How one sign shop owner transformed his business with determination, a thorough plan, and creative commerce.
Wright decided his first step in researching the opportunity would be talking to his current clients. Many of them were small companies of two to five employees – not necessarily large enough to need the dozens of shirts that would warrant a screen printed order. Wright hopped on the phone: “‘If we started doing T-shirts, would you be willing? If you wanted shirts, how many would you order? Would you be willing to do it at this price point?’ And everyone I spoke to said yes.”
Wright then called local screen and direct-to-garment printers, asking questions like a potential customer. He sought to understand their markets and pricing models. “Screen printers just don’t want to touch [DTG],” he says, so he looked for a market niche that the local garment decorators weren’t meeting. “The main focus was these small businesses that couldn’t afford these huge runs.”
Then it was all about the math. He assumed a bare minimum: “If I only sell this many shirts in a month, I can make the payment just for the machine, and that’s all I’m concerned about at the moment.”
After five months of research, the family was on board, and Signworx bought an AnaJet MP5i direct-to-garment printer. The goal was to see a return on the investment in a year. They did it in six months, and today, they earn enough money for the monthly lease in just a week.
Marketing and Maintenance
No new venture is without its challenges. Wright says the biggest obstacle was simply solving the mystery of how to make DTG understandable for local customers who were stuck on the tradition of screen printing.
“When you tell them you just print directly onto the shirt, a lot of people are kind of hesitant, going, ‘Uh, it doesn’t sound like it’s gonna be that good,’” he says. “Most of that was overcome by saying, ‘Just come down to my shop and I’ll print one for you.’ About 75 percent of the time, people would buy shirts after that.”
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