Screen printing baby clothes isn’t just about making cute pink and blue onesies for Sarah Soliz, of Riot Baby screen printing. A former marketing professional in the business finance world (and avid lover of black), Sarah started her journey into screen printing when her second pregnancy lead to an unexpected layoff. But this disappointing parting started a rewarding search for a new source of income that could take full advantage of her passions and new life changes.

“I got pregnant, told my boss, and was laid off a week later. It was a really small company, and we were really tight knit so it came out of nowhere. I’ve always had a problem with having a boss – I see how companies could be doing things better. Maybe I’m full of myself but I always wanted to do something for myself. And, having a baby, there’s not a lot of clothing out there that is cool for kids. It’s all cutesy and pastel blue and pink, and I have some of that but I wanted something that was a little more my style. This was the most cost effective way to start a business that didn’t take a huge investment to start. Especially since we were down to one income.”

Her first step was to research her options and eventually she landed, where she learned about the process that screen printing baby clothes would entail. She ended up with a DIY kit and whole lot of great ideas.

“I only print my own designs. I have four designs in print right now, but I have ten designs total. Everything I’ve learned about t-shirt business says to not have too many designs because people can’t choose. So I’ve been doing flea markets to see what would sell really well, but they have all sold evenly!”

“My favorite design is ‘I’m just a little goth’, because I wear all black all the time. I can’t even see what is in my drawer, because it’s all black. People would ask me, are you goth? I would say, ‘No I’m not goth…well, I’m just a little goth.’”

Being a new mom as well as a new screen printer isn’t the easiest combination, but Sarah took her tenacity and applied it to learning everything she could about this screen printing.

“I started this right after I had my baby so I wasn’t able to attend a training class, but I really want to. I just watched all of the Ryonet videos a million times. If I’m trying to troubleshoot things I go there and see if it can help me. I also go to the help desk. There was a learning curve there since I do better learning by being shown. There was a time that I got so mad that I said I would sell everything and quit. My husband told me not to stop and try again tomorrow. The next day I got it figured out. Then everything just clicked. I never even had to do a test print again.”

The quality of her prints is top-notch, and she uses all water based inks focusing on keeping the garments soft and lightweight – a necessity in the Austin heat.

“I work towards having a super comfortable t-shirt. I hate the thick heavy shirts when it’s 100+ degrees 90% of the time, so all of my t-shirts are soft and thin. That’s why I use water based ink. Plastisol ink is super hot! It sucks and I don’t want that. So my t-shirts are very high-end feeling. When you feel them in real life they feel great.”

Her off the beaten path designs and print quality are unique to the baby clothes market, and it wasn’t long before people started asking for her designs on adult-sized garments as well as screen printed baby clothes.

“I’m hoping to grow enough over the next year or so to move out of my dining room and into a legit studio space. At that point, I would hire someone to work with me and create a division of the company that does custom jobs. I would upgrade to a multi-arm press and a conveyor dryer. I’m still using a heat gun! The goal is to leave as little money on the table as possible and to avoid going to an outsider to fill orders as Riot Baby Clothing grows. This would keep Riot Baby Clothing costs down while at the same time generating additional revenue with custom jobs.”

But screen printers whose screen print studios reside at home know that it’s not the easiest thing in the world to separate family life from work.

“It’s not super easy to work from home when you have a kid at the same time. When I had my older kid I worked for a running shoe store. It was a mom and pop store and I did all of the apparel buying so I have a lot of experience and I was able to take my kid with me. It’s so hard to have a full time job and take care of a baby. Starting over in baby land is super stressful. I kept trying to print shirts while he’s napping, but inevitabley, he’s going to wake up and I can’t just stop doing what I’ve doing with water based ink. I budget my time now to work on designs and social media while he’s napping. Anything I can do on the computer that isn’t printing. I do the printing at night when my husband gets home and can watch the baby or on the weekend when my husband comes home.”

Sarah’s story is a powerful example of self-reliance and hard work.

“I was a single mom for over a decade. I know what it’s like to be stuck in a job that doesn’t allow you to put all your skills and creativity to use because you depend on that income to provide for your child and you have to play it safe. I get that, but I want to encourage anyone, but more specifically women, who are thinking of starting their own business to just go for it. Just try. You never know what will happen. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from at least trying. I have a blast working on Riot Baby Clothing. I get to be creative, come up with ridiculous social media posts, direct photo shoots, run my business the way that I want, and I get to put some coins in my pocket. It’s a wonderful feeling! I learned everything I needed to know from the internet. Use it to your advantage! I didn’t know what a vector image was or how to get a sales tax ID number or how to even screen print. I taught myself every single aspect of this business, I had zero prior knowledge, and I 100% used the internet to find the information that I needed. My kids think it’s really cool that I’ve started my own business and I think it’s super dope to be an example for them that you can live the life that you want and it is possible to love your job. I’m a motherfuckin’ Boss Lady and that’s what’s up.”

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