Owner: Jason & Melissa Spiers
Year Established: 2005
Type of business: General apparel decoration – screen printing and embroidery.
Small Town Apparel Decorator’s Grows Business To Over A Million.
Hattiesburg, Mississippi is a city of just under 50,000 people in a little less than 50 square miles of land about half way between Gulfport on the coast and the capitol in Jackson. It’s also the town that JMH Graphics has called home since 2005, and grown from a $250,000 per year start up to more than 6 times that, from 4 to 14 employees and from an 1100 sq ft shop to a 5,000 square foot space.. PLUS warehouse facilities.
Jason Spiers, part of the husband and wife team that started JMH, spoke to ColDesi today about his business and his partnership with ColDesi over the years.
First of all Jason, tell us about your business and how you got started.
We started out buying a single head SWF embroidery machine and DTG Kiosk from ColDesi, or SWFEast back then. Don Copeland was and is still our salesperson, and we met the owner, Scott Colman. We were down in Orlando one weekend on vacation and Scott opened up for us we got a chance to see the embroidery machine in person, which was great.
But we started off first not having a machine at all and just taking orders and working with contract embroiderers and screen printers. Then when we had enough orders we bought the DTG Printer and Embroidery Machine. Within less than 4 months, we were so busy we traded in the single head embroidery machine for a 6 head machine!
Great story! So where are you now, still doing embroidery and DTG?
We actually JUST sold our SWF multi head machine and bought a 4 head and a 6 head Avancé. We loved the SWF, but actually like the Avancé even better. They were super easy to learn, especially after Sean (Sean Gaddeus, Avancé Tech from ColDesi) came to set it up. Our operators were up and running within and hour.
Our custom printed t shirt business has grown so much that we now have 2 automatic and 2 manual screen presses and no longer do DTG, we just don’t have time for smaller orders or samples.
Now we employ 14 people and I spend my time running the business instead of an embroidery machine.
What do you like better about the Avancé multi head vs. the SWF?
The main things are that it’s much quieter, and your really notice that in a shop with 10 heads or more in it, and that it does better with small fonts. I’ve seen Barudan machines that are supposed to be the best with small font embroidery, but I think the Avancé is just as good if not better.
Where do you get your customers?
I’d say about 70% of our business is local and 30% is within about a 2 hour drive of where we are. The DTG and single head embroidery machine we bought years ago really helped us figure out what kind of business we want to run and got us a good customer base.
We do pay per click advertising with Google Ad Words and SEO for our websites, but our biggest advertising is through local radio. We’ve got an arrangement with Clear Channel locally and that brings us a lot of business.
Our website is super important to our business. We’ve been using DecoNetwork since the beginning. It’s an easy do it yourself platform so you don’t need to hire a developer to build you one. We’re working on 2 new ones too; one just for professional embroidery and one for our new sign business.
Do you use Facebook or any Social Media?
I used to use Facebook some, but it just became a place for people to complain or ask for free things or orders that were just too small for us. I still have a page, but really don’t use it or check it. I would rather used Google pay per click advertising to get customers; I can change ads anytime and it brings me the kind of customers I want.
How has it been dealing with ColDesi?
We actually bought the 2 big Avancé 15 needle multi head machines just because ColDesi sells them. I called up Don Copeland one day and said I needed to upgrade my SWF and he said that he’s got these new machines that are great, and that was good enough for me. Don has been super exceptional and the support department and all the extra online materials that you have are all great. I know Don would take care of me.
ColDesi has been there since we got started and are almost like part of the family.
What kind of services could you offer other ColDesi customers?
We specialize in large volume embroidery and screen printing, so anyone with a single head embroidery machine that gets an order too big to handle, or someone with a DTG Printer that is too busy can call us for a quote. We’ve been where you are, so know it’s important to offer big jobs to your customers too. That’s where we can help.
Who is your average customer?
Our market varies, but we cater mostly to the school and professional side of the industry. We are in a university town, so a large portion of our sales go to the university.
What ways do you market your direct to garment printing?
When we purchased our DTG we honestly had no idea what we were going to do with it. It was mainly to be for sample prints, and small reorders for our pre-exisiting screen printing customers. We kind of “fell into” the internet side of the market by opening an online store that offered customization of single shirts. By taking advantage of online advertising, we were able to make the digital side of our operation a huge success. I would say we brought in over $60,000 in the first six months of owning our DTG machine. Since then we have branched out our digital printing to our local market as well. We utilize the digital side of our business for smaller orders on white and light garments that would be more time consuming to screen print. We do dark garments as well for one off’s and special occasions and have built quite a name for our digital printing process in our local area. Mostly word of mouth has been our greatest advertising avenue in promoting the product.
Do you feel like the addition of direct to garment printing has also helped increased sales in your core market of screen printing?
The addition of Direct to Garment printing has greatly increased our market share of screen printing. It has opened us up to a whole new world of customers, that need single shirts as well as larger orders later in the year. Being able to effectively market on the internet to one off customers allows us a new audience as well. I would say 70% of our online customers are digital, and 30% are screen printing. It’s a great compliment to an existing business plan.
Let’s see if I have this correct – you added direct to garment printing to your business in 2007 and began to market it via the internet, subsequently you also generated a lot of orders for screen print work as well.Would you consider this a turning point in your business?
There’s no question that adding direct to garment printing was a turning point for our business. Not only did it open a new market to us, it put us leaps ahead of our competition in the local market, as well “pushing” us to develop new marketing plans to make the equipment a success. The addition of new processes and equipment to an existing business is always what you make of it. To coin an old catch phrase, “if you sell it, they will come.”
After direct to garment printing – what was the next logical step for your business?
After we let our dive into the digital market mature, the next logical set was embroidery.
I see… what factors led you to add embroidery to your business?
Embroidery was just the next step to offering full line apparel decoration. By being fully vertically integrated with our decoration processes, we are able to cut costs, and in turn out perform and out sell our competition. We have been building a viable customer base for embroidery for the last few years by using a contract embroidery service to fulfill the orders. Once the money we were sending out equaled or was greater than the money we would spend on a monthly note, we decided it was best to move it in-house.
Wow, you went from a single head embroidery machine to a six head embroidery machine in 4 months! How were you able to grow this aspect of your business so quickly?
We run a lot of sales and promotions to increase our customer base. While we don’t make a high margin, we use the opportunity to bring in new customers and show them that our customer service, turn time, and end product are top quality. Essentially, we are “investing” in our customer base by providing them with the initial incentive to shop with us, and making our margin on the residual sales. We used the same approach with our screen printing business and are now (after 3 to 4 years of “investment) starting to see a great return in profits.
You seem to be pretty brand-loyal – how important has your relationship with ColDesi been in the growth of your business?
ColDesi has been a great asset to our company. We did a lot of research on direct to garment printers before and after going to SGIA in Orlando and seeing the machines, as well as talking with the staff from ColDesi, we felt confident that was the best choice for us. We haven’t been let down either. The customer service is top notch, you can always count on tech support to get back with you in a timely manner, and the sales team has been most helpful when it came time to decide which machine would best fit what we are trying to do with our company. When we decided to move to in-house embroidery, ColDesi was a natural choice based on our previous history with their line of DTG machines.
It seems like you have done a great job of growing your business these past three years. What key points would you give to the readers that you feel are important in growing a business from one-dimensional to multi-dimension like you have?
Customer relations are the key factor in building a multi-dimensional business. If you stay in “constant contact,” so to speak, with your customers, you can let them know about new services and products you offer, or will be offering, as well as specials and promotions. We send out periodic email campaigns as well as mailers and thank you cards to keep people informed, and keep ourselves in the public eye.
What services does JMH Graphics offer that our readers might be interested in?
We offer contract screen printing and embroidery services, as well as business start up consulting to people new to the industry.
The Avancé 1504 multi head embroidery machine – comes with the ability to do Flats and Caps For more information on this machine click here.
The Avancé 1506C is a 6 head professional embroidery machine designed to fit in a small space, but still give you 6 head productivity and performance. Shown here embroidering one of its first Cap jobs for JMH Graphics!
One of the features that JMH likes most about their new Avancé machines is their ability to sew out terrific small fonts.