Making The Leap - From Paper Invoices to Printavo

Business Lessons

“It’s like standing over a cliff, I know I need to jump, everyone’s telling me to, but I just can’t”

Those are the words I heard from my business partner just three short weeks after we went into business together. Let’s backtrack a bit. I’m 25 years old, and I joined a screen printing and embroidery company with two individuals twice my age. It is a bit odd to most when they first learn about our dynamic, but nonetheless, an amazing adventure. After graduating from the University of Illinois, I found a passion for entrepreneurship through building my own sales channels as a college student. I joined Campus Sportswear, the company that printed my apparel in college, and wanted to take it to the next level. In order to do this, we had to get organized quick. We had to start to operate like a modern company in the 21st century. Just to put it into perspective, Campus Sportswear barely had an HTML website, had four different email addresses with domain names that went to different Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook accounts, no social media presence, and the worst part of it...

When I asked my business partner, Tom, how he kept it all straight he just looked at me and pointed to his head.

Cue Millennial Steven -  I need everything on the cloud. I am all Googled out, and carbon copies give me a weird sort of undiscovered anxiety. I quickly needed to find a way to get organized and re-build our brand. I eventually came across Printavo, which has been instrumental in our business. By far the most difficult part of all of it was getting my business partners to accept the fact that they had to adapt. When I challenged them on different ways of doing things, their common answer was, “well that’s the way we’ve always done it”. This caused a lot of growing pains for us because it was this constant battle of “new way vs old way”. The new way had a learning curve, and sometimes it took longer than the old way, even though we all knew it was the right thing to do.

One day when we were starting to make some breakthroughs, my business partner Tom stopped in his track and just said, “Steven, It’s like standing on a cliff, I know I need to jump, everyone’s telling me to, but I just can’t  - be patient with me”. I realized I was fighting a different battle. It wasn’t a battle of finding the best workflow to print a shirt, it was a battle to help someone be comfortable with changing their ways to something scary- technology.

Flash forward two years later, my business partners have made a 180 degree turn around, and are extremely open to using new technologies to bring our business forward. We have already outgrown our current space and are growing at a fast, but steady pace. They are comfortable with “the cloud” and use touchscreen PC's to produce thousands of pieces daily. We are a family business, so husbands and wives alike all are tuned into the “new way”. *Proud Millennial Moment*

I try to be very active in the screen printing community through Facebook groups, conferences and keeping up to speed on the latest news. What I learned from this experience is that there are a lot of shops with very similar problems. I found out that most screen printers and decorators are passionate about the printing, but not necessarily running the business. is a scary and daunting realization one must come to as we move into a rapidly changing century. Some businesses involve the entire family to get things done. This may mean one is doing the selling while the other is printing, or husband and wives splitting up the labor and the administration work.

If you are having these similar problems, you have to be very very honest with yourself, and ask yourself some theoretical questions…

  • What if I can’t do my job anymore, can someone else step into my role?
  • What will our business be worth as we get older and think about retirement?
  • What if a state-of-the-art shop comes into town, will I be able to compete?
  • If I’m not willing to change now, when will I do it?

These questions are hard to answer, but once you grasp the livelihood of your business you can begin to move forward. Making the ultimate decision that you need to modernize your shop can be pivotal to the success and sustainability of your shop. We can all be in this together, and there are resources to help your business out. In later posts, I will begin dissecting the basics of bringing your shop to the 21st century.

Happy Printing,


Next Post: How Losing His Job Turned into a 25 Employee, Live Printing Machine

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Printavo is simple shop management software. Whether your shop works with screen printing, embroidery, signage, digital printing, or awards & engraving–we make your complex workflow simpler to manage and understand. Printavo keeps your shop organized by handling scheduling, estimates, quote approvals, workflow, payments, accounting and more. With Printavo, you’ll work smarter–not harder.

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