the base of a 150 press with a win press in the background

If there’s one motto in the screen printing business, it’s “the hustle is real.” Many screen printers work seven days a week, operating shops in spare rooms, garages, and basements. If it’s your passion, the grind is worth it. With a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, your print shop grows and evolves. That’s what happened to Joey Avila, owner of Avila Design Co. His business in Fort Wayne, Indiana, took off with some help from a friend and his constant hustling.

A Riley 300 sits in a shop with a shirt about chess on the platen

Photo by Joey Avila.

WHERE IT ALL STARTED

Joey Avila has been grinding from the start. He began screen printing as a side hustle during the height of the pandemic. When he was let go from his job, Joey decided to go all in. The screen printing side hustle became his full-time gig. With his dad’s help, he bought a Riley Hopkins 150 Press, snagged a few screens off of Facebook Marketplace (which also came with a free bucket of emulsion), purchased a heat gun, and got some ink. 

He printed in a spare bedroom in his home. He cured shirts in an oven, placing them in one at a time, taking ten minutes to cure. He had to expose his screens outside in the sun, checking the weather for the week and planning days to coat and expose screens. He went to car washes to wash out screens. 

Jonathan Overmeyer of Golden Press Studio found Joey’s shop through the Rogue Printers Facebook Group. As he researched Joey’s business, an idea formed. 

“I’m just going to help a brother out,” Jonathan said. “I just wanted to see what he needs and I was like, ‘Man let’s make this a big deal and really hook him up.’ That was the start.”

The crew loaded up their truck with an exposure unit, washout booth, power washer, two flash dryers, squeegees, platens, whole line of FN-INK™, spatulas, water-based pallet adhesive, EZ Grip Squeegees, scale, screen tape, and a conveyor dryer

RELATED: HOW GOLDEN PRESS STUDIO POWERED THE PRINT WITHIN THE SCREEN PRINTING COMMUNITY

A Riley 150 press in a spare-bedroom shop with a skull on the wall, lights, and a squeegee rack

Joey started screen printing in a spare bedroom of his house. Photo by Joey Avila.

Receiving all the equipment and supplies made the world of a difference for Joey. His processes sped up: he was able to complete orders more efficiently. Now, almost a year later, Avila Design Co. has grown tremendously. 

GROWING AVILA DESIGN CO.

Avila Design Co. has grown so much since its conception in October 2020. Joey got his first triple digit jobs in June of 2021. Being the owner, mechanic, salesperson, and printer meant he had to work extra hours to complete big jobs on time. He could handle smaller orders on his current press, the Riley Hopkins 150. But with larger orders coming in, he needed a bigger press. 

He turned to the Rogue Printers Facebook Group again, this time in search of a press. He found a used Riley Hopkins WIN Series 6X4. The shop selling it was local: United State Print Co., located in central Indiana. The company had just upgraded to an auto, and was selling their manual press. The 6X4 was a perfect upgrade for Joey. With more stations, he could get jobs out the door quicker. 

“With the amount of t-shirt orders I was getting, it was just too much for the 150,” Joey said. 

Joey and his dad (who bought the 150 press when Joey got started) drove to United State Print Co. and picked up the new press. With the 6X4, Joey found that he could take on bigger orders without worrying about deadlines creeping up behind him. 

A man helps to load a Riley 6X4 press onto a trailer

Joey's Dad helps him pick up his new WIN Series 6X4 Press. Photo by Joey Avila.

The crew at Golden Press Studio are impressed with Joey’s growth so far. 

“Watching Joey grow and get to a place where he has so much work he has to move into a commercial space because he has outgrown his spare room has honestly been one of the coolest things for us,” Jonathan said. They chose to help him out in the first place because of the potential they saw in Joey. 

Jonathan hopes that Joey’s shop continues to grow and that he makes even bigger waves in the screen printing community. 

“The dude is a phenomenal artist and I think he could do some really cool stuff in the design realm,” Jonathan said. “At the end of the day, everyone has a different definition of success but our hope is that the business far surpasses his dreams!”

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Joey’s business gets a steady stream of orders. His toughest order, though, has been in halftones. Coming from a design background, Joey knows how to create halftones. It’s not the theory that troubles him: it’s the practice. 

“I have no formal screen printing background,” Joey said. “So trying to get this to work, [I turn to] YouTube videos and articles.” 

Joey values learning the craft: in his previous jobs, he was thrown into the fray of the workday without getting a chance to learn the ins and outs of the trade. With screen printing, he makes learning and perfecting his craft a priority. He spent time cleaning his new 6X4 press to learn what made it tick. 

“When I started this as my own company, a big thing that I was focusing on was trying to learn the craft, and then mastering the craft,” Joey said. 


While he cleaned and reassembled the WIN Series press, Joey continued to print on his Riley 150, moving it into the shop next to the 6X4. Once both presses were up and running, Joey was able to take on big orders without worrying about deadlines.  

Two screen printing presses sitting in a shop

Photo by Joey Avila.

THE CLIENTELE

Many print shops form a customer base of businesses and individuals who resonate with their mission, goals, and style. Here’s an example: Press or Dye, another screen printing shop that opened up during the pandemic, attracts barbershops, musicians, and local lifestyle brands who love what they create.

Avila Design Co. attracts a lot of startup businesses. Joey doesn’t have to think hard to determine why. He’s running a business on his own, just like them.

“They’re attracted to me because they see that I’m trying to do this myself, and they see a lot of themselves in this,” Joey said.

He likes working with startups because he’s all about the soul of screen printing. Giant jobs from corporations bring in the big bucks, but printing for small businesses is more fun for Joey.

“The people that are coming to me are just as worried about the quality of what they’re getting as I am worried about the quality of what I’m doing,” Joey said. The community he prints for is just as important as the business he works in. 

FINDING COMMUNITY

Everyone needs resources. Whether you’re learning a new trade or trying to master a new skill, getting help from a fellow tradesperson is always beneficial. When Joey started his screen printing journey, he joined the Rogue Printers Facebook Group, learning from other printers and asking plenty of his own questions. 

That’s how he got in touch with Jonathan from Golden Press Studio, who set him up with what he needed to get off the ground. Joey bought his new 6X4 from someone in the same group. Being a part of a community has helped him in his journey. It’s not something that you find in every industry. 

“Never has there been an industry where people are just so willing to give information,” Joey said. Most businesses keep the doors of their trade secrets tightly shut. The screen printing industry isn’t like that. 

Joey uses the Facebook group to bounce ideas off other members, gain inspiration, and to ask questions. 

“Any question off the top of my head that I don’t feel like doing the deep research on or finding the YouTube video on, I just type that question or search the question on there and you know somebody is either going to answer it for you or it’s already been answered and discussed in detail,” Joey explained. “What Lee created over there is something special.” 

Sometimes, Joey scrolls through the group, checking to see what other screen printers are up to. Being involved in a supportive group of screen printers has encouraged him to hustle harder and perfect his craft.

The group has over seven thousand members, from automatic print shops to printers just starting out. The community has brought printers together from around the world. Jonathan from Golden Press Studio believes that bringing printers together is vital to the industry.

“There is plenty of business to go around and it seems counterproductive to be "competing" with other print shops,” Jonathan said. “The screenprinting community is pretty tight-knit and we love connecting with people and building rad friendships with other printers!”

RELATED: SUPPORTING LOCAL—WATCH THE PRINTERS ROUNDTABLE

The logo for the Rogue printers facebook group.

The Rogue Printers Facebook Group is a public group for screen printers to support each other.

ADVICE FOR NEW PRINTERS

Joey started out printing in a spare bedroom, curing in his oven, and cleaning screens at a car wash. Now, almost a year later, he’s printing on a Riley Hopkins 6X4 and renting a commercial space. He has a few pieces of advice for printers starting out and looking to upgrade.

GET FAMILIAR WITH DIGITAL DESIGN

Every print starts with good artwork. If your artwork isn’t top notch, you’ll have trouble executing the vision your customer is looking for. 

“If you can’t separate on Illustrator, if you can’t vector shapes, you’re gonna have a hard time,” Joey said. 

There are whole industries designed around vectorizing and digitizing art. Some digitizing companies provide good services. The trick is to find the good ones among companies that just want your money. If you can do it yourself, you’ll be saving time, money, and stress. 

RELATED: WHY PRINTERS NEED ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR FOR SCREEN PRINTING

MAKE CONNECTIONS

Another bit of advice that Joey has to offer is to make connections. Keep good relationships with the people you work with, the customers you print for, and the community of printers that help you out. 

“I’ve done a couple brands from people that I never thought I’d work with ever again,” Joey said. Keeping connections can land you jobs, shop spaces, and good friends. 

PARTNER UP

Joey is a one-man band. In retrospect, he wishes he had found a partner to help him get Avila Design Co. from vision to reality. A partner helps keep orders moving out the door, but it also keeps you accountable.

“Having nobody there to keep you on your sh*t, you can’t get away with being lazy every now and again,” Joey said. “Everyone does it.” 

Running a print shop takes a lot of energy. With a partner, you can share the load, keep each other accountable, and push each other to be better. 

The Riley 150 sits on a table with the WIN Series behind it. A bike sits at the back of the shop.

Photo by Joey Avila.

THE FUTURE OF AVILA DESIGN CO.

Joey has big plans for the future of Avila Design Co. Besides the press upgrade, he has also purchased a transparency film printer. Before, he was ordering transparencies from FedEx. With the Canon IX 6820, he can print his own film transparencies. 

In the future, Joey hopes to turn his eyes to sign printing. He used to work for a sign printing agency, and fell in love with the process of printing signs. He’s not looking to get a large format digital printer: hand-printing signs is more of an artform. Joey also wants to start printing stickers alongside T-shirts and signs. 

“I don’t know how that’s going to work out, but that’s really the goal,” Joey said. 

Does any printer truly know how it’s all going to work out? Some, yes. Others, definitely not. With determination, hard work, and motivation, it will work out, just like how it has been working out for Joey.

Running a print shop takes a lot of energy. With a partner, you can share the load, keep each other accountable, and push each other to be better. 

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