Printwear

February '13

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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an extra commission or two for being the middleman for a change? The other is opportunity. Wouldn't it be a positive move to present yourself as a full-service shop and teach your customers that you can handle whatever they bring your way? And how about a third reason… just for good measure? Do you want to send your potential customer to a screen printer or a mug or pen supplier and find out too late that they offer embroidery through a contracting partner—and that partner is not you? The downsides of contracting out are small when compared to the benefits. Providing the customer with timely and diversified service, all the while maintaining your machine schedule with the work you can handle, doing what you do best, is a win-win. The price is set once it is quoted, no surprises. Paperwork is minimal, and when you find a contractor you trust implicitly, the process gets even easier. Perhaps one of the best benefits is that you don't have to make the investment in the extra space and equipment, or suffer through the learning curve. If the day comes that you want to spend the money and learn a new skill, you will already know a lot about the process. Research Is the Key The key to being able to collect that extra money and be a full-service shop is finding the right contracting partners for your business. Research and education are both important cornerstones in the foundation of a relationship with any contractor. Do your homework and find large shop owners who share your work ethics. They should do quality work, honor their promised turnaround times and not have an agenda that includes taking over your clients. Let's face it, it's difficult to hide identities when your customer's name and logo is getting printed on that mug or pen, or stitched on that shirt and cap. One of the best places to find a specialist is an Internet forum. I founded the Embroidery Line in 1997 (www.embroideryline.net), and it is the oldest continuous-running professional embroidery forum online. With members from at least five continents, the Embroidery Line offers sourcing information as well as advice on all aspects of embroidery. Many of the members use contract help in their businesses and can help you find a partner that will not only allow you to offer a competitive price and still make a profit, but also produce quality work that will make you proud to offer it. Request any brochures available from your prospective contractor and study their website. Ask for references, but remember that businesses will always provide testimonials that sing their praise. That's when an email forum comes in handy… you may not hear the negatives publicly, but you may hear privately from someone who may disagree with a recommendation. Also, always request a sample so you can judge the quality of the work for yourself. As far as the education requirement, you should learn as much as you can about the different processes so you can sell them to your customers, communicate intelligently with your contractor and be on your way to success if you decide to branch out in those directions in your own business. easy augmentation I have met many embroiderers over the years that walked before they ran, who grew innovatively, but carefully. One bought a machine—just a single head—and took in work for two. When she was sending out enough work to a trusted contractor to justify a second machine, she bought it. She then took in more work than two heads could do, and jobbed out the overflow until she had the income to justify another addition. And so she grew. Today she has more than 100 heads, two shifts and an impressive staff. She still takes in more than she can do—and has branched out into screen printing and direct-to-garment printing. Still, one has to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince—but there are contractors worthy of your hire. The prime ingredient in any transaction is trust. Find someone who will do quality work, on time, at the established price. Without trust you are flying blind and will, more than likely, crash into a reality that benefits no one. Your own ethics are your best gauge, especially if you get involved with a reciprocal agreement. Maybe you will stitch individual names on jacket orders for your screen printer, and in return, he will produce your printed goods. "Begin as you mean to go on" is a sentiment I express often; if you don't steal customers from your printer, he won't steal customers from you. I realize it would be naive to believe that this will be consistently true, but I have found that it is a lot harder for people to behave unethically in the face of honesty. Sending love With the arrival of February we have turned a corner. Spring may be a bit of a walk, but it is there. It is also the month when we celebrate love. Don't forget to appreciate someone who makes your life easier—even if it is a pad printer or engraver. You don't have to tell them you love them…but do make it a point to tell the ones you love. HHM pw 2013 February Printwear PW_FEB13.indd 67 | 67 1/18/13 10:14 AM

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