Small Orders + Big Success in a Retail Space
Tell us a little about who you are and what you do:
Right now, I own a store front in the historic district of downtown Huntsville, Texas called Twisted Moon Graphics.
In 2014, I moved there to be closer to my daughter. I started working with a local screen printer, then went to work with a female owned and female focused custom apparel business that did screen printing and embroidery.
(I had also worked for Fox Sports Network and did photography and video for a local business, so this business seemed like a natural fit for me.)
I learned a lot from them about the need for attention to other female owned businesses and girls’ sports.
We opened April 24th, 2018 after purchasing our Digital HeatFX system (with the OKI pro8432WT transfer printer) .
What Niche or Market do you Serve?
One of the other reasons for opening this business, is because the local screen printers only take large orders. I saw a need for small order fulfillment.
Small businesses don’t need 18 shirts for their employees, maybe they need 1 or 2 for a new hire. Once I print the shirts, I can also do their business cards, forms, signs, banners and other things related to their business.
We are operating our business as a custom boutique printer with an emphasis on helping
other small crafters/ businesses fulfill orders for their customers – this can be Oki transfers, designs, or print jobs (business cards, forms, hang tags, banners, yard signs, etc.).
One FUN thing we do: we run coloring contests for the kids and print the winner’s creations on a shirt to keep. We will be working with the schools shortly to provide order forms for parents to get their kids art on a shirt as well.
What was your biggest hurdle in getting started?
The retail store was a big commitment – and we had to be ready for it.
We had already purchased the DigitalHeat FX System before we opened the storefront, so when the opportunity arose to rent a location, we needed to make sure we could afford for me to quit my full-time job and pay for everything.
Because we actually purchasing the printer in late 2017, we were able to have a nice tax return in 2018. But just to be sure I also decided to sell my car and drive my son’s truck while he was stationed in Sicily until 2020.
Once the financial hurdle was addressed, I had to get customers. We have only lived in this town since 2014, and we didn’t know many people, so social media had to help spread the word until it became common knowledge we were here. It is still not common knowledge, but word is getting out.
Also, “we” is really just “I” in all things (marketing, administrative, sales, design, website, oh, and actually decorating the shirts too), but “we” just sounds better. 😊
How do you decide what Markets to go after?
We decided to do both finished apparel and provide HTV, sign vinyl and blanks to crafters in the area. We were able to establish ourselves as the only store in town that sold vinyl, and we were here to help other businesses.
Once word spread, we tell anybody that has a heat press about Oki transfers and what we can do to help them keep their customers who ask for difficult designs that are hard to weed.
We went from ordering a box of EZ Peel Paper from ColDesi every other month, to every month, and even some days, we are still cutting it close from running out!
We also focus a lot on the other female businesses, aspiring artists and sporting teams (Girls BB, VB, Softball) do to our own shirts in quantity as well.
There are many people who also desire to start their own apparel line, so we try to reach them too.
What technologies do you use?
For design software I use Illustrator and Photoshop, but I also use lnDesign for print jobs as well as AfterEffects and Premiere Pro for any video work I do (memorial videos are also popular).
What do you get from ColDesi and why?
It took me about 3 months after contacting Holly W. at ColDesi to decide on the Oki 8432 and their Digital HeatX system.
I love that I could make one shirt at a time, unlike screen printing!
Also, I didn’t realize how important is was at the time, but that fact that I can print on almost anything has been a game changer. I like the feel of sublimation, but not the poly white I would be limited to.
How do you set your pricing?
This has been my biggest hurdle honestly. We have historically underpriced most of the small quantity shirts because we were used to pricing for screen printing quantities, but that had to stop.
Currently, it is the retail cost of the shirt+ $12 per side decorated. (If it is an easy design by my standards). If the design is complicated, I tell them I can wave the art fee if they order 10 shirts or more.
What products do you sell that other businesses might need?
I do sell the transfers to other customers, along with graphic design services. We also do custom wedding and graduation invitations, photo restoration, and fantasy photograph editing.
What is next for your company?
We definitely are looking at the DigitalHeat FX i550 along with the Brush N Bake Rhinestone system. We have our own apparel line (Hal & Peno) that we want to really start working on promoting too.
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Always take care of your customers, they are the reason you are doing this. There is such a need for good communication not only between shop owners and customers but between humans in general.
I used to work in a bar in lower Alabama, and I realized back then… sometimes people just need a human connection.
When a customer walks into my store, they are always welcomed and never made to feel like they are rushed out of the store.
When you take care of them, you build a future, loyal customer and friend.
Services like we do; individually packaging each order with the customer’s name, Twisted Moon Graphics hang tag with washing instructions, and what it is included in their individual bag. We also provide order forms with mockups for each ordering campaign (ex. for booster clubs or motorcycle clubs).
Oh, and double check, triple check your work!
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