Custom Screen Printing began as a side project of mine in back in 2008. For those who don't remember it, that was the end of the housing boom and the beginning of the Great Recession. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the ideal time to start a promotional company… but I have been never the sort of person who believes in taking the easy route.
At the time, I was working in the automotive engineering field, when most major car manufacturers were either filing for bankruptcy or considering it as a survival option. As I watched everyone I respected face layoff or a forced retirement, I realized that this had nothing to do with my personal 30-year plan. Ironically, it's also what it took for me to begin questioning exactly what is was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Two thoughts stood out: I didn’t want to sit at an engineering desk for the next 30 years, and I didn’t want to work for anyone else.
In the process of thinking about my future, I was forced to reflect on my past. Which moments in life did I truly enjoy? The one that kept showing itself to me was the time spent in college, traveling in a 1971 VW pop-top, following a couple of bands, and selling t-shirts as a means of getting to the next show. It was simple, and may sound foolish to some… but these were the best times I had ever experienced until that point. As the hours sitting behind that desk added up, I continued to reflect on summers spent selling t-shirts to people who loved music.
I had a little money saved up at the time, so I started doing some research. In my search I found some used Caps equipment, a 4-color press, a tiny dryer, and a flash. Looking back, it was essentially $3,000 worth of junk, though I found a way to make it work. After renting a space in a not-so-nice part of town, I started printing some t-shirts.
My first company was Guerrilla Ink, which went on until about 2011. At about that time, I had to make the decision to close the company and lose a deadweight partner. Closing one's first company is more difficult and emotionally draining than most people can imagine. At their core, no one wants to fail. When you invest a great deal of time and effort into something, the feelings of losing it are not much different than the feelings that follow the loss of a family member. But I knew it had to happen in order to get to where I wanted to be.
From there, I was determined to not throw away all of the work I had done. I still had a modest customer base, along with all of my original designs, so I made the decision to rebrand the company as Guerrilla Tees. At the same time, I partnered up with another t shirt shop. In 3 years we went from 7 people to almost 35. We started with 2 manuals, and ended up running 4 auto’s and 5 manuals in a new 20,000 sq ft building.
It was around this time when I made the decision that I had to move on. My vision wasn’t to run an enormous factory, and I didn’t want to settle for partners who had a different philosophy on business. So again, I decided to pack up and move my part of the business.
Over the few years I was with that company, I had been finishing a building on my property that was originally intended to be a studio. That’s when everything came together and I realized that I could run my own business from home. I had a brand new auto, 2 new manuals, a nice embroidery machine, and a few dye sub presses. I also had a few websites that were making some money, and a decent number of local customers. So, once again, I decided to go for it.
That brings us to today. I can happily say I have been operating a very successful business on a property that I've owned for the last 3 years. I now staff 6 full-time employees, as well as a few part-timers. It has no doubt been an incredible struggle to get to this point, but it has also been the most rewarding accomplishment of my life. I would like to thank everyone who helped make this possible… my friends, family, and all of my valued customers who have supported us throughout the years.