Ryan Moor and Brett Bowden are two of screen printing's finest. Shaped by the grind from performing live music, Ryan and Brett both carved out unique niches for their brands.
We interviewed them at ISS Long Beach and discussed the crucial topics that screen printing shops struggle with:
Ryan Moor founded the ubiquitous Ryonet, a blossoming supplier and distribution network that's partnered with top-quality Portuguese screen printing machine manufacturer ROQ. The Ryonet YouTube channel is likely the most popular for screen printing – their tutorials and tips have undeniably launched hundreds of print shops. More recently, Ryan has partnered with several print shops to create Allmade, an ethically sourced apparel brand.
Brett Bowden founded Printed Threads "once we realized we weren't going to be The Rolling Stones." Located in Keller, TX just north of Fort Worth, Printed Threads is known for its powerful and distinct branding. Brett "just wants to help people," and regularly teaches the Ryonet Screen Printing Experience at his shop. The unique image that Brett has created makes Printed Threads highly visible and endlessly entertaining.
Project 376 was just launched by Ryonet. This detailed, multi-step action plan is a real initiative to reduce the harmful environmental impact of production screen printing.
Know what your shop really is.
Brett says these are totally different things:
"You don't have to have a giant print shop to be successful," Brett remarked.
Ryan's advice is a bit simpler. He tells us: "Don't try to cut corners." Investing in yourself, your people, and your operations is key to sustaining your business – no matter what your end goal is.
This advice is something we've seen before from expert print shop consultant Mark Coudray. Having a genuine vision and knowing how to move toward it is much better than floundering from job to job.
Brett tells us that increasing your efficiency is a no-brainer. "You can print shirts for two hours [with an automatic], then have time to go sell, to write invoices, to do all the other things that need to be done."
Ryan lays out the three ways to automate your shop:
Both Ryan and Brett laughed at this question and called it interesting – not because it's bad, but because it's tough! They both agreed that it's something to think about. It's a real challenge.
Ryan suggests really identifying your core values and then talking about those a lot.
Brett takes it a step further: "I think you have to give them something to live for." He tells us that Printed Threads' team enjoys being around each other whether they're at work or not, and that feeds into the team's cohesion in the shop. "We genuinely like each other. If you can have those offline relationships, then you care about each other during the work day."
Brett tells us to approach things thoughtfully. That means to think all the time but also think about the people around you.
Ryan urges good communication: the boss doesn't want to be a bad guy and the employee doesn't want to perform poorly – but those are the boxes we get put in because of outside forces. He also tells us that paying your employees well is crucial.
Mistakes are inevitable – it's how you adapt and overcome them that really matters.
Brett urges you to avoid growing too fast. "You have to build a house from the foundation up."
You can find dream customers and giant orders, but if your processes and workflow aren't in place, you'll find yourself unequipped to handle the customers' demands.
Growth takes a lot of cash and a rock-solid plan (as well as tireless execution and introspection). If you misprint a big order, burn a high-profile client, or get a glut of negative reviews you will have to expend a lot of time and energy to undo the damage.
Ryan tells us that not investing in yourself and cutting corners is the single biggest mistake. You may have to combine several systems or create your own solution for the problems you face, but you've got to seek solutions that are both sustainable and lucrative over the long term.
Ryan and Brett agree: Cleanliness.
Ryan also recounts shop tour horror stories: negative experiences where press operators and other employees are obviously in conflict with their boss.
Ryan and Brett want to see smiles. They want to see great attitudes. They want to feel like it's a comfortable, welcoming environment. Why would anyone want to work at a shop that feels more like a prison than a creative enterprise?
"You can tell it's a good place to work. Versus someone that literally treats their people like animals. You see the crap coming off the press. You treat somebody like crap and they're going to put crap out."
"Charge more! Raise your prices!" Brett pleads.
A rising tide raises all ships. Brett and Ryan really want you to think about how you can raise your prices. It's time to stop the race to the bottom and end the war to undercut everything and everyone.
Brett suggests time studies to see how long it actually takes to print your jobs. This can help you find your utilization, which will tell you the actual hourly rate your shop should charge to stay profitable.
Ryan offers some practical advice: "Know your revenue per team member."
He says you can get a quick estimate for the value an employee adds by considering a metric that Zappos uses: revenue per team member. The Zappos standard is about $200k of revenue per employee.
This simple metric lets them know how much each team member contributes. When someone isn't contributing, they're re-trained, relocated, or asked to step down.
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Brett gives us simple, clear advice that really does work:
"I like searching out clients you really want to work with. See a cool company? Start sending them gifts. Send them your merch. Send them ideas for what you can do for their brand to make it better. Send them wine. Send them cool stuff. Maybe they’ll start paying attention to you."
He recounts a friend that would use super-targeted billboards and signage on the routes of ad executives. The point is that you should go to great lengths to get the attention of the brands, businesses, and people you really want to work with.
Ryan's point is brutally honest. He says that if Ryonet and Printed Threads suddenly disappeared tomorrow, people would go on printing t-shirts just fine.
The industry is vast and there's a lot of competition, so carefully managing and maintaining the strong relationships you have with your clients is a #1 priority.
"Go out and see your customers. Realize that, our customers, we have to serve them first."
Brett has an immediate answer for this one: it's the screens! This sounds right on the money to us. Computer-to-screen, automated reclaiming, and a multitude of other high-tech efficiency improvements are possible – but they require capital and volume.
Think about all of the ways that your screens can become a production bottleneck:
"If your press doesn't have screens, you are screwed." You've got to be ready for production tomorrow.
It should be no surprise that Ryan suggests you check out the Ryonet YouTube channel. They've launched the careers of hundreds of screen printers and made Ryan into an industry celebrity – with several videos reaching millions of views.
Brett and Ryan also have a more actionable piece of advice: find a mentor.
Whether that's another shop owner or a friend online that knows the industry, there's no lack of opportunities for learning and growth. There are events like trade shows, screen printing conferences and more that can connect you with peers and experts.
Brett really wants screen printers to attend trade shows:
"Go to trade shows. [...] We meet people like the emulsion manufacturers. Those guys are scientists and chemists. They can help you print better!"
Videos, blogs, and instructions are all great resources. But they don't replace the hands-on, detailed, personalized knowledge a real mentor can share.
Some context: this video was filmed at ISS Long Beach in January.
There were rumors of Allmade's ethically sourced clothing brand moving to a distributor. Ryan joked that the trade show was the place to find them, but told us we'd hear something by the middle of 2019.
So no breaking news here – just a friendly reminder that Allmade's catalog is easy to integrate into Printavo.
A big thank you to Brett Bowden and Ryan Moor for talking to us. Brett and Ryan are two of the industry's finest ambassadors. We agree with them: we want to see more screen printers succeed, too!
We interviewed some of the custom apparel industry's brightest leaders at ISS Long Beach 2019. Their insights and knowledge are powerful and surprising. Here's a few of the other figures in screen printing we talked to:
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