“Changing the Direction of Your Business” SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 16 (feat. Ryan Dost & Adam McCauley of Sandlot Sports)

During the onset of Covid-19, Sandlot Sports had to make a dramatic shift in their business from selling athletic and sports-based merchandise to more of a B2B focus. Ryan Dost and Adam McCauley join the show to talk about this shift in a new direction, and their plans for the future in 2021 and beyond.

If you’ve been trying to move your business in a different direction, this is one episode you don’t want to miss.

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Apparel Decoration Myths vs Facts: Can You Really Decorate These?

This session was featured in The S&S Virtual Experience (Feb 2021)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow, this is a really cool product, but there’s just no way to decorate it for clients” or “This thing is just too difficult to decorate?” Then, this is the segment for you.

Our Head of Corporate Training and Dev, Stephan Baere meets up with STAHLS Senior VP, Josh Ellsworth, to dispel myths about some of those products you might have labeled “impossible to decorate”, while showing you some neat decorating tricks along the way.

Download the directions for all the demonstrations shown in the video here:

Featured Panelists:

  • Stephan Baere – Head of Corporate Training and Development at S&S Activewear
  • Josh Ellsworth – Senior VP, Dealer & Enterprise Sales at STAHLS

STAHLS‘® Featured Products:

S&S Featured Products:

CLICK HERE to see the other videos from our virtual event.

How Decorators Are Adapting to Customer’s New Needs & Purchasing Habits

This session was featured in The S&S Virtual Experience (Feb 2021)

Lots of decorators have seen major shifts in their business, since the arrival of Covid-19. Some of those shifts were forced upon them by the sudden changes in business, which came along with the pandemic, and some were a result of them seizing new opportunities that began popping up.

In the video above, Mark Graham, of commonsku, leads four short 1-on-1 discussions with industry decorators to talk about, how they we’re affected by these shifts, what adjustments they made, opportunities that we’re already coming about, before the pandemic, and how 2020 created other meaningful changes at their company.

Featured Panelists:

Session Takeaways:

“Kitting” is now huge.

One of the biggest changes that occurred last year, was the complete stoppage of in-person events. Companies that would normally have ordered decorated items for their corporate events, trade shows or promotional needs, now suddenly had to rethink how they engaged with their customers and employees.

Lucas Guariglia, CEO at Rowboat Creative, mentions how he tried to find solutions for these businesses by really becoming more of a partner and consultant to them. Doing so gave him and his staff the ability to offer really creative ideas for how these companies could develop a unique at-home unboxing experience, though the use of kits with decorated swag, which really connected with their audience in a more personal way.

“We try immerse ourselves into their (the client’s) company culture…immerse ourselves into what they are trying to get across…For us, it really is becoming part of that company”

Lucas Guariglia, CEO & Co-Founder at Rowboat Creative
Continue reading “How Decorators Are Adapting to Customer’s New Needs & Purchasing Habits”

How to Increase Your Profit Margins on Decorated Apparel w/ the S&S Brands & Fashion Model

Since the early days of the company, S&S Activewear has always been all-in on fashion brands. Rather than focusing on developing private label options like many of the suppliers were doing at the time, we invested heavily on the retail brands that people still love and recognize today.

” The first thing I always say, when someone requests a non-premium item…is ‘why do you want that garment?’ and ‘what’s the reason?’

– Brian Geffen – President of Duds by Dudes

That investment has definitely been huge, not only for us, but also for our customers. Over the past several years, fashion trends have been increasingly influencing the kinds of apparel options that are available to and sought after in the wholesale channel. Because of that initial investment, we’ve been bringing those trends to you the whole time.

People no longer want to wake up in the morning and just put on the same tired old boxy tee, stiff polo, or plain embroidered woven. They want something that speaks to who they are as an individual. They want something, with a quality fit and feel, from a brand they recognize, which also gives them the ability to wear it from one occasion to the next, while still looking stylish.

So during a time when dress codes are expanding, customization is increasing and trends are rapidly changing, it’s now more important than ever, to capitalize on breadth of fashionable apparel options available for your business to sell. It’s time to start moving your clients away from the basics and towards premium fashion-forward options that’ll increase your margins and bring in the profits.

In the video above, our very own, Nolan Parker, leads an informative conversation with decorator, Brian Geffen and promotional products distributor, Chris Rosburg, to discuss this growing shift in the desire for decorating on fashion-forward and retail branded apparel, as well as how to convince your clients to buy premium products.

You’ll also hear how this is impacting their businesses, driving consumer demand, how the work-from-home movement is changing workwear, and get some terrific tips on how to set yourself apart from the competition.

Featured Panelists:

CLICK HERE to see the other videos from our virtual event.

A Close Look At 2021 Apparel Trends, What’s Selling and Who’s Buying

This session was featured in The S&S Virtual Experience (Feb 2021)

Learn about the top apparel and accessory trends kicking off in 2021, from a few of our Brand partners and S&S reps. We’ll also share our top 10 must-have categories, so you won’t want to miss this one.

Featured Panelists:

CLICK HERE to see the other videos from our virtual event.

How To Do Print On Demand the Right Way

This session was featured in The S&S Virtual Experience (Feb 2021)

Print-On-Demand and the use of online stores took off in 2020. Marshall Atkinson, of Atkinson Consulting, leads a panel of industry experts to talk about this major shift and give you tips on how to do it right.

Featured Panelists:

CLICK HERE to see the other videos from our virtual event.

Session Takeaways:

Print-On-Demand is here to stay.

Not only did the events of 2020 lead to a huge spike in the creation and use of online stores, it also gave lots a businesses a chance to see the benefits that a print-on-demand model can bring with it.

Kevin Oakley, owner of Stoked on Printing, says that with many warehouses needing to close last year, businesses had to lean on them for fulfillment, because they weren’t able to do it themselves. With that, came revelations that P.O.D. allowed these companies to keep from worrying about warehousing and shipping out products, because decorators could now provide that service for them.

“We really feel that Pandora’s box has opened, as far as print-on-demand and on-demand manufacturing, in general”

Kevin Oakley, Owner of Stoked on Printing
Continue reading “How To Do Print On Demand the Right Way”

Sustainability and CSR: Why it Matters to Consumers and How to Sell it

This session was featured in The S&S Virtual Experience (Feb 2021)

Sustainability and CSR is increasingly moving to the forefront of consumers minds. David Shultz, of Commonsku and PromoCares, leads a panel of suppliers and distributors to discuss the increase in demand for sustainable products and how you can incorporate them into conversations with your clients.

Featured Panelists:

CLICK HERE to see the other videos from our virtual event.

Session Takeaways:

More corporations and schools are starting to ask for sustainability metrics on apparel.

Denise Taschereau , co-Founder of Fairware, says that she’s starting to see more conventional corporations ask for background data on apparel.

“We’ve seen, in the last two to three years…what we would call more conventional companies coming to us and asking us for some pretty deep sustainability, metrics or information.”

Denise Taschereau , co-Founder of Fairware

Tech companies, universities and even those in the food industry are starting to map their carbon footprint as a company, all the way through their own operations, into their vendors operations and into the suppliers operations.

Continue reading “Sustainability and CSR: Why it Matters to Consumers and How to Sell it”

Are You Ready to Acquire Another Shop? Here’s How to Tell

Imagine acquiring six other shops in the last seven years—and then getting listed on the Inc. “5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America” list, for that rapid (and sustainable) growth. 

That’s exactly what Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision Tees out of Dubuque, Iowa, was able to do, by making the expansion of his business and obtaining new customers, a primary focus. “To move forward, get momentum in your business and grow it, you’ve got to step on the gas,” he says. “That’s what we call our ‘Growth Acquisition System.’” 

“A good shop that’s set up to acquire another shop needs the management team and infrastructure in place to handle the growth and all the moving parts to make an acquisition go smoothly.”

Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision Tees

Rauen started his decorating business, in 2005, out his parents’ basement. After three months, he moved into a 2,000-square-foot shop in a high-traffic area, with a single-head embroidery machine and a six-color, manual screen-printing press. “My goal has always been to build a solid foundation for my business,” he says. “First, we reinvested in equipment and technology, and then as we began to grow, we reinvested in our team.” In 2012, Envision Tees moved into a 7,000-square-foot building. Now, the business resides in a huge 35,000-square-foot facility, operating two manual and four automatic presses, 50 embroidery heads, two laser engraving machines and two large-format printers.

Envision Tees’ latest, big acquisition was five years in the making and happened during a pandemic year: Franklin, NJ-based, 1800Tshirts.com. “I wanted that famous phone number, so I reached out to the owner in 2015,” Rauen says. “He wanted to continue the conversation in 2020, when he planned to retire. That seemed so far away at the time, but I stayed in touch every six months. Despite COVID-19, 2020 was the year we made it happen.”

Jason Parke is another decorator whose built his empire though similar acquisitions. President of The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery in Springfield, MO, Parke has acquired three screen-printing and embroidery businesses, since founding his own shop in 2007. When he first started, he didn’t know a lot about printing or embroidery, so he watched several videos done by screen-printing veteran, Ryan Moor.

“I soon realized that if I wanted to take off, I couldn’t do it as a one-man shop,” Parke says. His first acquisition in 2009 happened by chance: He subbed out an order that required a sleeve print. After he found the subcontract shop, Corner Graphics, he started the acquisition process. Within two months, he owned the 26-year-old shop for $35,000.

Parke learned a lot with this acquisition. “Although I purchased the business at a good price, it came with a lot of expenses like old equipment that needed replacing,” he says. “We had to rebuild a tattered reputation. However, I also inherited two amazing employees who are still with me today. The staff knew all aspects of the business and taught me what I needed to know.”

If you’re thinking about acquiring your first (or another) shop, you’re in luck. We picked Rauen’s and Parke’s brains to get all their insider tips on the whole process.

To acquire, or not to acquire?

Acquisitions aren’t easy if you’ve never experienced one before, Rauen says. “There are a lot of moving parts on both the buying and selling side,” he says. “Before you jump in, it’s important to know that acquisitions take a lot of time, energy and resources to complete successfully. Weigh your growth strategy options first because there may be better options, if you don’t know the ins and outs of an acquisition.”

“You can’t ignore red flags when you’re looking at acquiring another shop. If you think you see a red flag, there’s a good chance it exists. Sometimes, it makes better business sense to walk away.”

Jason Parke, President of The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery 

Starting from the bottom

Parke cautions that acquisitions can be expensive. “Shop owners sometimes get more concerned with the art or craftsmanship of a shop they want to buy, rather than the actual business aspect of the screen-printing and embroidery business.”

In 2018, Parke wanted to grow his market share, so a business broker paired him with a local screen printing competitor. “This was our largest acquisition and I wanted it, so I ignored a lot of red flags,” he says. “Everything that could go wrong, went wrong every step of the way. For example, the previous owner was difficult to work with and withheld information. More than half the employees who came with the business and quite a few of their customers didn’t want to give us a chance.” 

Ultimately, Parke says, the team who remained has been great and they moved the merged business to a newer, bigger facility. “We bought a great building with tons of room to grow,” he says. “Without acquiring this new company, there’s no way we could have bought it on our own.”

Acquisitions come in other forms, too, such as purchasing media, traffic sources and intellectual property. “This could include art catalogs and portfolios that you’ll use or license to others,” Rauen says. “You can also acquire podcasts, social media accounts, events, and other sources of traffic to increase the number of clients coming into your business.”

What’s the value of your new acquisition

According to Rauen, you need to look at concrete numbers when you’re acquiring a shop:
What’s the annual revenue? 
What’s the profit? “The numbers tell you the story,” he says. “When you look at the P&L, you can also see where you can reduce costs.”

Is there a good customer list? 

“Make sure that they have their list with all the contact info you need in a CRM,” he says. “Is anything missing or is it just one big mess?”What’s the value of the customer list? “See if the top 20% of their clients are bringing in 80% of the revenue,” he says. “Focus on the value and volume of their larger national accounts that can still continue to bring in significant revenue post-acquisition.”

How about the equipment and inventory? 

Rauen says the new equipment should align with yours. “If you have all M&Rs or Tajimas  it might be harder to sync up with a different brand. And you’ll have different file types, platens and squeegees. Plus, you’ll need a different service tech.” 

How about their art files? 

“Are there 500 or 5,000 files?” Rauen says. “There’s great value in how much time their graphic designers spent creating these files, especially for embroidery digitizing, since that can be expensive if you need to recreate those. And are those files organized or do you have no idea how to find anything?”

As an example of how to value your acquisition, consider Parke’s experience. For four years, Parke outsourced his embroidery to five different subcontractors, and it was proving to be time-consuming. On top of that, the quality wasn’t consistent either. That’s why in 2014, he decided to acquire an embroidery business. As part of its allure, the new retail and contract shop once had kiosks inside every Bass Pro Shop in the United States, along with kiosks inside Silver Dollar City and a store at the Branson Landing, both in Branson, MO. 

“There was a skilled, experienced embroiderer who wanted to continue working with us,” Parke says. “There were also two machines, more than 10,000 valuable digitized files and a large book of customer contact information.” While there were some challenges to overcome, Parke felt that his $25,000 investment to bring embroidery in-house was definitely a win.

Is your shop ready to acquire another one?

There’s no-one-size-fits-all answer for this, because every shop’s situation is unique. However, there are still some general things to consider. “A good shop that’s set up to acquire another shop needs the management team and infrastructure in place to handle the growth and all the moving parts to make the acquisition go smoothly,” Rauen says.

When you’re looking to acquire another shop, a good rule of thumb is to look for one that fills a service need in your shop or works with your business plan. “An example would be a screen-printing shop that outsources their embroidery,” Rauens says. “Once their outsourced embroidery grows beyond a certain volume, it may make sense to look to acquire an embroidery shop to bring that service in-house or possibly acquire the contract decorator.”

Rauen and Parke outline five things you need in place personally—and in your shop—to acquire another business:

1. Do you have good systems in place? “You need to be organized and have a detailed plan going into the acquisition,” Parke says.

2. Can you improvise and adapt? The best-laid plans will sometimes go off kilter. “You need to be a leader who can easily change course and come up with a new plan when you need to,” Parke says.
3. Does your shop align with the seller’s? “Your vision and values should align with the owner’s, along with the company culture and customer base. If these things don’t align, you’ll realize very quickly that your shop won’t m
esh with theirs,”
 Rauen says.

4. Are you ready to work with frustrated people? Parke points out that often, the employees in the shop you’re acquiring might be angry, confused or worried about the future. “They may not like change, so you need to be there to build that bridge,” he says.

5. Can you communicate well? Remember, you’re bringing a whole, new group of people, employees and customers, into your organization. “Be ready to openly and honestly communicate how things will look moving forward, so they know what to expect,” Parke says. “You’ll also need to go out and meet your newly acquired customer base. That’s the only way you’ll retain them.”

6. Can you handle risk? “Hopefully your acquisition will go well, but do you have a contingency plan if it isn’t successful?” Parke says. “Are you in a spot financially that you can recover?”

7. Are you willing to walk away? With one of his acquisitions, Parke had tunnel vision and didn’t care. “I wanted to do the deal and ignored multiple red flags,” he says. “If you see a red flag, it probably exists. For example, if the seller doesn’t give you the information you need, you probably need to walk away.”

Starting small at square one

If you’re a shop owner, who’s decided to explore an acquisition, Rauen advises looking small and locally at first. “There can be some big wins and also some major learning lessons, so if you start off small, your lessons learned will be less painful or make less of an impact,” he says. “Once you’ve gone through one or two acquisitions, you can learn to adjust and find the sweet spot that works best for you and your business.”

“The Art of Leveling Up Your Business” SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 15 (feat. Eric Solomon of Night Owls)

How are you with the mindset of failing?  Its a well known fact that people usually learn more from their mistakes, than from their successes. 

As we move through our careers and businesses, the concept of constantly evolving and learning has helped one business thrive.

Eric Solomon with Night Owls in Houston Texas has taken the concept of leveling up by constantly challenging themselves to do better.  

On today’s Success Stories podcast, we will explore the notion of how learning and the concept of intentionally conquering challenges, have set them apart from other screen printers.

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Continue reading ““The Art of Leveling Up Your Business” SUCCESS STORIES Podcast: Ep. 15 (feat. Eric Solomon of Night Owls)”

Is Accepting Rush Orders Good For Your Business?

“I need 100 screen-printed shirts, but I needed them yesterday.” It’s a pretty common scenario for decorating shops to get a phone call that starts with that harried line. Rush and last-minute orders are part of doing business in this industry, and shop owners have mixed feelings about how to handle them.

“We’re in the sales and customer service business, so customers ask for things, not realizing how it affects our world,” says Jordy Gamson, co-founder at The Icebox“You want to make their lives easier, but sometimes it creates havoc on our side of the fence.”

“We do our best to accommodate a new customer’s fast-turn request, so it doesn’t affect our other customers. It’s an ongoing challenge, but we’re always trying to rise to the occasion.” 

Jordy Gamson, co-founder of The Icebox

Sandy Jo Pilgram, owner of Rhinestonetemplates.com and The T-Shirt Shop 56601, takes last-minute orders and upcharges for them accordingly. “These last-minute orders don’t affect my other jobs,” she says. “I build in time to fulfill those requests after-hours, and we get it done.”

While you probably won’t see the value in taking every rush order that comes your way, there are times when it makes good business sense. “We do our best to accommodate a new or existing customer’s fast-turn request so it doesn’t affect our other customers,” Gamson says. “It’s an ongoing challenge, but we’re always trying to rise to the occasion.” 

Now might be a good time to look at how you could incorporate last-minute requests into your shop’s operations, without stressing your team or normal workflow. You might even identify some bottlenecks that prevent you from flexing your production workflow with ease.

Here are eight ways to think about adding rush orders into your shop’s regular workflow.

Continue reading “Is Accepting Rush Orders Good For Your Business?”