Josh Keane from Thread Monster Printing gives us an inside look into his growth from not only treating customers right but hacking social media.
Bruce: Hey everybody, this is Bruce from printavo.com here, simple shop management software. Today, for our "Lessons and Learning's Podcast," we're actually going to be interviewing Josh Keen from Thread Monster. As you could see, Steve Ferret from last week's podcast, from Campus Sportswear, "How to dominate a College Wear Market" is here too, to co-host. He wanted to hop in. So, the more the merrier. Josh, welcome and thanks for taking some time out with us.
Josh: No problem. Excited to be here.
Bruce: So, if you could start, tell us a little bit about your shop, where you guys are at now and just a quick overview of how you started.
Josh: Sure. So, my shop is called Thread Monster. We started about four or five years ago with $1600 and a 600 square foot warehouse. We had a four-color, four-station press that we bought with no name on it and a 600 square foot warehouse that was about the size of a garage and kinda just grew it from there. Every month we put more money. All our profits back in the company to buy new equipment. Kinda just slowly make it faster, better products. We learned from scratch. So, you know, YouTube videos and making a mistake and messing up a shirt and losing money, which is a really, really hard way to grow and learn, but it's kinda the way you do it when you don't have any other options.
We never worked in any other shops or we really even know how a T-shit was printed until we kinda just read up on it and did it and once we started doing it kinda just...after maybe six months it finally just clicked and we grew it from there, and people started knowing that we printed T-shirts, so you could tell your Aunt Sally that you print T-shirts and your Aunt Sally tells her friend Dan and Dan tells John, and pretty soon you got 20 new customers, you know, it kinda just went from there. And now here we are. We have 3,000 square feet, one auto. We're gonna add at least another auto this year and looking to just grow tremendously in the next couple of years.
Bruce: Got it. So, starting from the beginning there too, what made you guys kinda decide to get into printing shirts, specifically?
Josh: So, a little bit about myself. I actually started my first company when I was 18. I'm 26, so, I started my first company when I was 18. It was a pick-up and delivery dry cleaning company, where basically, I contracted with a dry cleaner to clean shirts and I would go to banks and big office high-rises and stuff and go in there and give them a bag and I'd say, "Hey," you know, "Wells Fargo, here's a bag for each of your employees," and they'd all put their clothes in there and I'd go and pick them up and then I'd drop them off at a dry cleaner. Well, I was actually making really good money.
We were doing $2000 or $3000 a week, profits about 50% and I was only working like three hours and I was like, "Man this is good money." I was only 18 and I was also going to school and playing lacrosse full time, and I already had a passion for business so I knew that was where I wanted to go. And then one day I was walking through my college campus and I was like, "Man, everybody wears T-shirts," like, "and T-shirts are kind of like people's expressions about themselves," and I thought that was a really cool idea and I was like, "I wanna start a clothing company." So we started a clothing company. It was called "Beautiful Era."
It was okay. It didn't do a tremendous amount of sales but it was kinda just our first foray into T-shirts and our first order was $4,000 and we called this printer and we had them print our shirts and they were kinda just...there was no customer service. It was...they were great printers and I would never say anything bad about another shop and I won't even mention their name. They're still great printers this day but they just...it was like, we were really, really, really excited about first order. It was 4,000 shirts. Sorry, $4,000 worth of shirts and we were just really excited and they like didn't share our excitement and they didn't even, like, pretend to share the excitement, you know, like, I get that you've been doing this for years but it was like, I'm giving you all this money and then you're not happy. It's just a process. I'm just another customer in a long line of customers and I felt like there was a market there, like, to be excited with the customer for their order.
And so that's what we decided to do. We said, "Screw it. We're gonna print our own shirts," and I guess we started with such a small setup and it just went from there and it was amazing. It was like, as soon as you opened up and just were excited with the customer for their order and walked them through it and had any even semblance of customer service, people flocked to that and, you know, I like to say we also got a little bit lucky because some of business is getting lucky but a lot of it's just being in the right place at the right time and surviving for as long as you can until you can really be successful. And so I like to say we kinda got lucky, we were in the right place and we do a dang good job, you know.
Steve: So, Josh...
Bruce: Yeah, go ahead, Steve.
Steve: No, I was just gonna ask you Josh, so now you, I mean you've had some explosive growth enough to warrant the best of five years, are you still the one interacting with customers a lot or do you guys have like a, you know, what's your office staff look like? Tell us a little about that so our listeners can kinda get a taste of what you're talking about.
Josh: Right. You know what? That's the hardest part is its hard finding somebody that can replace you because you're the one that's gonna care most about your business. So I was lucky enough that my business partner Joey, who's, like I said, he's also my best friend. We've been friends since like second grade, we played baseball together, our Dads coached us and stuff like that. I'm lucky enough to have like a really good divide in our business. So, I run the business side. I talk to all of our customers. I, you know, I'm the one with the growth plans and going to the bank and delivering shirts to customers and passing out business cards and going to marketing events and all of that stuff, where he can stay here and he can really run the shop.
Right now it is just a lot of me. 18-hour days, 17-hour days just talking on the phone all the time, you know, emails and all that stuff and we're really looking to hire some more staff this year, but that was always the one that I always wanted to put towards the last because to me, it's hard to find somebody that can talk to people like you can, you know. If you're decent at talking to people, that's not a skill everybody has and some people are kinda awkward on the phone. Some people are little bit awkward talking to customers, and not very many people are gonna care as much as you do as a business owner, you know, and it's hard to find those people that care.
So, we always focused on getting more staff to print shirts because that's not an easy skill either. Most people don't know how to print shirts. Most people don't know how to run an auto or, you know, mix a color or, you know, sling a squeegee, you know, and so, that's the hardest part we have found about working in this industry is find good people in any position, but specifically printing because it's a lot of quality control. You're printing 20,000 shirts and if you mess up...and you're printing maybe 700 an hour or 800 an hour or 1,000 an hour, so, when you're printing at that speed, not only do you mess up one shirt when you realize you made a mistake, you just messed up 50 shirts or 100 shirts and the faster you can print the more mistakes you can make.
So, we're kind of focused on that side of the business and I still take the grunt of... Sorry. The brunt of most of the phone calls and emails and stuff like that, but we really do need...that's like, that's the part that's holding us back right now is I need to hire an office staff but it's just hard to get really really good people that you can respect and trust them to leave. Like I said, I just got back from Chicago. It'd be hard to find somebody I could just leave and say, "Hey, take care of these customers for me" because the other thing is the customers know me, you know. They're your friends. They invite you to their barbecues at their houses and it's hard to get away from that and give it to somebody...put it in somebody else's hands, you know.
Steve: So, how many people do you have now working for you?
Josh: So there's five of us right now and then we have two part...actually we have three part-time people we call in when we really need some help. Just local people that, you know, looking for extra side jobs wherever they can get them, but we have five people in our shop and they kind of...Joey kinda runs and manages those guys and they can run the auto, they can run the manual. They clean screens.
Usually on a Monday we'll do about, you know, 50 or 100 screens on a Monday and then kinda use them throughout the week and then if we need more we'll clean them throughout the rest of the week, but we either do that or we do kind of Monday and then Wednesday we'll clean a bunch more screens as well and then those guys...which I keep everybody multi-faceted so that they can clean screens. They can also print. Just because it...it makes for a better shop atmosphere, you know. Some people don't. Everybody's different, right, but some people wanna have that...that something different to do every day. They don't necessarily wanna just clean screens all day because it's kind of a...some people find it therapeutic. Some people absolutely hate it because it's just...I don't know...I doubt you've ever cleaned a screen Bruce but you're welcome to come into my shop and clean a screen anytime you want, but it's just a process.
So it's very...there's steps and, you know, you take off the ink, you take off the tape, you dip it in the dip tank, you pull it out and wash it off, you spray degreaser on it. Then you wash it off again and it takes anywhere from four to eight minutes of screening, you know. So it's like, it's just a really specific process and it really like... Some people find it therapeutic because it's like, you know, it's like a rock garden or something, you know. You're raking your rocks in this specific shape and you have this goal in mind and your goal is to keep the screen completely clean, so at the end it's really satisfying for some because it went from ink everywhere and emulsion everywhere, to like now it's completely clean and you start over. And it's kinda cool, but some people hate it. So, we try not to make it.
So there's one guy running that one thing all the time because that kinda gets boring, you know. So we wanna have some...a little bit of fun, you know. We let different people play their music every day so there's always kind different...we got reggae one day, gangster rap the next, you now, but it's fun. We try to make everybody happy and make it so they're not bored with their job and they don't hate it and wanna leave, you know.
Bruce: Yeah. No. That's interesting. I talked to Steve about this. We actually...so Printavo came out of running a print shop and we had a small four by four too and it could not have been to code building but it was...it worked and we were printing a ton for the [inaudible 00:09:54]
Josh: I didn't even know you had a print shop.
Bruce: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's completely where I was like man, like, "We need something to help keep us organized," and I didn't like anything that was out there at the time so...
Josh: That's awesome. I had no clue. I just thought you were just like a software guy who built a program and just started doing it.
Steve: Bruce actually competed with Campus Sportswear. I don't think he knows that or not, but my business partners like, "Yeah, we remember that kid when he was in college and..."
Bruce: Yeah, we were hustling, I mean, it was just all, you know, like you guys there working, but, no. And that's why I like to talk to you guys too because it's interesting. You talked too about, Josh, customer service, and everyone likes to talk about that we give the best. We're here for the customer. We're number one, right, but what are some more specific things that you think you do that really make it stand out to the customers?
Josh: I mean, I've driven three hours to drop, you know, shirts off to a customer on a Friday night at two in the morning, you know, like, we really try to go the extra mile and make sure the customer's happy and we meet deadlines because if we don't then it's kinda pointless, you know. If somebody wants a thousand shirts for a barbecue Saturday morning and they're not finished on Friday night, they have to get them before that Saturday morning and we'll do everything we can to get them there.
I mean, we've next day aired things to customers. We printed for Ashton Kutcher one time. We had to next day air to LA on a Saturday and things like that happen. I've driven three hours before. I've driven... I finished a job literally, jumped on the freeway...I live in California so our freeways are, you know, if you pretty much leave any time on a weekday after 2:00, you're not coming back for four hours.
You got three or four hours of traffic that you gotta work with, and you know it's gonna suck but you just hop on, throw on a podcast and just drive and you drop off a box [inaudible 00:11:44]. I think one order was like 24 shirts but it was just to make the customer happy, you know. You wanna make sure that they get what they need and you provide a good service and if you can't do that then there's kinda no reason to be in the industry because you're nothing without your customers, you know.
Bruce: Have you ever...I was just curious. Have you guys ever looked at, like handwritten cards or things like that on the holidays?
Josh: Sure. Sure. No, handwritten cards are awesome. We send cupcakes to some customers and I would love to do more handwritten cards, but its hard finding the time. But, you know, you're totally right. I love handwritten cards. I know there's also some people that cheat and they do the...you can actually get...there's a company out there that'll do handwritten but not handwritten cards. It's like a machine...
Bruce: Yeah. I've seen. I've seen. Yeah.
Josh: ...that'll draw with handwriting. It's actually kind of cool. I don't know if anybody would even notice but it's kind of a little cheating because people think it's handwritten, you know. I guess there's some statistic...
Steve: [crosstalk 00:12:37] I think it's called, like, Bond or something.
Josh: Yeah there's some statistic that says like 80% of people will open up a handwritten card versus, like, you know, 30% of people will open up a generic, fake, non-handwritten card, you know, and that's kinda cool.
Steve: Yeah. So, Josh, do you find, like, your big wins are more like customer, you know, keeping those customer relationships, like, interacting with them so they bring you more and more and more or are you doing a lot of, like cold-calling to find new orders? Like, what's your balance?
Josh: It seems like most of your customers just keeping them happy. You know and you call them all the time, you make sure everything's happening. I just check up, like, not even to sell anything, like, I think that's the biggest thing is people always think that sales is about selling and it's really not. It's about just getting to know people.
When somebody says they're getting married, you call them on their wedding day or, you know, you email them on their wedding day and say, "I hope you have a great wedding." You know, just like making sure that they know that you care and, like I said, it is about business, but it's not. Most of our business is about making friends and making...meeting new customers, but they're not necessarily just customers. You don't think of them as just customers. They're people that... There's Joey back. There he's grabbing...there's fridge behind me so he's grabbing his lunch.
It's not always about just sales and that's what I tell people. People come in all the time and they're like, "Hey," you know. "What about this? What about that?" And I'm like, "I'm not a salesman. I am, and I'm good at what I do but I'm not trying to sell you something. You're coming to me for a product and I'm just trying to help you find that thing that you need." That's like...to me, that's like 90% of our job is if somebody wants T-shirts, they don't even know what they want. They don't exactly have a design necessarily. They have maybe something in their head, but it's figuring out what they want and how to get them what they have in their mind's vision, you know. And I think a lot of it's just relationships.
It's not necessarily, like, I don't necessarily think of all my customers as customers. A lot of them are just friends that I've met. We've been...they've been customers, you know, for five years and now we're friends. I stop by, we have a beer, you know, just stuff like that to make it so it's not just about sales. It's not just about, "Hey, how many shirts are you buying this week?" and that really actually does drive sales. It's about being honest and open and not about just being like, "Hey, how many shirts are you gonna buy this week," you know.
Bruce: Yeah. Have you done any more specific marketing tactics? Obviously, networking and word-of-mouth is the biggest, most reliable way but have you tried anything else online, offline?
Josh: So we, we do Instagram. We probably get about two orders a week from Instagram.
Bruce: What are you doing more specifically on Instagram?
Josh: So, the biggest thing about Instagram I think is it's...a lot of it's just a popularity contest, you know. It's, "How many followers do you have?" And if you have more followers you look more legit, and if you don't, then you don't look more legit. So they're thinking you're just, you know, a small time garage printer and there's nothing wrong with being a garage printer, I think it's just, it's all about how big you think you are, is how big customers will think you are, you know.
Like, if you say, "I'm in a garage and we're really tiny," then people think that you're not really serious about what you do. So, it's really hard to get those fortune 500 companies, those Googles, those, you know, those Microsofts, those Apples. It's hard to get those customers if they know you're in a garage. So a lot of the times you wanna say, "Hey, we're a shop." You don't have to say you're in a garage. You can say, "Hey, we're a shop over here, wherever" and you kinda just, you tell them about your business. You emphasize the great parts about your business, and I think a lot of people get mad about being a garage.
Obviously, we're not in a garage shop but a lot of people...a lot of printers out there get kinda discouraged about being in a garage shop and people talk down about them, but a lot of it's just like, knowing who you are and what you wanna be and playing to those strings. Not saying, "Hey, I'm a small garage shop." It's "Hey, we're a shop. We're over here. We print this many shirts. We're great at what we do. Here's a sample of our product." Don't emphasize about being small and in a garage.
Emphasize just how great your stuff is and that's kinda what Instagram is. It's just, it's all pictures and it's all totally fake in that you're taking pictures of things that you know are gonna make you look good in... You don't take a picture of your mistakes. You don't say, "I messed up on this 50 shirt order." Like, "Here's a picture of it," you know. Like, it's all...like all social media. It's kind of like, it's the best you, right. Like, you don't post like, "I just got hit by a truck and like I'm like, you know, squished on the ground." It's, "Hey", like, "I'm going to Maui. Look how awesome. We're having a great time." And that's kinda what like most of marketing is. It's just posting these good, awesome things...
Steve: Didn't you [inaudible 00:16:59] viral. You went viral and it was just from you screwing out of the foil print, right?
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. Just recently we went viral, I mean, semi-viral. We got, I don't know, I think it was like 190,000 views on our post and then Business Insider hit us up and they wanted us to do an interview with them. They have 29 million followers and they wanted us to do a 90-second video. And it's really, really specific too. They like, broke it down, like, "We want a 30-second shot of this and a 10-second shot of this, and we want this and that." And they called it, "Paint," which was a little bit...bugged me a little bit because it's actually ink and screen printing.
Anybody out there listening that's not a screen printer, it's called "ink." But no, and that's just funny. Most people just joke about that, but screen printers are quite serious about their ink so it's just called "ink." Yeah, they contacted us and they wanted us to do a feature with them and that'll be kinda interesting. My printers were kinda mad at me because foil's not easy to do and so they think if people see us doing foil on with 29 million people seeing it, then everybody's gonna want foil now, and we're just gonna be, like, you know, for the next two nears just gonna be foils jobs. But Instagram, and in social media it's about just, popularity and a lot of what we did when we first started was just follow people.
I would follow people, I would comment, I would like. Just try and kinda be genuine a little bit, you know, "Hey, we're Thread Monster. If you guys ever need anything let us know," but not just comment randomly. Just, somebody posts about a shirt, like, "Hey, does anybody know good shirt places?" or whatever, and you'd say, "Hey, we're Thread Monster. Please just give us a call if you need anything," and, you know, when somebody posts pictures of their dog, "Oh, your dog's really cute." And they are really cute but it's also just getting out there and being a person and not necessarily a business.
You don't wanna... I think a lot of the times people juts kinda try to play the numbers game, you know, it's like, I'm gonna comment on a million things with a generic, great picture and then they think they're gonna get something out of it, and it's not. You're actually gonna push people away because they're gonna be like, "This is bullshit. This person isn't even a real...this is just copy paste it."
Bruce: That's pretty cool though. So, I'm curious more about that video too. Was it something that you guys purposely were like, "All right, we think this is really neat. This is gonna go crazy," or, how did you get that virility started?
Josh: To be honest I just it...it's a picture. If you look at it, it's this picture of me just pulling the foil off of a gold foil shirt and the way... the process for gold foil is prep a glue and then you partially cure it, and then you heat press it with the foil, and when you wait till it gets cold and then you cold-peel it. It makes this kind of cool sound. I don't know if you guys have ever heard of ASMR but it's this word that I can't pronounce. I don't wanna look stupid trying to pronounce it but it's this idea you get these tingly feelings when you hear certain sounds, like, some people it's whispering, some people it's like, it's crackling, some people it's opening packages.
There's like these weird tingles people get. Some people get them from movies or scores or whatever and I posted that I think this has a cool sound to it too, and it did. It did actually have a cool sound. So when I posted it, I posted it and it got like...all of a sudden it got like 50,000 views. Like, within, within a day, it was at 50,000. Then, I was like, "Man, this is a good post. I'm gonna boost it." So I boosted it for like 3 dollars or something and then I posted it on Reddit in their ASMR sub-Reddit, just to show...and as I said it was about sounds and I thought that was kinda cool.
Not even necessarily to get more business. It was just, I thought that was kinda a cool video and I posed it there because I've seen tons of cool videos there, and then I posted it on sub Reddit for printers just to show what it's like screen printing, and then I sub posted it on another Subreddit...this is all...it'd already gone to 100,000 views by then but I posted it on another one called...I'm blank on this one. Something about like, like things that are satisfying. Like satisfying feelings or satisfying gifts or something. It's like things that make you feel...it's like a cool feeling when you watch it happen.
And it is kinda a cool feeling because it's like you peel it and the transfer comes out perfect and you're just like, "That's something..." Something satisfying about it. It's kinda weird, and I think that's why it got a likes...a lot of likes is because...and a lot of views is because people found it satisfying. They thought it was kinda cool and I also think people are kind of, into shiny things and it's shiny and, you know, there's that whole deal, but, yeah, it was kinda cool. I was kinda excited about it and we'll see where it goes. I don't think I could ever do it again but I'll like try.
Steve: So Josh, do you use...I know when we talked in Long Beach, you used a couple of different tools for social media on the how to [inaudible 00:21:28] brand and then you've got a ton of followers. Can you tell me about those?
Josh: Sure. So, first what we started doing was, like I said, you'd like a lot of people, you'd follow a lot of people, you do all that. Then we started using a tool called Instagress and Instagress is a tool where you can program it to like certain types of posts for you and you can target specific people and you can target specific industries and it really kinda takes it to a whole new level.
And the other thing is you don't have to send like a hundred hours trying to figure all this stuff out on social media. It does a lot of it for you. The only downside is it is a little fake. You know, you don't get to have as much hands-on experience with you customers, but the thing is if you actually keep track of everything when you...when somebody follows you, you check them back out. You like more of their stuff and it kinda ends up working out because you kind of...you basically end up filtering these people, right. So not everybody's gonna like your brand, not everybody's gonna like your shop.
Not everybody even needs T-shirts, right, but people that do follow you back because you liked something of theirs, you can go check out their stuff and be like, "This is awesome. This person does," you know, like they're hand painters and like, that's a cool craft too and it's kinda similar to what we do. We use ink. They use paint. We use color, they use color. You know, it's fun to check out others crafts, you know.
Or, this guy is a landscaper. You can message this landscaper and be like, "Hey man," like, "I love your guy's landscaping. We're in California, you're in California. If you guys ever need any printing, let me know. We could do your business cards and your brochures and all that stuff. We'll help you market," and, you know, it's an easy sell, you know and you've already kinda brought them to the [inaudible 00:23:11] if you will, in that they already kind of like you because they've liked your Instagram so they must not hate you. So then you've kinda got a little bit of an in, in that, they know who you are and they've seen some of your stuff, you know.
Steve: What as that called again?
Josh: What? The program?
Josh: It's called Instagress.
Steve: Cool. Instagress.
Josh: I-N-S-T-A-G-R-E-S-S. I don't have anything to do with them. [crosstalk 00:23:34]
Bruce: Yeah. No, it's good for...that's good for people to know. I think people, you know, are interested in always seeing tools, especially, maybe older print shops. They're like, "Okay, what is all this social media stuff going in?" So, as you guys have used that and, you know, looking at your Instagram, you guys have 13,000 followers, which is definitely impressive, especially in a smaller, more niche industry, which is really cool.
So, there's Instagram, which was big. You talked about being genuine and speaking to people, commenting on people, liking people, following relevant people, trying to automate that process to make it more scalable. Were there any other social platforms too that you utilized to help grow or was Instagram majority [crosstalk 00:24:18]?
Josh: Honestly, it was mostly Instagram but the biggest thing is it's like, it's kinda a popularity contest, like I said, but...and it does so many different things. People just think it's like, followers equal customers, but it's not necessarily that. It's like, a lot of people may not even be on Instagram, but then when they go onto your website and they're like, "I wanna check out what this person's done," they'll click on your Instagram and they'll see you have 14,000 followers and like, "This place is legit. It's not some, you know, small shop somewhere in the middle of nowhere." Its like, "These people look legit so I'm gonna work with them." It gives people a feeling of like, reputation. It's like, it's up there with like good reviews, you know. It's like, "If these people have a bunch of people watching them, so they must be kind of cool. They must be super legit."
So then when big customers come to you, and they're like, they want 100,000 pieces, they know they can trust you because you have all these followers. That's kinda what it does. It's not just about followers equals customers because those customers follow you so they're gonna buy something. It's also just about a reputation and you're building something. It's not like, this... You know... And it helps a lot of things, but you know now that these people aren't a fly by night corporation. They've got tons of followers, they've got tons of pictures, these pictures have been updated once every two weeks for the last four years, you know. There's something there. There's a trail to follow, you know, and it just gives you a sense of legitness. A sense of permanence, you know.
Bruce: Absolutely. Yeah, it's...
Josh: And that's mainly the one we use. We also do Facebook but we...a lot of times we do Twitter too, but to be honest, a lot of times it's just, it's an Instagram post, that we cross-post to Facebook and Twitter because I was never big on tweeting. I don't know. I kind of think that missed my...that missed my radar at the time. I kind of didn't get it. I kind of still don't get it to be completely honest, but yeah, we post pictures on there just direct from our Instagram and that's the main tool we use.
We used a couple other tools like...I think it was like Hootsuite and you can use that to kinda like post. You can also schedule posts which is really cool. We never done that feature because I'm kinda a fly by night kinda guy, but you can like schedule posts, like months in advance. I'm not good at that. I'm like, I take a picture right now I'm gonna post it. I'm not good at the whole...I can't take like 50 pictures and then write, like, captions for each picture and then schedule them out for the next two months because I'm just not good at that. So I do a lot.
Steve: I think a lot of people are the same way as you Josh and I think the one big takeaway I take from, like, meeting you, looking at your shop, knowing that you kind of built it from nothing is your social media presence makes your business look like it's some crazy shop with like 15 automatics or something like that. And that, that's awesome. I think that...if there's listeners out there that can see, you can build up your brand and still be a garage shop, so that when the day comes, you know, and your shop is big, you can start [inaudible 00:27:11] develop your shop. But really, like, that external face, I think customers don't need to see the insides of it. I mean, we have a hideous shop, it's not pretty by any means and I don't show people that we're on a second floor and we take shirts up with a forklift every morning. You know, it's like, I let them know that I can deliver 20,000 shirts to them [inaudible 00:27:26].
Josh: Right, and that's all that matters. And the other thing is, like I said, I don't want anybody to think I'm saying anything bad about garage shops. To be honest, I wish I had my own garage that was big enough to hold my shop. I would love to be in a garage because the overhead's so low. You're paying for your house but you're also paying for your business. It's like, it's a no-brainer. Your cost of doing business is so much less. We have to pay, you know, $3,000 a month to rent our building. I would rather not pay $3,000 a month [crosstalk 00:27:48]. Yeah.
Steve: So, Josh, could you...you're the infamous founder of Screen Printing Pro's on Facebook, right?
Josh: I guess infamous is a term you could use.
Steve: Infamous. No, I'm just kidding. But, could you tell us a little bit about that. How you started it. It is the most active screen printing group right now and I think a lot of listeners would be interested to hear about how you started that. What it's done for the industry, [inaudible 00:28:13] shed some light on that.
Josh: Yeah. You know what, I think it was kind of my cheat code. I know a lot of people talk about cheat codes and it kinda bugs me when they use this word but I'm gonna use it right now and I'm gonna bug people. It's like my hack that I kinda used in the industry in that, you know, I knew what I knew and I'm gonna steal thins term from Craig Kidston [SP], who I just went to his class, but I'm gonna steal his term and, "You don't know what you don't know," right. So, I knew what I knew.
I knew our industry. I knew how we printed but that didn't necessarily it...that didn't necessarily mean it was the right way to print. It didn't necessarily mean that we were getting the best of the best. I only knew what was best compared to what we had done before and what we would do in the future and what I'd seen at like Walmart. You go to Walmart and you see these prints and they're crappy and I'm like, "I could do better than that but what is the best?" And I really do wanna be the best. I mean...I don't really think you should go into any industry and not be the best. You either be the best you can be or there's kinda no point. I mean, yeah you can make money but you can make money doing anything.
The point is to be the best, so I'm telling you right now, I wanna be the best printer in the country one day and I'm working towards that, but... So I'd started this group. I'd started this Screen Print Pro's and it was a lot of questions on some other groups had been like, what's the best white ink? Well, it's not necessarily about your ink, usually. Usually it's your meshes or your...the way your coating your emulsion or it's your humidity or your temperature in your shop is messing with your white ink because it's too cold and your white ink's not warmed up enough to flow cleanly thought the screen or your squeegees aren't sharp enough or there's so many other things other than your ink that could be the problem, you know. And so, those questions kinda started to bug me because it was like...it's also, it's not even necessarily a question of which one's the best, it's also for your business, right.
We're all businesses and the business answer would be that it's the place...it's whatever brand the local place carries or the other local place that could deliver next day or the place you could go and pick up from. Like, those are all things you need to think of. When you're printing 30,000 shirts and you run out of white ink, you need somewhere you can go who knows you, who you have a good reputation with, but you could just be like, "Hey, I need some more white ink, can you deliver some over?" or "Hey, I'm gonna be there in a couple of hours, can you throw some or stay a little bit later and let me pick this up?" That's huge. I mean. Yeah you're gonna be as organized as you can possibly be but you never know what's gonna happen.
You could get... I was talking to somebody yesterday and they were saying they're gonna order, like, last minute for some huge couple thousand pieces and they called their T-shirt supplier and their T-shirt supplier was...they're like, "Hey, I, you know, I could stay. We'll say like two hours later and you could come pick these up," you know. If you don't have that reputation built up, if you don't have those places you can go. If you're not friends and you're not friendly within your industry, that's a huge thing too. You gotta be friendly with everybody in the industry because you never know when they're gonna end up at the place you need a favor from, you know.
So, anyway, I'm sorry I kinda go [inaudible 00:30:47] to answer these questions but long story short, I wanted to start a group for professional printers so we could all learn what we didn't know, you know. Somebody the other day posted about a sticker machine, right. So, these guys were printing for the Patriots or the Cubs because they won the Superbowl in the World Series and they gotta add these little holographic stickers and there's a holographic sticker machine that I would have never known about and I guess it makes things way faster because you're printing 30,000 pieces and when it comes off the end of the belt a little sticker will pop up and it's just really easy to grab and stick. Whereas, if you have to, like peel and grab and stick, I guess it adds another three seconds that you don't have time for, and things like that, but you would have never know that. You would have never known there was such a machine, if you didn't know...if you weren't in that instance to know that there...if you never worked at a shop that had one of those, right.
Or, you didn't...weren't at that show where they introduced them or whatever. So this guy's posted a picture about it and a lot of people were like, "That's so cool. I didn't know there was such a thing," and little things like that and they all add up to give you a great knowledge base and a great historical knowledge of the industry, and to me that's...I really respect this industry. I really love it.
There's guys that like...I mean, I'm not sure all the people that'd be watching this but on the printer side, a lot of printers don't even know that...obviously the public wouldn't know but a lot of printers don't even know that, originally, when they started screen printing, you had to cut out all your graphics. It wasn't...you didn't print a film. You didn't CTS or DTS or, whatever.
It was, you cut out a stencil on some rubylyth [SP], and then you had to layer your layers and all this crazy stuff, and like, our industry, we don't do any of that anymore. So those guys that were doing it for like 35 years, it's amazing the craft that they...I mean, their craft is...it's a mixed...
Bruce: It's a real craft.
Josh: ...yeah, it's a craft. It's next level and I still consider what we do a craft, but theirs was...it was harder back then, you know, and like, I love that history of it. I love these guys that have printed for 30 plus years and they're like, "Yeah, we used to do it this way and it took 10 hours to print 1 film," you know, and it's like... Sorry. To print one set of one shirt it took like 10 hours because they had to cut all the films and stuff and that's amazing. That blows my mind and I love that man. So I love that I started this group and I...it kinda grew itself, you know. We have 720 members I think now and we also wanted to make sure it was kind of like on that next level. You had to either be in business for four or five years or you have to have an automatic press and it's just kind of grown from there man. It's been crazy. It's been a lot of fun. And then I just went to Chicago and I got to stay with Justin, who I met in the group and he was just like, "Yeah, come on. Stay with us. Stay with me. No problem at all." And it's like, that's really freaking cool too. And I met a bunch of them at a class I just took and, you know, I almost wanna go on a tour and just meet everybody, you know. I'm coming over there next Steven.
Bruce: We're waiting for ya.
Steve: That's awesome. Yeah, that's really neat, especially because I feel like a lot of the forums on the screen printing side, like the older, more traditional forms aren't as active anymore.
Bruce: Teacher forums or the shirt board or, yeah.
Steve: They're great. There's definitely still some activity but the Facebook groups are considerably more active now, and there's definitely a good amount, specifically your Screen Printing Pro's, there's 700 plus really active members, which is great, and obviously the more activity trumps the...and quality of posts trumps the number of users, but, yeah absolutely. There's been a lot of really great information that's been shared in there. It seems like there's this definite constant trend of you really utilizing social media to help, not only grow your kind of knowledge-based side but also help on your business side too, which is pretty neat to watch, especially using tools like Instagress and Instagram and obviously the genuine networking and just meeting people and networking that way has helped to grow. Where are you guys at now revenue wise?
Josh: So, right now, I think this last year we did about $600,000, with a profit of about 30-ish% and we put a lot of it back into the company. Again, just because I'm super low maintenance. I love making money. I have a couple other sources of income but I love making money but I don't care about the money at the end of the day. It's like...to me it's the craft, it's the business, it's starting companies. It's kind of like...it's like my...it's like my crack. It's like my drug man.
It's like, I love starting companies. I love watching them grow. I love... It's like, I don't know if I'm ever gonna have kids but to me I think it's like, the idea of having kids. It's like, you start it and watch it grow and it's like, it's phenomenal to watch it and build it and help nurture it and talk about it and the biggest thing I've realized it's about having passion man. If you have passion for something, it really shows in what you do. In anything you do and it grows so much faster when you have passion. I've seen people start businesses because they think they're gonna make a lot of money on it and they don't have the passion and it doesn't show and you watch them trying to sell it and they're like, "Yeah, this is my product and this is what it does. Isn't it awesome?" And it's like, "Do you care about it? Do you love this product?"
And you really feel it in people that do love it, and I don't know. I can't explain it but yeah, so we dug about $600,000 this year. I think we're gonna try and do about $1.5 million. I know it's a really lofty goal but I like to put lofty goals out there and just try to meet them. We're gonna add another auto, which will basically double or more our production and grow some more. We're gonna add a storefront. We actually don't have any signage up. We've never put up a sign. Just literally, you pull up at our door and we have a number on our door and that's it.
So we don't really deal much with a walk-in customer crowd, even though we're on a street that gets about 100,000 cars a day. We're across the street from McDonald's that's got a double drive-thru, so that you'd get like...you'd probably get at least a thousand cars a day seeing you through that, but we're just too busy, and we're really lean. We have...like I said we have five employees, but we run pretty dang lean. I'm not necessarily a penny pincher. I like value for money, so, we've gotten kinda lucky. I've buy a lot of things used and we've bought...I mean, some people are... It all depends on the type of business owner you are. I love Craig's List as a business owner.
I love Digit Smith, which is where you can buy a lot of used screen printing equipment. I love... There's a... I also run the used screen printing group on Facebook, which is like 3,000 members and you can grab, you know, a press from a guy anywhere in the country and you can...he'll ship it to you and whatever and that's cool too. I think we bought a couple things off there and it's been fantastic value. You know, you buy something that somebody bought three years ago for one fourth of the price and it's the exact...It's made of metal , you know, like, unless he threw it on the ground and stomped on it, like nothing's gonna break on it, you know. So you get a better deal and that really helps you take home more money in the long run, you know.
Squeegees and floor bars. They're just metal pieces and squeegees are just metal holders. You add a new squeegee and it's brand new. Things like that. You can always find somebody going out of business or somebody getting out of the business or somebody who thought they were gonna be huge and they had to, you know, slim down, There's always deals out there to get and they really help your business grow and get better discounts and, you know, be more efficient, I guess.
Steve: Yeah, Josh, what I'm hearing and I see this because I've seen a lot of shops that have come to me and like, "We're not making money," and, you know, I ask for their revenue numbers and what I'm hearing is that if you wanna grow in your early stages of your business, in your first five years, you guys are doing everything in the business. You know, you guys are the ones taking the orders, delivering the shirts. You guys are the one's doing the marketing. I don't know if you guys do your own artwork or not, but these...you know, you guys don't really have much overhead...
Josh: Actually, all of my employees are graphic designers as well.
Steve: Yeah. So you don't have much overhead in the sense of your paying use...you know, everyone's got, you know, a plug in the machine, and it doesn't seem like you add anything unless you absolutely need it and that threshold to go to the next level, and I think, one thing I'm noticing in smaller shops, you know, even in my shop, you know, we broke seven figures and we've finally hired an office manager. Before that it was like me and my business partner taking all the orders and I didn't truly understand what that meant.
I just wanted to go out and like hire people and have my own staff, but until you could really validate it, you know, adding one employee there has to be some like marginal cost to add one more employee because then your job changes significantly. You're not [inaudible 00:39:20] management, you're not doing a lot more different [inaudible 00:39:23] staff. And so, I think, you know, I applaud you for that. For keeping it really lean. For buying used equipment. For not going out and, you know, not saying leasing is a bad thing but I see these businesses that are just over-leveraged, you know, and that are going and paying $2,000 a month for an M and R that, that I need now in my, you know, I'm looking for that big gauntlet now after doing over a million bucks of business, but if you're just starting out, that shop, that garage shop's not a big deal. Staying lean, doing your artwork. Not a big deal because you're gonna save so much money and time and then you're gonna own and learn your industry so much better.
Josh: Sure. I'm one of those guys...I'm kind of against that and maybe just because of my age, you know, I was like in high school in 2008 when our economy crashed, but I hate that. I don't wanna have any debt. Our business is 100% debt free and that's the way I like it. And I'll tell you right off, I could grow...we could grow 10 times this year if I wanted to. If we wanted to go into debt. I could take a huge amount of debt. I could go out and advertise. I could hire 10 more people. We could grow fast. But that's not the point. You grow fast but to what business? Like, what if next year we have a downfall in our economy and then, you know, now you've got all this equipment, you've got all this money that you owe money on and you're overhead is so huge, you know. We have no debt. Basically, we pay for our rent, our utilities, our employees, and then our insurances and all that kinda thing, but it's a very, very low number at the end of the month, you know. So, all we have to make is, you know, I think we have to make $6,000 a month and that covers...or maybe it's $8,000 a month and that covers most of that.
Everything else on top of that's profit and most shops are gonna make between, you know, $20,000 and $40,000 a month and that's totally cool. If you get $8,000 in expenses and you're making $40,000, let's just say $20,000 of it is your cost of goods and inks and all that stuff, I mean, you're making like $12,000 a month, which is okay. And yes, like said, we could grow a lot faster. I could take a lot of debt. That's totally cool, but I don't really want to. I'd rather not have debt. It's kinda a stressful thing. It' on your shoulders. You've gotta think about it all the time, and maybe that's just me. Maybe I watched some family members lose tons of money when these companies crashed in 2008, you know, they lost $70,000, $80,000 on these companies.
Like, Bear Sterns. Bear Sterns was around for a hundred plus years. They were a financial institution. They were like a pillar of our finance market, you know, and they crashed. They were gone in an instant, and I don't wanna be like that. I don't wanna have so much debt that I can't just, you know, grind it out if I need to. My whole idea is that if there was ever a bad turn in our economy, we would be totally fine.
We have, you know, $40,000 in the bank cash to keep our reserves high and if anything happens, we're gonna scrounge for the next year or two, and we'll stay around because we can. We have no debt, but those guys that have, you know, $5,000, $6,000 of...maybe even $2,000 a month of debt, plus your, you know, your rental space or, you know, all your other...your car payments, your lease payments, whatever, it all adds up really, really quickly. And, yeah, so that's what... I'm totally on your end, in that, I work 18 hours a day.
I don't think anybody else...I don't think everybody else can do that. I don't think I'm special, but I think it's hard for people to realize that that's what it takes to be a small business owner is to really grind it out until you don't...you don't have to anymore. My goal was to work these 18-hour days and not complain about it until I'm 30, and then maybe I'll take a step back. I'll hire some more people. I'll let somebody take over my position, but I really wanted to just grind it out until we were big enough and I didn't have to anymore, you know, I could take a step back maybe travel a little bit more.
I just got back from Denmark and I didn't wanna leave but, yeah, I loved it. I would love to do that more, but you can't with a small business owner. You gotta run your business, you gotta be as lean as possible, you gotta make money and don't watch all these like shows where these people have like hundreds of employees and think like that's where I need to be. I think that a big thing that I see in our industry is people don't know what they want, you know. Like, what is their goal? Like, what is your goal as a business? What is your goal personally?
Like, do you wanna work 80 hours a week for the rest of your life? Sure. Cool. That's totally cool. Do you wanna work a normal schedule, maybe 30, 40 hours a week? Do you wanna work 20 hours a week? What would make you happy? I think people definitely, like write down their goals and use those to forecast their business, you know, because, not everybody's meant to work all those hours. Not everybody's meant to not see their family or go on vacations or things like that. You really gotta set these goals and then try to get to them as your business grows. People see like...people see these businesses with 10, 20, 30 autos and thinks that's gonna be me but do you know how much stress that is to have 40 autos? I mean, it's insane.
I honestly, I'm telling you right now, I'd be happy with three. I think we're gonna get three autos and I think we'll stop and we'll just grow our business, and if we ever have to go to two shifts, maybe we'll go to two shifts, but I don't know if I even wanna do that. I wanna have a great, medium-sized business that runs three autos and we also do signs and banners and maybe eventually we'll build websites and stuff too, but you just gotta figure out what you want, and not everybody wants the same thing. You don't need to be the biggest shop in the world for people to respect you, you know.
Steve: Sure. Those are great...those are great points Josh, and I really appreciate giving the honest feedback, especially about the business and where you guys are at. I think to wrap up, what would, in one minute, what's a piece of advice you feel like you'd like to share with others? It could be a lesson that you've learned, small, large anything like that.
Josh: That's a hard one. I need to think about that. A lesson. There's so many. I think my biggest lesson would be to look at other businesses. Not in our industry but look at other businesses in other industries. Look at like big scions of business like Warren Buffet or I'm totally blanking on the guy from Virgin. Richard Branson or...look at those guys. Those guys, they're pillars of business in general, but you can look at their mistakes too and they'll...if you ever read any of their books, they'll readily tell you all the mistakes they made, but just look at other businesses.
I was telling somebody the other day about a company that...and I forget even what product they made, I don't remember their name but they made something for iPhones and Apple became, you know, 75% of their business and then Apple was like, we're not gonna make this component anymore and we gotta, you know, so we're not gonna use you anymore and they lost 75% of their business and they went under because they grew so big to facilitate this one customer that they didn't realize that when that customer's gone, now they're kinda screwed. And you gotta take these lessons from these other businesses to hopefully not make them.
They say history's around so we don't repeat our mistakes, even though everything's cyclical, we end up do making the same mistakes, but if you really check out a lot of other businesses, you'll easily learn some lessons that you don't have to make yourself, that could potentially hurt your business in the long-run, you know.
Bruce: Sure. Well, I appreciate it again Josh. I know you're a super busy guy. Steve likewise too. Thank you guys for coming on and I appreciate the intros too. We'll definitely reach out to them as well and hope you guys have a great rest of the week.
Josh: Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Steve: Super. See you, Josh.
Bruce: All right. Bye, everyone.
Josh: Bye everyone.
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