Company: Terri’s Affordable Embroidery
Owner: Terri LaRochelle
Type of Business: Commercial Embroidery, Direct to Garment
Success from Franchise to Freedom
Commercial Embroidery Business Story
Terri has a story that many of our customers can relate too; working for and running someone else’s business. Read how she broke out of the employee mold and took control of her own business.
How did you get started in Apparel Decorating?
I used to do cross-stitch by hand then I had problems with my hands and could not do it any more. I got a small embroidery machine and the more I did it the more I wanted to keep doing more!
Then we went to a larger machine and I also got a job working for an Embroidme franchise and running their embroidery equipment. It has just became a passion for me.
I love the outcome of embroidery so that’s what I decided to focus on.
What technologies do you use?
We do embroidery and are up to 3 SWF commercial machines that we bought from ColDesi in Tampa. We’ve also got a DTG Viper for direct to garment printing and we do rhinestone transfers and t-shirts.
Have multiple technologies lets us get new customers more easily and have several different things we can do for our existing ones.
What kind of equipment did you purchase and why?
I have had training in many fields and have done a lot of on-line research. I also started getting Impressions Magazine and reading everything in there from the ads and articles. In the end we bought 2 of the SWF E/1501T commercial single head embroidery machines.Those are the ones with the tables. We got the table models so that I can embroider on larger things, like horse pads and blankets.
I also have an SWF E/1501C in my house, which was the first one we bought from Scott Levine at ColDesi. We chose this one as our first for both the price and the fact that it was a compact and took up less space.
We purchased a Viper direct to garment printer too, so that I do not have to sub out most of our custom t shirt printing work. We also got the pretreat machine to go with it too, it’s much neater and more consistent that way. Basically, you put the t-shirt on a platen and put it into the pre treat machine and it handles the spraying. Same amount every time and much less mess.
How do you decide what Markets to go after?
Well, after running someone else’s business for 4 years and deciding to go out on my own I knew the area and what good local customers wanted and needed. So we do things like local sports teams, company polo shirts, etc. All in our area for now.
For example, I got a big job doing embroidery on caps for a local kids baseball league – my two new embroidery machines showed up just in time!
How do you set your prices?
Using that same experience of the local market.
What was your biggest hurdle in getting started?
Figuring out what machines I wanted to get. I did a lot of research before I went with SWF and bought from ColDesi. Scott Levine was great and it’s important to deal with someone who really knows what he’s talking about.
What advice would you give someone just getting started?
Make sure you know what you are doing! Get educated about the products, understand what the customers want.
Getting all the great equipment in the world won’t help you if you don’t know your market and how to do the work. One of the things that I bring to this new business is that I already know how to embroidery caps, set up jobs, work the software. If you don’t already, make sure you get great training!
To build up my business and wait to see what comes out next year. Figure out what the new fashions are and be ready to respond to that market too. You have to know what your customers like!
One of Terri’s first jobs was to embroider caps for a local baseball team. An order for 200 units that needed to be done over the weekend!
The SWF 1501T machines that she bought have full sized, adjustable tables for doing towels, horse blankets, draperies or any large items. The come with all the same features as her compact version too.
Direct to Garment Printing is something Terri just added to her business. She’s already got lots of customers asking for custom printed tees. After all, the same people, companies and organizations that might need an embroidered cap or polo will also need a jersey or special event t-shirt.
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