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Growing an Embroidery & Screen Printing Business Out West

Name:  Emerson Parsons

Company:  Snake River Embroidery Company

Address: 4197 N Bristol Drive, Idaho Falls, ID 83401

Website: www.SRECIdaho.com      

Phone: 208-523-7685

Tell us a little about who you are and what you do:

We specialize in embroidery and screen printing services, custom apparel decoration.

What was your biggest hurdle in getting started?

My biggest hurdle getting started was finding a customer base.

I started with a single needle embroidery machine; the size of the smallest sewing machine found in a local department store. I participated in and sold my first products at our farmers’ market. Week after week, I was diligent in attending, trying to sell towels with designs I thought people would like.

It was there at the farmers market I met a school principal from Blackfoot, ID. She asked if I could embroider polos for her staff. I immediately agreed.

There was only one problem, I didn’t have the first clue of where to purchase the polos she wanted, at a wholesale cost. I called our local screen-printing shops to see if I could purchase polos from them. I was careful not to contact a company that offered embroidery services.

A local screen-printing company agreed to sell me polos at a cost very close to theirs.

Fortunately, I was able to fulfill the order in a timely manner. I maintained contact with the company that helped me out. From them I received quite a bit of work. I became their embroidery sub-contractor. [CAS Startups Tip: Partnerships like this are a GREAT way to jumpstart a new business!

What Equipment do you have?

I own 4 Avance 1501C commercial embroidery machines and a DigitalHeat FX OKI9541 white toner printer from ColDesi. A Brother PE770 machine and a manual screen printing set up.

With an increasing workload from the screen-printing company, I needed a real embroidery machine.

I surfed YouTube and watched how professional machines changed colors automatically, trimmed between embroidered letters, embroidered hats. My mind was blown. It was like watching a magic show.

But how do I… employed at $9.00 per hour at a local pet store, and an aspiring entrepreneur purchase an embroidery machine ranging from a price of $12,000 to $20,000?!

In 2015 I made contact with an out of town Brother dealer. The owners said they were selling the business. I think as one of their last sales, they offered to sell me a $12,000 Brother PE770 for $8000. What a deal!! Where do I get $8,000?!?!

I called my dad and explained I had a growing embroidery gig and needed a bigger machine. As the supportive father he is, and with a repayment arrangement, he borrowed the money I needed to get the equipment needed to handle the workload from the screen-printing company.

But to answer this question, my work load grew so much, I am now the proud owner of 4 Avance 1501C 15 needle single head machines. (and 6 years later, the Brother PE770 machine is still running strong).

To meet customer demands, I also purchased the DigitalHeat FX OKI Pro 9541WT from ColDesi. I heat press with two air powered GeoKnight DK20SP heat presses.

I used to screen print with a  manual press, but I have found purchasing transfers, using heat transfer vinyls, as well as abilities of the OKI printer, I haven’t needed to use our manual screen printing press since 2018.

Over 50% of my business is in transfers!   

What did you purchase from ColDesi and why?

I purchased 3 Avance 1501C single head embroidery machines in 2019. Business is growing so quickly that in 2020 I purchased a 4th Avance single head embroidery machine.

Customers were also demanding low quantity, full color prints. Not anything that the cost of ordering full color transfers would make any financial sense to the customer. To meet the need of low quantity, full color print requests, the OKI Pro 9541WT has been a lifesaver.

I used ColDesi as a referral from a friend who also purchased some equipment from ColDesi. The pricing was more than fair.

Keep in mind I ordered the Brother PE770 (6 needle, no cap frames or drivers, or extra hoops) for $8000. I approached the owners of the Brother store for a second machine and they quoted closer to $10,000 for the same machine.

In speaking with ColDesi, Tracy worked me such a great deal on 3 machines it was hard to say no. Later, she honored the same price for a 4th machine. A 15 needle machine, with threads included, cap driver and frames, and two frames of each side for a price to rival the Brother… It was a no brainer. ColDesi, you’re my new best friend. 

But there’s more! Thanks for the great pricing! But where do I get the funding?!?!

I spent a lot of time on the ColDesi website and learned about equipment financing. This is the program for me. After a quick application process, I was approved for the funding I needed to secure the equipment that will grow my business.

Shout out to Katrina at Adia Capital.

How do you set your pricing?

This was a rough one. I was told by an embroidery shop owner to “price whatever works for you”. Of course they didn’t want to reveal their pricing. After a few phone calls and talking to people in the trade, I found a price that fits well into the Idaho Falls market.

I like to set pricing that is fair to the customer, make them feel like they are getting the best bang for their buck, but at a price that covers my materials and labor.

I used to work as a Deputy Sheriff (2015-2020) for the Bonneville County Sheriff’s office. I quit in March 2020 to carry my business full time. I strive to set pricing, and have a daily sales goal to equal the rate of a 12 hour overtime shift at the Sheriff’s office.

 

What products do you sell that other businesses might need?

I have corporate customers who need to outfit their employees with polos and dress attire, embroidered with their company logos.

I also have customers that sell products on their online stores. I sell and embroider caps with their designs. They sell the caps as part of their store merchandise.

What’s next for your company?

We just finished expanding our office to all more room for printing, and processing shipping. Our biggest customers are growing so quickly, I am prepared to secure all of the resources I need to keep up and serve their needs. I have the employees and I have the equipment. My next focus is maintaining an efficient manufacturing process to keep up with the growth of my customers while delivering the best product I can offer. 

What Advice would you give someone just starting out?

It took me 5 years before I felt comfortable enough to quit my full-time job to run my shop. Regardless of the successes, the hurdles, and everything in between, I didn’t give up. I kept learning, researching, and when the time was right, purchased the equipment from ColDesi and hired the employees as needed. I never gave up on my dream to be self-employed. At the age of 33, I quit my job and ran my shop full time. Thanks to the support of my community, I have the highest rated embroidery shop in east Idaho.