BEHIND THE SHIRT
At the age of 12 I landed my first job at my cousins screen printing business. It was a small company that consisted of my two cousins and I. From the second I started screen printing, I loved it! We worked 60 hours a week that summer and it laid the foundation for what was to become my passion and purpose. As clear as day I remember taking designs we would print for customers and mixing them onto a shirt over the collar and across the sleeves. I would wear those shirts with pride and friends would laugh at me calling them “defect shirts”. In the late 90’s no one wore distressed prints over the collar or mixed designs that lapped over each other. That same concept over a decade later is what brought tee shirts back to life by companies like Abercrombie and Fitch.
When I turned 14 I sold my first shirt order to my school class. The feeling of selling something I printed created a feeling like I had never experienced. A combination of passion and purpose, that ignited the idea of being an entrepreneur.
My first career choice was a police officer in the New Orleans area. It was a tough job that was dangerouse and didn't pay well. I advanced into the Narcotics Division thinking things would get better but they didn't. Between wiretaps and search warrants, I worked 60-70 hours a week and one thing became clear. I wanted pursue my dream of being an entrepenuer and become the largest shirt printing facility in America.
In February of 2000, I took the leap and purchased the company that I had worked for as a kid for 35,000 dollars. I borrowed the money from my parents and had 1 employee that operated in 500 square feet of retail space. I started to create great relationships with local clients and made sure I delivered with better quality and faster speed than my competition. I also began positioning myself in a larger building and purchased my first automatic screen printing machine as funds became available. I lived by one principle, don't spend more than you make. My clients knew we would do anything to get their order completed on time. I then set my sights on national accounts and began pursuing them. At the end of my first year in business I paid off the loan to my parents and reached 250,000 in sales.
One of my great clients was Steel Pony Express and they were hosting a large motorcycle event that featured a new and exciting bike builder named Paul Teutel. Paul contacted me the day he arrived at the event and explained he ran out of shirts and he heard I was the guy to call. He ordered 10,000 shirts that day and demanded he receive them the following day. I took his challenge, called every family member I could and rounded up the troops to deliver this order. The next day when we delivered the order, he placed another order for 35,000 shirts that needed to be delivered in Myrtle Beach the following week. Because transit time would take too long, we completed the shirts and I drove them to Myrtle Beach to deliver them. It wasn't long after we were filling up 18 wheelers full of shirts and delivering them to events like Sturgis. Paul and I became great friends and we traveled around the world mixing business and pleasure. My most memorable trip was Steven Tyler, Paul Teutel, and I rode motorcycles from Yellowstone Nation Park to Glacier National Park. The trip took us 5 days on Harley's riding about 100 miles a day sightseeing. The funniest thing about Steven Tyler was that he had to drink water and honey each night. He was very funny and always had a sense of humor. I learned a lot from Paul Teutel in business that I will always be grateful for. Paul was always true to his brand, and lived the life he portrayed on television. I will never forget the day Michael Dell, the owner of Dell Computers, flew in to New York for a business meeting with Paul. Paul showed up that day in a sleeveless tee, jeans, and boots and as they sat down in the meeting he put his boots on the desk. To be honest, he didn't care what people thought of him. He had a lifetime of experiences both good and bad and he put his focus into his business and his pets.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I lost my building and most of its contents in the storm. I was devastated, but it didn't take long to turn that sadness into energy and within 3 weeks we had secured a 30,000 square foot building south of Atlanta, Ga. Georgia opened up new doors for us and we began picking up clients like Aflac, Realtree Outdoors, Nascar, and The Game/Kudzu. In 2007 we hit a real milestone and printed the shirts for The Kentucky Derby that year. My staff and I took a 52 foot 18 wheeler and cut open a wall on one side. Inside of the 18 wheeler was an automatic 8 color M&R printing machine, a large dryer, and a washout booth that we manufactured. We printed thousands of shirts onsite at the Derby and opened up a ton of doors for being creative. For the second time in my career I had truly re-invented myself by thinking outside of the box.
Later that year a weird looking, long haired bearded guy by the name of Willie Robertson contacted me. He was in Columbus, Georgia meeting with Realtree Outdoors and he needed some really cool designs to create interest into his brand. Willie saw the Retail inspired clothing line we created that year for Realtree Girl and wanted clothing similar to it. Willie, Korie, and I met and discussed how fun this would be and we started developing. When the line was finished I drove to Willie and Kories house and we filmed and photographed a photo shoot on their property. We had a blast and the filming would eventually make it to an episode on Duck Dynasty. Later that week Willie invited me to have Thanksgiving Supper at Mrs. Kay and Phil's house. It was an epic experience and one of the best meals I've ever eaten. All I can say is Mrs. Kay is a saint for putting up with Phil and the amount of time he spends hunting. Uncle Si was a very quiet guy while I was around and had no idea he had so much humor that would later come out on Duck Dynasty. Once the show aired Willie and Korie's orders went from small to huge and we began printing thousands of shirts for them. It was another world wind of how fast we could get them printed and shipped.
Each and every year we have grown and god deserves the glory for that. We have design, manufactured, and printed clothing for the biggest brands in the country. What drives me every day is to be the best Screen Printer that has ever been. I concentrate daily on the systems and processes that we use each day to screen print. Screen printing is our passion, but our purpose is to impact people every day with the shirts that we print. Our goal is to create a seemlined process for our clients so they can spend their time and energy doing what they do best. I work each day on my business and not in my business and it's a beautiful thing.
If your reading this, I hope I get to meet you one day. Till then have a blessed day!