me today. I’ve been there when they open the box, and the smiles make all the hard work worthwhile.”
Gandy Ink has other small, but growing, niches, such as businesses and organizations; an apparel line for outdoor vendors; and local country band merchandise.
Production crews are seasonally adjusted to handle an influx of orders. In fall 2019, the company operated around the clock and produced an average of nearly 1,400 orders per week. Three-quarters of that output came in the form of screen-printed orders, while embroidery and heat printing comprised the rest.
As of press time, the production floor featured 10 automatic presses and a single manual press. The embroidery department operates 10 machines, many of which include more than six heads. Gandy says 2019 was a challenging year, but every mistake was regarded as an opportunity for growth. The advent of new garment-decoration technology will allow for more efficient, quality-driven processes. Going forward, direct transfer and direct-to-garment (DTG) technology will be used to more quickly fill under-minimum orders, as well as other niche orders that may normally consume valuable production time.
“We are also exploring third-party production analytics tools, which will allow more of a look into our total effective equipment performance,” Gandy says. “Ultimately, Gandy Ink will continue to pursue innovation that allows for a better, quicker customer experience; an improved product quality; and an easier, more enjoyable work experience for employees.”
Gandy says his employees go to extreme lengths to ensure quality products that reach end users on time. The company’s policy is that nobody should need permission to do what’s right for the customer. New employees often find it surprising, but this attitude has resulted in an incredibly loyal customer base.
Staying On Top
Gandy says fast-approaching deadlines and an even faster pace are never easy. “It’s a culture you must develop, and everyone needs to buy into it,” he says. “We never will be the low-priced guys. We focus on outstanding service, high-quality products and making the experience easy for the customer. You can’t do that and hold the lowest price.”
Since technology is so important in apparel decoration, Gandy Ink has emphasized staying ahead of the game. “Our budget for security, network and software has increased tenfold over the last five years,” Gandy says. “We are writing software to make our business more efficient, while making the experience easier for the customer.”
In 2019, Gandy Ink officially launched its second e-commerce solution, GOGEAR, a proprietary online ordering platform created to simplify the end-user experience, allowing for quick order turnaround during playoff season. The system is ideal for when, say, a high school team wins a Friday night football game and needs garments within a week for the next game.
Also, a new company website was launched last month, and software is being written for interactive art proofing. Gandy Ink also recently purchased a new DTG machine, more efficient heat presses and newer embroidery machines. This month, the company will have two new automatics delivered, bringing its total to 12.
“We are constantly trying to improve and are always growing in process efficiency, service and quality,” Gandy says. “With all these great changes ahead of us, it is hard not to be optimistic about Gandy Ink’s future.”
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.
Gandy Ink at a Glance
Company Name: Gandy Ink
Address: 2027 Industrial Ave., San Angelo, TX 76904
No. of Employees: More than 150
Decorating Methods Offered: Screen printing, embroidery
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