“Play Customers Their Favorite Song” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 9 (feat. Brett Bowden of Printed Threads)

These days there’s a lot of talk about trying to find a competitive advantage that gives your company an edge.  One apparel decorator in North Fort Worth Texas has found that edge, and what they are doing may surprise you.

Printed Threads is a full-service merchandising company that specializes in high-quality screen printing, embroidery, retail finishing, and fulfillment services. 

Brett Bowden’s fun, creative, and sometimes quirky style carries over to his staff of dedicated professionals. Just check out this Instagram post, and you’ll see why people love following — Over 19K Followers — and doing business with them.

Find out what it took to develop this unique winning culture, that made Printed Threads a Texas powerhouse, and competitive nationwide.

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A Transcript For The Readers:

Marshall Atkinson: 

Yeah. So, we’ve known each other for a long time and I’ve always admired your fun way of doing everything. And I think today is really gonna shine a light on that. 


Brett Bowden: 

I think, yeah. I definitely live by the mantra. Uh, work hard, play hard and so fun is very important, right?


Marshall Atkinson: 

It is. All right. So I think you’re around and you’re everywhere, but. Some people might not have heard about you. I know it’s unbelievable right now. And I might not have heard about you or Printed Threads. 

So can you kind of share your origin story and let everyone know more about your company and maybe who your target customers are?


Brett Bowden: 

Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, I graduated high school around 2000. At that time I was playing music with friends and we were always having shirts made to sell, ‘cause that’s the way bands make money. 

And at some point, I decided I wanted to learn how to print shirts myself. So around 2000, about a press week, I started printing shirts and printed lots of shirts and started selling them into big retail stores and all kinds of cool stuff like that.

But the band I was in was going on tour all the time and we just couldn’t, I couldn’t run the business and print shirts and do both at the same time. So I sold all of my stuff to a good friend of mine. Uh, and he, he has gone on to do way bigger things like work for the biggest company in the world. And, uh, he’s still doing retail merchandising stuff.

And when I went to college, I went to the University of Colorado, and there I met my lovely wife and we had a baby and, I graduated from college, and decided to go to, uh, to, I got certified to be a teacher. 

So I wanted to be a teacher. And, when I graduated from college, it was about 2009, obviously, that was not a great time for our country.

And most schools were on hiring freezes. So I couldn’t get a job. 

I’d worked through college as a cable guy. Which is a really rewarding experience. And I’ve got a lot of great fun stories from being a cable guy and the people that have attacked me and whatnot. 

Uh, but, uh, so that was, uh, that was something that certainly helped me out in my path to success, I suppose, but I was just kind of miserable, and my wife and I had decided to move back to Texas, just for the cost of living.

The goal was for her to not really have to work as much so she could raise our family. 

And along the way, I was just kind of miserable on the ol’ cable guy experience. And I went to her and said, “Hey, Uh, I used to print shirts, and maybe we could do it again and make a little bit of extra money just doing it out of our garage.”

That was April of 2010. And by October 2010, we were in a warehouse space and growing every year. 

About the year 2015, I signed up to do one of those Inc magazines, the fastest-growing companies deal to see where we would place. And we placed at number 826 because, in four years’ time, we had grown to be a multi-million dollar print shop.

Actually a lot around that same time, I got super burnt out on just working all the time and it had become hard growing that fast. So my wife and I bought a fifth wheel RV and hopped in it and traveled around the country for about a year and a half, which was a really fun and rewarding experience and a great time to get to know my kids a little bit better since then since I wasn’t working 16 hours a day at that points, but, uh, really was not great for the business. 

So I learned a lot of really hard lessons through that. Around that same time I got sued and just was dealing with a lot of big adult things that I had previously not experienced in my more punk rock, uh, lifestyle. 

So I grew up pretty fast and over the last, uh, you know, five years, the company has continued to grow.

We’ve learned a lot and repaired a lot of damages. Uh, just to have become more of a, an actual business, I guess, instead of just a, uh, you know, shooting from the hip type of thing. 

Marshall Atkinson: 

So, welcome to being a professional. 

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah. That’s what my lawyer said. 

Marshall Atkinson: 

Who are your customers that you’re that? Uh, because you’ve, you’ve started and you had some stops and starts. And, but you were really always focusing on really a couple of core segments, right? 

Brett Bowden: 

 Yeah. So it was really easy for us coming out of music, uh, to be selling merch to other bands. Cause we still knew a lot of bands and the bands that I knew by that point that were still around were pretty successful.

So being able to sell, serves to them and then also selling to, you know, now we say we sell bands, brands, bars, and churches, uh, which is still relative to then, and now we had started selling merch to rock bands. 

I came across a clothing line that was becoming increasingly popular in our area. I just happened by them at a booth at an event and talked to them. And so we started printing for that clothing line, we were putting for a lot of bars just because I had friends that owned and ran bars and then, uh, churches and in Texas, you know, churches are huge. Uh, so there’s a lot of churches around here that have like 40,000 members, crazy stuff like that.

And they order a lot of shirts. So, um, we kind of fit right into the middle of all of that. Um, and I, as the company has grown and I’ve learned a lot more about myself and who I am. 

Who’s been a person that I like to be involved in things, and I like to help other people. And a lot of that time of the last five years, I’ve spent helping other people in our industry by being involved in organizations within, within our industry and recently have kind of…we focused my thought on being more involved in my local community and being involved in what I’m sitting in right around me. 

And so being a part of our community here and helping other businesses around here grow, whether it’s a restaurant or a gym or something that, you know, some guy just like me 10 years ago, decided to start a business.

Like how can I be…Uh, how can I steward my knowledge in a way to, help businesses like that? 

Marshall Atkinson: 

Okay. And so, and now you started with, uh, you know, just you working out of the garage. Can you tell everyone where you are now with your, you know, employee count and your equipment and all that? 

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah, so we have a 21,000 square foot facility in Fort Worth, Texas, right near downtown. Um, if you live in Fort Worth, you’ll see us driving down I-35, I’ve got, uh, I think 35 employees doing about $4 million in revenue. And, uh, we just ordered our fifth automatic press. We’ve got 10 heads of embroidery. I think that’s about to grow as well.

And then we run not only. Uh, not only our production of screen printing and embroidery and doing some digital printing, but we have another warehouse dedicated to doing order fulfillment for our customers. 

Marshall Atkinson: 

Okay. And so let’s, let’s kind of talk about your internal culture, you know, you’ve grown significantly since you started.

And now you’ve just most recently merged with another shop. Right. So how important is culture to your team? 

And that’s what we’re really going to be talking about today anyway. So what are you doing to instill that on a daily basis? 

Brett Bowden: 

About, uh, 7 years ago, eight years ago, uh, my brother made a great connection with me and a guy who’s a business coach and he started asking me some really hard questions. 

I didn’t have the answer to and asking the questions of vision and values and those types of things that really got me thinking. 

And I sat down with our small team at the time and said, you know, what is special about Printed Threads?

What is special about us? What’s the difference? 

You know, and, and, you know, you’re sitting in a room with a bunch of people that kind of just came out of rock and roll and, and, and you look around the room and you’re like, “Oh, well, these. You know, we were the same. Each of us are the same. We would like to hang out with each other, whether at work or not at work.”

And what does that mean? Like what is, what is the same for us? 

So. Looking first at our values and being able to write down our values on a piece of paper, uh, actually came a lot easier than I thought it would. 

But if you think about who you grew up with, uh, who you, you might still have friends now that you grew up with, and maybe you don’t see them all the time, but when you do see on you.

You catch up right from where you left off. Right. And a lot of that is because you grew up in the same value system. And so when we started like looking at, at hiring, more people to work at printed threads is really important that they align with those values. 

You know, we really like to have fun, but we need to work hard.

We want to be creative. 

You know, our first core values are driven by the craft and we need to look at screen printing as, as somewhat of a craft. It’s a trade, you know, it’s, it’s, we need to be proud of the stuff that we do, and being driven by that is exciting. So hiring people that want to really work hard, but they also want to have fun.

What we are creating is the most important thing that is going to help all of our customers be better, better companies, better organizations, um, by what we create. 

So we kind of put all those words into this, this melting pot and came out with, with our core values and decided that any person that we hire from that point on had to align with these core values and whether they understood it.

The time or not, we were looking for that type of person in the interview. Um, being able to hire friends is great, except for the, you get into those sticky situations where you don’t, you, you don’t want to damage your friendship by having to have, um, a boss or an employee kind of relationship. And so being able to establish like, “Hey, these are the rules of our company and if at some point you’re violating this rule or some point, it seems like this core value is not important to you any more than then. This is the time that we’re going to go ahead and part ways. And it’s not because I don’t like you as a person. It’s because that doesn’t fit into the culture of our company anymore.”

And so we were able to kind of establish all of that and then hire people. And we hired people that fit into our core values. And as we grew, we made sure that everyone that worked for us fit into these values. 

So as we go from five people to 10 people, suddenly it becomes easy and it feels like a cohesive group.

Uh, as we go from 10 to 20 people, it feels like a cohesive group because everyone still aligns with those values. 

And every once in awhile, that doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t get into the fold and they don’t align with those values. 

But typically when that happens, it is really easy to notice that one person feels uncomfortable and the other people all around kind of raise the flag of like, I don’t think this person is a good fit for us.

And then we just have the conversation with the person that says, “Hey, You know, I don’t think this job is a perfect fit for you. I think that you’d be happier and more successful, more successful at a different job.” 

And it doesn’t have to be this, like letting someone go, doesn’t have to be this terrible experience.  Like we’re not beholden to them. They’re not beholding to us. And. If someone is feeling uncomfortable and not being able to be successful at the job that they’re in, they’re probably going home unhappy. And the best thing that we can do for that employee is to release them so that they can go find a job that makes them feel more comfortable and more successful.

That’s a long-phrase to say, this is how we’ve kind of developed a little bit of our culture and how I think that’s translated over to how your customers see you because they’re interacting with your employees and doing things right. Yeah, man. It’s so important. Um, I think the hardest thing that a lot of employers do is let go of the reins.

And I think that has crippled a lot of businesses.  That has kept a lot of businesses from growing is not being able to kind of let go and give your employees, employees, and autonomy. 

So at some point, like I can’t be a part of every customer transaction anymore, but I still want my personality and my belief system to be a part of everything that our employees do.

And that has not always been successful. We’ve certainly lost customers or we’ve had customers walk away or I’ve gotten text messages from customers that said, “You know what the heck is going on over there?” 

And that’s like super upsetting. And you have to realize that sometimes you’ve put someone you might’ve hired the greatest employee ever, but when you put them in that customer-facing role, and they’re not good at being customer-facing, that is like, a huge tragedy.

And you need to figure that stuff out really quickly. 

So what we’ve done over the years is really tried to find the right people and put the right people in those seats. Because if you think about it, you know, those, your customer relations team. 

That’s the band on stage, right? 

Um, I’m not the band on stage anymore.  I’m the sound guy or something. Right? 

And, uh, so those people on stage are the ones that are having all the interactions with your customers and those interactions need to be fun and, or they don’t need to be fun, but they need to relate to. What you set out to do in the first place. 

And if what we set out to do in the first place was to have fun, be a big part of our community, help other businesses be successful, then we need to do just that.

And so our customer service team needs to be fun. They need to be promoting local business. They need to be truly a partner to our customers, businesses. 

And, um, That is a really, really hard thing to curate that we’ve had a difficult time over the years doing, but have been really successful at, uh, in the past two years.

Marshall Atkinson: 

Can you give me an example of maybe one of your team members just knocking it out of the park for a client that just really surprised you? 

Brett Bowden: 

Well, I think, I think a lot of those things. Are small, like the things that surprised me the most are the small things. And I remember, uh, we have a client relations person who, uh, has been a friend of ours for years and started working for us about a year, a little over a year ago.

And I remember walking into the front office and a customer was in there and the customer comes in to pick up shirts and he’s kind of waiting in the lobby area and she’s saying, “Hey, what’s your favorite song? Or what song do you want to listen to right now?” 

And just putting music on in the lobby that like his favorite song, you know, and it kind of became a thing for a while where whenever our customers picked up their orders, you know, we would, we would play their favorite song when they walked in the door or whatever.

We actually had customers that would email ahead of time saying, “Hey, this is what I want to hear today” when they’re coming to pick up. 

And that kind of creates this thing where it’s like, it’s not just going to pick up your shirt somewhere. It’s not just going to pick up your order. It’s, it’s creating an experience, uh, that your customer can be a part of. 

And you know, those little things are the things that customers think of when they also start thinking about the other things like 5 cents a shirt, you know, it’s like, “You know, I could save a little bit of money, but I sure do like go into Printed Threads.” 

And those things like, even, even beyond that, like it’s us putting a balsa wood airplane in a box.

It’s us creating all these little things that make that customer experience just feel really good. 

You know, it’s, it’s the client, it’s our client rep coming to us and saying, “You know what? Our, uh, our, uh, contact at so-and-so client is having a baby this month. Can we print them a onesie with one of their designs on it?”

It’s having the ideas that go above and beyond just order entry. And so I think a lot of times we hire people and we want to, we want to pay them to do order entry. 

And, uh, that’s not what we need as a business. Like that’s what Amazon does. That’s what CustomInk does. They do order entry. 

Like, what we need to do is create this big customer experience and we got to pay for that.  Right? 

So kind of paying people, you know, $12 bucks an hour or whatever it is to do order entry isn’t okay anymore as a business in the field that we’re in if we’re going to create a…If we’re going to compete with CustomInk and Amazon, and these, these giant companies that all they do is their order entry.

We have to create a customer experience and that’s, that’s an expensive product to create. 

Marshall Atkinson: 

Exactly. And, uh, I’m reminded of the fact that most people I know myself, I don’t really buy much on features and benefits. I buy an emotional link. I buy on how something or a company, whatever…it makes me feel that they make me feel good.

Am I happy to do business with them? And I think that your story right there just drives home that point. 

Brett Bowden:

Yeah. I feel terrible because I’ve purchased too many things on Amazon, but, and you know, COVID has probably made that a thing too much, but I really enjoy going and. You know,, those experiences where you go in and you go talk to someone that’s passionate about what they do.

And, and you just know that you’re getting the best product because it happens to me all the time where I order a product on Amazon that gets four and a half stars or whatever. And then we, uh, you know, you get it and it just kinda sucks. And you, you would so much rather go buy a product that has the story behind it.

You know you go to a bike shop. It’s like, “Man, I think this bike would be the best bike for you because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” 

And they can tell you the story around it. And you get super excited about that bike. And when you ride that bike and your friend says, “Hey, man, that’s a cool bike.” 

You can just be like, “Well, let me tell you this whole story about this bike” and it creates that cool emotional experience and you’re right.

I mean, that is, that makes you more proud to own the car product. 

Marshall Atkinson: 

Let’s shift gears and let’s start talking about your customers and how your idea of culture is kind of flipping the script on how you’re dealing with your customers and what you’re doing with them. 

So I want you to share your, your Printed Threads, unique way of developing your customer loyalty.

Brett Bowden: 

So this, this kind of concept all started maybe a year ago when. I decided I want to take my team out to lunch once a month, and we’re going to pick one of our customer’s restaurants and take our whole team out to lunch. 

And you can imagine that’s 30 people or whatever, like. It’s an expensive lunch for me, but it’s a way to kind of give back to our customers and say like, “Hey, we, you support us. So we support you.” 

And it was this kind of cool experience where our employees got to go see the work that they’ve done out in the wild, you know, so they’re seeing, uh, the employees wearing their shirts. 

They’re seeing the shirts being sold over the counter or whatever it is. And I thought, “Man, this is, this is a really cool way to help. Help some businesses in a small way.” 

Um, I’ve done things in the past where we’ve, where we have decided that we really like, or there’s a new business in town or a company that we really like, and we want to support them. And so I’ll just give them a hundred t-shirts or something like that, just, just to help them out.

But over the last couple of years, we’ve yeah, it’s really hard on our marketing in-house and we have. We have in-house marketing people that make videos, and it’s actually a part of our, if you fill out a quote for them on the Printed Threads website, you can check a box at the bottom that says, are you willing to pay?  Would you like to have a behind the scenes video of your shirts being printed for $99, we’ll actually shoot this video of your shirts being printed. 

And that way you can use all social media. So we’ve been doing all this video stuff and it occurred to me more recently that. “You know, what, what else can we do for our customers?”

We’ve got almost 20,000 followers on social media or on Instagram. We’ve got probably 10,000 on Facebook. We’ve got a huge email list with thousands of thousands of people on our email lists. And we could tell our customers’ stories to this large audience, and that could be a great way to help our customers for free, you know, it doesn’t cost us a whole bunch of money, just a little bit of labor. 

So we started going, to our customer’s locations and doing these customer spotlights where we shoot a video of just the experience. So the first one we did was in a guest, I think, uh, or September. And we went to Coco Shrimp, which is a restaurant near us that we really enjoy.

And we just shot a video of their place and them delivering the food and just kind of showing the atmosphere and showing the culture of their business and, uh, basically making a commercial for them that we post on our social media. And then we can. Share to theirs. Um, and then we do an interview of, of the owner of the business, uh, on a blog.

So we have a blog that just says, you know, all this information about the owner, how they started, you know, what, what is their story? And kind of thought that, you know, that this would be a really fun way for our customers to be able to interact with each other and hopefully. You know, it helps build their business.

Marshall Atkinson: 

What’s the reaction to your customer. That’s the most important thing, right? 

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah. I mean, and they’re so excited about it, right? Like, why would you, why would you do this? You know, why they start asking the questions? 

And the answer is because we want to invest in our community. We want the people in our community to be successful.

Um, the, the saying a rising tide lifts, all boats, it rains true for local communities. It rings true for industries that rings true all around. So like, if we can help build the commerce of our city, all the businesses will be more successful. And we should certainly spotlight people that are doing an incredible job and show them off in our channels or in ways that maybe they can’t show off themselves.

Um, so we. We can highlight that that builds a huge or a tremendous amount of customer loyalty to them because now they’re seeing, wow, this, this business is, is not only creating a good product for us, but they’re willing to invest back into us as a business. And I think personally, that’s what I’m all about.

I love investing in other people. I love helping other people and being able to do that on a larger scale as a business is an incredible feeling. 

Marshall Atkinson: 

That’s awesome. And what do your employees think about that? Cause you know, they’re the ones actually doing all the work. Do they, they get that connection in a link, right?

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah. So probably once a year. I do a meeting with all of our employees. In fact, we just did it a month ago. I believe where I had all of our employees get together for a meeting. 

We talk about the business. 

We talk about how the business started, how, how far it’s come, you know, what, what we do as a business.

And then I have everybody write down on an index card or a sticky note, like what is, what is the most important thing about this business to you and how could it be better? Right? 

So everybody writes down and going back to talking about the culture internally, the amount of people that write down the word “family”, Is unbelievable…family over and over and over the Printed Threads is, is our family.

And that’s awesome. And being able to talk as a team to say like, “Hey, it’s not Brett Bowden creating this stuff. It’s not the Bowden family. It’s it’s us. It’s the Printed Threads family. And whenever we go. Donate a bunch of money to charity or whatever. We help a small business grow or whatever we do, whatever we do, we’re doing this together.”

Right. We all get to share in the success. And, and I, I think they all feel that way and they all believe it. And, and that’s exciting to them. And for everybody, once a year, we, I mean, we print t-shirts all the time for our employees, which I assume everybody does, but once a year they get a hoodie and once a year you’ve probably seen at a trade show that the ISS Fort Worth trade show we have always taken our whole staff to the trade show so they can see the industry outside of our four walls. 

And you might see them like everybody shows up wearing a Printed Threads hoodie, and that’s like, you know, everybody loves that hoodie. It’s like their letterman jacket. Right. And, uh, our employees go out, they go out to eat for lunch, or they go out into the community and people say, “Oh, you work at Printed Threads?

And it’s a thing, right? Like people think our company from the outside is cool because of everything we do within our community. 

And then when they go out into the community wearing their Printed Threads hoodie, and people are like, “Oh, awesome. You worked at Printed Threads.” 

That makes them feel good.

Like, wow. Like it’s a lot different than walking down the street and being like, I work at chase bank, you know, there’s not as much excitement in that. It doesn’t feel like this family. It doesn’t feel like this integral part of your, your community surrounding you. 

Marshall Atkinson: 

Yeah, I love that. And I’ve always talked about in the companies that I’ve run, um, you know, I call it “refrigerator material” because when your employees go home, what’s the first thing that happens at dinner.

It’s like, “Hey honey, how was your day?”

And people you want them to be engaging and have something really positive to say about where they work and what happened and all that kind of stuff and, and have positive stories to tell. 

And I think everything that you’ve talked about today really drives that.

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah. Thanks. 

Um, you know, we’ve worked really hard on it and put a lot of thought into it. And I, I definitely think that you know, I didn’t start a business to work with people. I don’t, I don’t like it. 

You know, I could go walk in, there’s a restaurant down the street that I walked into one day. And you could just tell everybody that worked there looked miserable and I could feel it and you can taste it in the food.

Right. It’s like, cringe-worthy, you know, you just don’t want to go there when you can walk into a place where people are having fun and they’re doing good work and they’re proud, like. That that rings true. 

And in every part of the experience, you can feel it and the t-shirt you’re wearing, you can be proud to do business with that company.

You know, like there are businesses that you see doing really cool things. And what that does to me is say like, I want to go support that business because they’re doing really cool things. 

Like I know that if I bring that business more business. If I bring that company more business, like they’re going to do more with that money that they make, uh, then maybe another business in town and that’s important.

And it’s important that like, whenever we get to go hang out as a company, we have fun together. Like we enjoy being with each other during the whole Coronavirus thing when life has been so locked down. 

The people here have just said, “well, you guys are our people. We’re going to hang out with you.” 

And so it’s not uncommon for on Friday night for people to be up here till the wee hours of the morning, just spending time with each other and for you to be able to like, look at someone at five o’clock and say, I still want to hang out with you. 

That’s a really big thing. 

You know, there’s a lot of people at work that, you know, that time clock rings or whatever, and they’re just getting the, getting the heck out of Dodge, you know? 

So look around at the people that work here and see them smiling and hanging out and having a good time together, seeing like 12 people leave and go to the same place for lunch on a regular basis because they enjoy each other.

It’s just, it’s awesome. That’s great. 

Marshall Atkinson:

You know, um, how many companies out there. At five o’clock it looks like the beginning of the Flintstones where people just fly down the dinosaur neck to get in the car and race away. 

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah, seriously. And I’m not saying that doesn’t happen sometimes, but it is really cool that the fact that they would linger to hang out with each other or just, you know, we’ve, we’ve got the, we’ve got the few people here.

You, you need the, you need the people that are really good at creating community. That are not you. 

Like, I can only do so much because I’m in, I’m like for people listening to this Marshall and I are very tall people, big people, and big people are intimidating, especially when you’re in a leadership role.

So I cannot be the person that is always creating the lovey-dovey fun, fluffy culture, because there are people that are intimidated by me. And so I can do my best to say, you know, high five people and say hi and, and, and talk to people and get to know them a little bit better, but I can not. Ever, know all of my employees really well.

So you need to have those other people that work for you that are kind of doing the, like what day’s everybody’s birthday and they’re planning the stuff, you know, they’re bringing cupcakes and they’re providing candy and they’re, they’re making notes for each other. 

You need those people on the team, uh, to kind of help posture that culture and perpetuate the culture.

Um, we, we absorbed another company a few weeks ago and, um, It was cool because the company was very similar to ours. Very similar cultures are, as we’d known them for a really long time. And when we brought them in, they just fit right into the fold, which is, which was fantastic, but it was really cool.

Like one of our, one of our employees made a big sign and hung it on the wall. 

When you walk in that says, it says WELCOME, you know, to all the, all the people coming in and being able to create that environment where like, it feels welcomed because I care. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a first day of work somewhere.

But I do remember going into my first day of work somewhere, feeling really awkward and uncomfortable, and it’s just gross. 

You know, I’ve heard, uh, you know, heard a lot of people speak. 

There’s a guy named Brian Adam at a company called Olympus that I’ve seen speak a couple of times on company culture and talked about when new people start.

Have them come in like 30 minutes later than everybody else or an hour later. So you’re able to get there in time to prepare, let people at the front desk know that this new person is starting, make them feel welcome, have like, have a swag pack ready for them. They need, you know, they need to feel like they’re a part of the team having their hoodie and their t-shirt and their mug or whatever you give to every employee ready for them.

And then on the first day of work, they need to go. You’re their supervisor needs to take them out to lunch and get that hour of FaceTime with them and kind of create that, Hey, we’re, you know, we’re a team here, you know, create those vibes and it takes a lot of extra work to do all those things. 

But the investment of that time to do that extra work pays, you know, tenfold in the long run.

Marshall Atkinson:

Yeah, exactly. And, uh, so, uh, I think you’ve done a really good job of describing some of the stuff. So for thinking. To, you know, the end of this year, next year, you know, we’re trying to get ever get this stupid pandemic behind us and on with our lives and we’re growing and we’re expanding our businesses.

Hopefully what tools or techniques or just tips just to wind us up here today. Can you let a listener know these are the three or four things that they should really be doing? 

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah. Books are really good. I hate reading. And, uh, in the past several years, uh, actually Ryan Moor started really pushing on me.

At some point, we were traveling together. He’s asking me, do I read? I’m like, no, that’s him. I can’t, I’m terrible at reading. 

If I sit down and start reading a book, I start daydreaming about everything else that I should be doing, you know? 

And, uh, so he got me on Audible. He actually sent me a year subscription to Audible and started saying like, “Here’s start” you know, listening to these books, you know, some books that he liked.

So I started listening to books and I started taking walks in the morning. Uh, I’d go, go take a walk in the morning and listen to a book. And the first book that I got, you know, I’ve read so many or listened to so many books at this point. 

The first one that just got me hooked. On lists, you know, I’ve got to listen to more books, um, was “Shoe Dog”.  It’s a story of Phil Knight from Nike and the story, you know, the successes and failures of his own business and listening to a story of a guy that has been that successful humbling himself to talk about. All of his biggest failures, uh, really was encouraging to me as a business owner. 

To say like, Oh wow.  Maybe I can do this. You know? 

So that’s the hard struggle, parts listening to other people’s struggles, super helpful, but there’s so many great books on marketing out there. And I think that that’s, um, something that man, the screen printing industry is ugly. I’m just going to say it’s gross. 

It there’s so many terrible looking businesses in screen printing, you drive down the street all the time and you see these businesses, they don’t represent their brand.

Well, they probably haven’t ever paid for a logo design. They just type something up, you know, or they stole some art or whatever. And the art on the walls is hideous. 

You know, like, look good. You know, I’m the type of person that like, I really don’t care a lot about my personal appearance. That’s why I look probably a little bit homeless to most of you guys, but like, But when it comes to the brands, look cool.

Be proud of who you are, you know, be that company that you can walk into every day and say, hell yeah, I own this company or Hell, Yeah. I work for this company. 

Be proud of it, you know, and that all comes with looking good. And, and so go, go figure out how to look good. You know, “StoryBrand” by Donald Miller.

It’s probably the most talked-about book in our, in, in business over the last two years, it’s been this eye-opening experience of all these people of like, Oh crap. Like we have a story to tell, we should tell it. 

Maybe our customers will feel more attached to us. If we talk about who we are as a company and who we are as people…

I really like this book called “Setting the Table” by Danny Meyer. 

Danny Meyer is, uh, a restaurateur. He’s the founder of Shake Shack, um, which is a fast-food burger chain. That’s very good, but also, uh, he’s founded several very fine dining restaurants and his whole thing, uh, has his whole business strategy is a lot about culture, about customer service.

What can you do to elevate your brands, um, as, as customer service brands? 

I think when I think of those types of things, I think about all the places that we go go, go into business. This is hard right now. Right. You know, but hopefully. You know, coronavirus can be done at some point to go into businesses and look around and go into the businesses and figure out the ones that make you feel good.

And then just look at them and say, what are they doing different? 

Like if I am either my wife or my wife and I have four kids, if my wife is going to go out to eat somewhere without me, just her and the four kids, that’s a big deal. Right? It’s, it’s, that’s hard work, you know, and if she’s going to go somewhere.

She’s going to go somewhere that goes above and beyond. And where is that place for moms of children? 

It’s Chick-fil-A

Why is it Chick-fil-A?  Because the people working there go above and beyond a fast food service, right? 

They’re going to walk to your table and say, “Ma’am, do you need a refill?” She knows she doesn’t have to get up to go do things because they’re going to look after her.

They’re going to say the nice things and listening to, you know, the. Listening to people speak about Chick-fil-A and hearing, you know, you’ve heard the word, “My pleasure” over and over and over that came from Ritz Carlton

If you’ve ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton, you lucky you, but, uh, if you’ve ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton, one of the things they say, when you say thank you, is they say “My pleasure” and that’s just kind of this elevated way of talking to people like, “Oh, wow.”

Like, “Oh, you care about actually helping me.” 

That’s, it’s a really cool feeling. And it’s two words that don’t cost you anything that means a lot to other people. So all that being said, go do research on companies that you love and go figure out why you love them and then adapt those principles to your own company.

And then the last book that I’ve read recently, the last couple of years is by Seth Godin. It’s called “This Is Marketing.” 

And the concept behind this book is like, “people like us do things like this.” 

He says it all throughout the book a million different times, but you realize, you know, in, in him doing his kind of case studies on different businesses, this is why more people like this business than this business.

This is why Patagonia is so successful. Right? 

It’s because they don’t cut corners and they do anything for anybody. Right? Like this is what makes that good. 

And, um, And then obviously there’s a million great podcasts out there. You guys are listening to one, uh, so good for you for actually taking the time to do something, to learn a little bit more, and learn.

You know, uh, ways to help your business grow. 

There are people like Marshall out there that are doing just an amazing job at curating all this. And he doesn’t have to do it like this takes a lot of time out of his day and he has to talk to jerks like me. Right? 

So good for you for listening. But, um, there’s a lot of great podcasts out there.

And my very favorite one is “How I built this” with Guy Raz. 

It’s sponsored by NPR and it’s about, it’s about businesses, how they’ve become successful. And I have to say my very favorite one is Southwest Airlines with Herb Kelleher. And that guy’s awesome. 

]He passed away recently and, uh, but go listen to it because Southwest Airlines is one of those businesses that has figured out ways to take care of their customers.

And, and like, he also has a great example of how to do with customers that you don’t want. To, uh, because that’s another part of this, just because you want to be a great person business and you want to take care of people. It doesn’t mean you have to bend over to everybody that wants to take advantage of you, you don’t.

Um, and, and there are ways that you can take care of those situations. He does. He has great, uh, descriptions of some of those, but I think as a business, have fun, figure out how to have fun. 

This is a thing that you are locked to. You are married to it. You can’t just get out of it really easily. So figure out how to have fun.

And, uh, there’s going to be days of your business that are terrible and you’re going to hate them. And, uh, I always quote Mark Cuban saying “When you feel like giving up, remember why you started in the first place.” 

I think that’s really important and we all started this business for some reason. And write it down, put it inside your desk drawer. Cause you’re going to have those hard days. Maybe it’s you get delivered a lawsuit, maybe it’s money is tight, cash flow problems, employee problems, customer problems. There’s going to be problems. 

Remember why you started so that you can get through those times.

And, uh, my last tool and maybe most important is a work-life balance. 

Uh, figuring out what that is. And that’s something that I’ve struggled with for years. I’m a workaholic, a hundred percent. 

And I think this year has taught me maybe a bigger lesson in a good way than I would’ve ever expected until March 7th of this year, I was on an airplane every single week going where to do, going somewhere to do something and something for work, something for our industry.

And, uh, Over the last six months, I realized how much time I was taking away from my family and taking away from my, my children, and, uh, you know, your family and your children are maybe the biggest gift that you’ll ever have. And so just, just think about that work-life balance thing, you know, we’ve, I’ve scheduled time now, uh, once a week, at least.

I’ll call my wife and say, let’s go on a date today, just in the middle of the day. Like, I’ll go pick her up and we’ll go eat, go pick up some food and go to a park and eat lunch. Or, um, I’ll take, take my kids somewhere to do something special. Or, you know, once, you know, once a week we go to the Lake or we just go do something together as a family.

And so being able to. Uh, my business coach calls these mental and spiritual eggs. You know, you need to make sure that you take care of yourself mentally and spiritually and take care of your family, uh, because you know, they’re, they’re the most important people and they’re the ones that. They’re gonna, they’re going to have your back when, when times are really tough.

Marshall Atkinson:

Wow. That’s great. 

You know, what’s fun is that this is a podcast and you’re listening and the whole time I’m nodding my head. Yes. Everything you’re saying. 

So, uh, thank you so much today, Brett, for sharing your story of success. If someone wants to learn more about what you do or maybe how you can help them, can you share how to get a hold of you?

Brett Bowden: 

Yeah. So, uh, Printed Threads. Our website is printed threads.com. 

Um, we are actually starting a new company this week called The Creative Situation as well. So by the time this podcast airs, it’ll probably be the creative situation.com and you can reach me by all kinds of sources. 

Uh, I’ve got like 37 email addresses.

Now my main one is brett@printedthreads.com. I also Brett at the creative situation dot com. Brett@inkkitchen.com. 

Uh, the Ink Kitchen is a blog with, uh, friends and I have, uh, about industry information. 

And so you can reach me at all those places. Uh, if trade shows ever happen again, I’ll probably be there and, uh, we’ll hang out and talk more with whatever.

Marshall Atkinson: 

Awesome. So thank you so much for your time today, Brett. You’re fantastic…appreciate you buddy. 

Brett Bowden:

Thanks, man. Glad I could be a help. 

“How to Run Apparel Programs for Big Brands” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 8 (feat. Jordy Gamson of Icebox)

Have you ever wondered who is handling the apparel programs for some of the largest and most well-known brands?

The answer can be found with one Atlanta branding and promotional merchandise agency, Icebox. Founded in 2001, they have been building turn-key solutions for corporate clients that include product sourcing, in-house design, production, warehouse fulfillment, and global distribution. 

Icebox has helped brands like Delta Airlines, Hooters, Buffalo Wild Wings and AT&T with their apparel programs. Co-founder, Jordy Gamson, is talking to us about what it takes to run these turn-key programs, especially through uncertain times.

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“Collegiate Sales & Jimmy Kimmel Fame” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 7 (feat. Brayden Jessen of Zome Design)

Building sales in the licensed collegiate or school markets isn’t easy, but Brayden Jessen, of Zome Design in Spokane, WA is going to help you do just that. He knows the importance of capitalizing on the moment and what it takes to market collegiate apparel. Brayden is most famous for his “Gonzaga Exists” T-shirt design that ended up on local news stations AND Jimmy Kimmel Live (see the video below). Find out how he made that possible, on this episode of Success Stories.

Zome Design’s “Gonzaga Exists” design makes the local news

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“Sell Trust, Not Decorations” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 6 (feat. Traci Miller of Color 3 Embroidery)

One thing that contract apparel decorators sell most is Trust, with a capital “T”.  Sure, you can focus on the embroidery, screenprinting, heat transfer or other methods of embellishing a garment, but seasoned contract professionals know that sales for them are not transactional.  Everything is about the relationship.

As a 25 year decorating veteran, Traci Miller, of Color3 Embroidery, knows this all too well. Listen as she shares advice on how to establish strong business relationships and how to sell trust instead of decorations.

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“If You Stand For Something, They Will Come” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 5 (feat. Roger Burnett of Social Good Promotions)

Promotional marketing companies have always tried to connect customers with the best products for their needs, but do those products always make the world a better place?

One company has found success with targeting the marketing needs of clients and aligning them with products that offer a deeper and more meaningful story.

Social Good Promotions works diligently to use promotional marketing products in a way that serves a greater purpose other than just simply being a canvas for a logo. They deeply believe in being socially responsible and try to give back in some way.

On this episode of Success Stories, we’ll discuss this with Roger Burnett and discover how his passion for improving the world, providing value, and always surprising and delighting his clients has moved him to the forefront of the promotional marketing space.

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“Creating Impactful Apparel Designs For Clients” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 4 (feat. Jeremy Picker of AMB3R Creative)

How do you tie creative art development into more sales? 

On this edition of the Success Stories podcast, we’ll dig into that by discussing how Jeremy Picker and his team of creative professionals have found success by going the extra mile when developing ideas for their clients. 

We’ll also touch on AMB3R Creative’s approach to developing impactful designs, that’ll get end users choosing to wear their clients’ promotional apparel over and over again.

AMB3R is a Colorado-based apparel design firm that brings fashion to people by creating products that people love. They serve non-profits, churches, restaurants, corporations, and other businesses with their team of talented designers and project managers that takes a kernel of an idea from start to finish. 

We’ll learn how they use t-shirts for everything from an entire clothing line, to a merchandising campaign for promotional products. 


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“Lessons Learned from ‘Here For Good’ Campaigns” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 3 (feat. Jarrod Hennis of Rockford Art Deli)

During and after the coronavirus pandemic, many screen-printing shops found success by developing a local “Here for Good” campaign to help surrounding businesses in their community stay afloat during these difficult times.

In Rockford, Illinois, Jarrod Hennis developed a “Here for Good” campaign and assisted businesses in his area to raise money by selling t-shirts.  Each shirt sold helped that local business, but also kept Jarrod’s shop, the Rockford Art Deli in business as well.

On this edition of Success Stories, we’re going to discuss the Rockford Art Deli’s “Here for Good” campaign and learn how it worked, what Jarrod learned, and how this idea is laying a solid foundation for a successful future in his community of Rockford, Illinois.

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“The Clinic Your Website Can’t Live Without” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 2 (feat. Shelby Craig of Rocket Shirts)

COVID-19 has shifted a lot more business online recently and with great uncertainty ahead, you’ll need to make sure people can find you online.  In this episode of Success Stories, we’ll help you get ahead of the competition and make sure you’re set up to drive new business to your website.

Shelby Craig with Rocket Shirts will be sharing his knowledge of what you’ll need to get optimized, and how it’s helped his business.  We’ll be touching on web design, search engine optimization, and tools that you can use to bring out your best results.

Shelby is a serial entrepreneur, marketing junkie, home chef, coffee connoisseur, and girl dad times three.  He’s also a t-shirt snob and is the founder of Rocket Shirts in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Join us on this podcast as we explore ways to make your website work for you and drive more sales to your door.

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“Pivoting Out of COVID-19” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 1 – (feat. Danny Rosin and Robert Fiveash of Brand Fuel)

A lot of revenue streams have dried up due to the COVID-19, and as a result, many businesses have been forced to pivot into a new direction.

Danny Rosin and Robert Fiveash, of Brand Fuel, have been leading a free-spirited brand merchandising agency for over 20 years, delivering experiences, eCommerce, inspiration, and top notch results for their customers. Find out how they’ve been able to use that experience to find success, with new opportunities opening up in today’s markets.

Continue reading ““Pivoting Out of COVID-19” – SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 1 – (feat. Danny Rosin and Robert Fiveash of Brand Fuel)”