7 Reasons For and Against Using Water-Based Inks

At screen-printing shop Night Owls, the crew only uses water-based inks. “We chose to move to an ‘ink solution’ that offers a higher-quality print for us,” says Eric Solomon, owner of the Houston-based shop. 

 “We love the way water-based ink works, we love the way it elevates our printing quality and the way it’s helped us elevate our craft.” 

Eric Solomon, owner of the Night Owls

Although design quality is always a huge factor in the printing process, another growing factor for some is how to print in a more environment friendly way. To be more “green,” do you need to move away from the traditional plastisols and toward water-based inks

Colette Wilhelm, owner of Contract Impressions in Cape Coral, FL, says that while water-based inks are touted as being better for the environment, they’re in fact, acrylic based. “However, they can give customers the great designs they crave, with a better ‘feel’ to the shirt,” she says. “We also recommend water-based inks for clients when it helps enforce their brands’ eco-friendly messaging.”

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of water-based screen-printing inks, along with some things to consider.

The Joys of Water-Based Inks

The screen printers who learn how to use water-based inks for vibrant, full-color and long-lasting designs love the versatility of the ink and its results. Here are seven reasons why they choose water-based over plastisols.

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10 Simple Ideas That Will Save Your Shop a Lot of Money

What if you could crowdsource all kinds of interesting, innovative and easy ideas to save money in your decorating shop? We decided to do the heavy lifting for you and asked nine successful embroiderers and screen printers to share some simple ways they boost their bottom lines. 

From buying used displays and making the most of every inch of your stabilizer, to going paperless and getting free shipping from your shoppers, you’re going to love this top 10 list.

1. Buy used and save lots of cash.

Need to furnish or redecorate your office or shop? Try finding deals on things like desks from the thrift store, a conference table off of Craigslist, filing cabinets from “buy, sale, trade” groups, and display fixtures from going-out-of-business sales. “To save dollars, we don’t buy about 85% of our displays, desks and other office essentials as new,” says Tanya , owner and graphic designer at The Visual Identity Vault. “The majority of our shop’s things are new to us, and they function and look just fine.”

2. Save your extra embroidery stabilizer.

“We save all the extra embroidery backing we cut off of jobs to use for smaller projects,” says Jennie Livezey, owner of Z Shirts Custom Printing. She and her team pick up the backing scraps, mostly from left-chest embroidery. 

For example, we just ran 165 beanies and didn’t use one new piece of backing,” Livezey says. “What we cut off is the perfect size for the Fast Clamps we use on our embroidery machines.”

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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.

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Why Finding Your Niche, Might Make You Rich

Does your decorating shop stand out from competitors? Really think about it—there are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of screen printers and embroiderers, many offering the same blanks and services as you. Don’t worry, we’ve got a smart way to separate yourself from the pack: Become a rockstar decorator, within your special niche.

While this isn’t something you can do overnight, when you position your shop as a “go-to decorator” for something specific, you’ll score repeat customers and watch your profits rise.

We talked to three successful decorators who’ve established themselves as experts in lucrative niches. (And, we’ve got insider secrets to fast-track your success!)

The Bling Brigade

Photos courtesy of Sparkle Plenty

“In this niche, if you’ve done the initial job well, you’re in for repeat orders—it’s that simple.”

Lee Romano Sequeira, Co-owner of Sparkle-Plenty.com

Husband-and-wife team Andrew Sequeira and Lee Romano Sequeira call their business a “big, sparkly niche.” For two decades, the Sparkle-Plenty.com co-owners have focused on offering custom rhinestone, stud and crystal transfers. “We use Swarovski crystal, the ‘Waterford’ of sparkle,” Andrew says. “It’s a decorating niche, since most shops focus on embroidery and ink. We offer something different for a specific market: women.”

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How Long Will Sales Opportunities Last for Masks?

As distributors and decorators begin to see “stay-at-home” restrictions slowly being lifted across the country, people are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But, the question of what business will look like, even after restrictions are lifted, still looms large.

Because there’s lots of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its lasting effect on our society, we may see businesses and the general public continue to take precautionary measures for the foreseeable future.

As a result, our society may start to think differently about how we interact and do business with each other on a daily basis. That kind of change, can often open up new markets of opportunity, and decorated face masks are becoming just that.

Bayside – USA-Made 100% Cotton Face Mask – 1900

Information Is Changing Our Mindset

A recent article in Forbes magazine pointed out a study revealing:

“Just one minute of loud speaking could generate at least a thousand virus-containing little droplets of fluid that may hang in the air for over eight minutes.”

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The Top Seven Color Trends Predicted by Pantone for Winter 2019

Each season, Pantone Color Institute graces us with their Fashion Color Trend Report based on the stunning pieces flaunted down the runway by top designers at both New York and London Fashion Week. The Fall/Winter 2019/2020 report includes a radiant display of bold and classic colors, proving that this year is all about individuality and expression

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, describes the collections as ranging from, “easy and sophisticated to strikingly different and unique.” 

As high fashion always seems to trickle down to the mainstream, it serves as a valuable piece of information to help make guided decisions for your upcoming inventory for the colder months ahead. 

Of the total 32 colors chosen as inspirational highlights (16 for New York Fashion Week, 16 for London Fashion Week), we chose the top seven most wearable hues you can expect to see in every shade this winter—along with a few products in similar color options. 

Pantone’s Top Seven Color Trends for Winter 2019

1. Chili Pepper: Pantone 19-1557 

A spicier cousin to Pantone’s spring ‘Fiesta’ shade, Chili Pepper is listed as the leading color for fall and winter this year. Incorporate a touch of the hue for added drama within your designs by selecting tees with statement sleeves, or showing some flavor with an all-red fabric and simple embroidered logo. 

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The Fair Use Defense: What is it and How does it Apply to Businesses?

The proliferation of appropriation art—or art that intentionally copies another person’s work and alters it in some way—has been at the forefront of a series of copyright infringement cases over the last few decades. A common defense used in this age-old strategy is “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. This claim has provoked a longstanding debate among the industry. 

To some, the ability to claim “fair use” opens up the possibility to creatively expand upon existing visual works. However, others fear it opens up their material to exploitation at the hands of well-known artists and companies who make minor “cosmetic upgrades” and then take credit for the work as their own.

Of the 64 percent of professional photographers who had their work stolen in 2016, commercial businesses were responsible for 28 percent of the theft. 

As a business owner and decorator, it’s important to thoroughly understand the difference between “fair use” and copyright infringement to avoid costly lawsuits. But don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. 

*Please note, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with your personal legal advisor before relying upon the information provided. 

The Fair Use Defense 

What is Fair Use?

“Fair use” is outlined in a set of guidelines found in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. copyright act. It allows the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the owner in specific cases. Essentially, the guidelines give people the ability to build upon the work of another so long as it doesn’t deprive the original artist of the right to “control and benefit from their works.” 

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10 Ways to Increases Sales AND Create Good Business Karma

Distributor Rick Tidd has helped raise $750,000 for charity and local organizations during his 35-year career—and wants to hit a cool million before he retires.

“My primary goal is to help people, so that’s why I get involved in charitable efforts,” says Tidd, owner of Findlay, OH-based Mad Hatter Promotions. “But it also tends to help my business, since people invariably end up asking what I do and then want to work with me.”

Michelle Long, CEO of Glen Burnie, MD-based Hullabaloo Promos, agrees. “As a community, we need to work together,” she says. “If you have the capability to assist a neighboring company or school, it just seems like the right thing to do.”
But how do you get started when you’re busy running a business? “Evaluating your options is simple— don’t take on anything that will cause your business to lose money,” says Long, who advises that processing orders at a discount, at cost or as a donation for advertising is best. “It’s a balance, though. Remember to leave time for your regular clients.”

There are lots of charitable organizations, many with branches in your area, that would love your help. When you support a nonprofit that aligns with your firm’s values, you’ll also attract like-minded customers. One idea: Tidd recommends choosing a charity that you want to affiliate with—and offering up a few hundred tote bags free or at End Quantity Pricing, if they’re hosting an event. “You get to add your logo as a sponsor,” he says. “You can even ask one of your clients to sponsor the bags or other items for the charity, and put both of your logos on it. It makes everyone happy.”

Tidd has repeated this charitable model in one form or another over and over, helping to raise three-quarters of a million dollars for his local community. For a Kentucky Derby-themed gala to raise money for his local senior center, Tidd produces a printed whiskey glass or stemless wine glass each year. “We’ve gotten our customers to sponsor the glasses,” Tidd says. “And we all get our logos on the drinkware.” For his local Honor Flight Network veterans program, Tidd sources “challenge” coins, “good conduct” medal pins and celluloid pins at cost. “We’ve saved the group more than $2,000 vs. a retail cost,” he says. 

Read on to learn more about how generous distributors have gotten involved in their local communities—and been paid back in dividends. Plus, get some great ideas on how you can get involved.

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The Marketing Strategy Your Brand Shouldn’t Ignore

As consumer trust of brands continues to plummet, shoppers look toward recommendations from friends, family and peers—leading more companies to invest in influencer marketing on social media.

More than just a marketing buzzword, the digital age has allowed businesses of all sizes to partner with trusted online leaders (or “influencers”) to drive a brand message to a dedicated audience—opening the door for smaller brands and budgets.

From fashionistas to hypebeasts to techies, there’s an influencer niche for pretty much every market. Yes, even “kidfluencers” exist.

Brands looking to partner with kidfluencers (influencers under the age of 13) must be extremely cautious. Sometimes known as “spawn con”, there are a lot of ethical debates concerning companies who partner with kids and their behind-the-scenes parents for social media marketing.

Currently, there aren’t any definitive laws protecting insta-famous children and their ad earnings like the Coogan Law does for child actors.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking to start a kids’ streetwear line and want to work with kidfluencers, we recommend reading this article by Adweek for tips on how to ethically engage partnerships.

If you’re not ready to work with the complexities of child influencers, there are plenty of older influencers out there to help spread your brand’s message! Read on for how to build a brand partnership with influencers.

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Why Funny Tees Work: The Top 3 Comedy Theories Explained

In case you haven’t noticed, funny tees have been extremely popular as of late, with no indication of slowing down. In fact, on Etsy alone, there are over 93,000 results for ‘funny graphic tee’. If you haven’t considered adding the style to your custom apparel offerings, now is definitely the time.

Now, we know what you’re thinkingwhat exactly makes something funny? Is there a formula you can easily recreate for your own tees?

As it turns out, scientists and philosophers have been pondering several theories behind humor for hundreds of years. While it may not be an exact formula, understanding why people think situations are funny can inspire ideas for your creative new apparel.

To help provide some direction, we narrowed it down to the top three comedy theories. Let’s take a look!

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