Screen printers who took the leap of faith to scale to a commercial shop or automate their machines (or both) know there isn't a foolproof plan to do it right the first time. Often, they found out what to do, what not to do, and when to do what, as they went along. Boyd Creative Print Shop pulls back the curtain on that process to share their fresh perspective on how to put plans in place for success as you scale up.
Since we last interviewed them six months ago, they have gained 10x the square footage in their new commercial space with a ROQ automatic and accessory equipment. They could barely keep up with orders and had to either upgrade their manual to a Riley Hopkins 300 8x6 or transition to a more extensive shop with an automatic press. If your shop is considering on going auto or you're simply looking for print tips on running a successful shop - you'll find this to be a super informative and helpful in-depth story on Boyd Creative's transformation to an automatic print shop...
GETTING TO KNOW THE BOYDS
Andrew Boyd is a founder, graphic artist, and print veteran with over 20 years of experience. An avid fisherman, tattoo enthusiast, and Dad to daughter Paislee. Most likely to be chasing shop dogs King and Meatball around in the shop.
Chantel Boyd is a co-founder, wife to Andrew, his biggest fan. Chantel oversees customer and vendor relations, is a social media specialist and coordinator of all chaos. Professional writer & thrift queen.
WHEN AND HOW TO SCALE UP IN THE SCREEN PRINTING INDUSTRY
When they’re not being asked about their shop dogs (Meatball, the 85lb 5-year-old American Bully, and King, the 40lb French Bulldog) on their Instagram account, The Boyds are approached by other print shop owners about their transition from manual to auto. "They ask about scaling from manual to auto, machines, supplies, or techniques,” Andrew explains. Previously, The Boyds printed thousands of apparel in up to 8 ink colors in their garage each week on their Riley Hopkins 250 6x4. Initially, they printed in a basement, then a barn, then their attached garage. They knew it was time to think about upgrading to an auto when they ran out of time and space. But they didn’t know if they should buy the Riley Hopkins 300 8x6 manual or fully automate it in a commercial space. So they researched…
They contacted their coaches – Lee Stewart of Rogue Lab and Jonathan Overmyer of Golden Press Studio – who had recently automated their shops. Chantel and Andrew visited Jonathon and his team at Golden Press studio, spoke with Ryan Moor at Made Lab in Chicago, and Brandon Schmunk from Ryonet. After speaking with these other industry leaders, The Boyds were confident when they had enough retainer clients and ongoing demand, it would warrant the transition. The expense of the machines and commercial rent would be outweighed by the opportunity to grow their output exponentially, and the ROI would be huge. The Boyds said, "Moving into a commercial space was our dream, but I had seen the chaos that came with growth without a plan in other shops I worked at.”
When the demand for custom designs and screen prints exceeded their ability to keep up in the garage, the Boyds got serious about finding their space and ordering the machine package. So, they began to make a plan based on their research. "We knew we were on the right track to justify having the overhead expenses of a commercial space and financing machines – when all of our clients were on retainer, and our contracts were hundreds or thousands of pieces”, Chantel recalls.
The Boyds suggest a checklist of three main things for printers assessing whether it’s time to help determine if it’s time to expand. Both admit they could have transitioned earlier but were risk-averse when leaping due to the added expenses. Now, they regret not having done it sooner. "No risk, no reward,” Andrew says…
1) Do you have the clientele to justify new overhead expenses?
2) Do you have machinery and the space to meet their clientele’s needs on time?
3) Do you currently have the ability to meet shop quotas and the necessary profits to meet those expenses?
RELATED: MORE INFO ON ROQ AUTOMATIC PRESSES
ORGANIC GROWTH WITH A NICHE & SERVING YOUR COMMUNITY
The Boyds moved their Screen-Printing shop to Andrew's rural hometown so they could have 10x their square footage for a lower cost since it's in a rural area. "We don’t have a retail side because we’re so busy printing for our clients, so we don’t need the prime real estate with foot traffic an urban location boasts or the price tag that goes with it," shares Andrew.
The Boyds' niches are regional, national, and international in scale so that they can print for anywhere. They print custom apparel for brands with big followings (outdoor brands, bands, and tattoo artists). But they still make time to support the area community. That support has led to many referrals and keeps their press running nonstop. "I come from a nonprofit background, so we still want to give back. We print for fundraisers and local organizations alongside famous bands or artists. We're committed to producing the same quality of art to the local clients as the big brands,” Chantel explains. The Boyds are committed to growing brands through good merch and supporting local initiatives. "When clients are happy, they will discuss their great experience and share our company with their network. To date, we've never spent any money on advertising. It's all been organic." Reveals Andrew. Chantel also recommends befriending vendor suppliers and clientele on social media channels so cross-promoting is easy and organic.
FUELING GROWTH BY DIALING IN YOUR PROCESS AND KEEPING THE PRESS SPINNING
During their transition, they learned to dial in processes quickly and immediately ask for help from other industry experts who have learned the ropes already. "We put plans in place and followed through, remaining flexible. When we shopped for commercial spaces, we had the specs needed, max budget, and non-negotiable needs. We sketched out our ideal footprint for the print floor, dark room/washout booth setup, and water and electricity needed. We sent plans over to industry experts and walked through with electricians,” Andrew recalls. The supplies they sourced reflected their time in other shops. "We took inventory of what worked well, talked directly with vendor suppliers, and ensured the decisions we made at the beginning would give us the biggest bang for our buck. We didn't want to break down or have bottleneck situations stalling us,” Andrew recounts.
Along the way, as issues with supplies cropped up, they stopped, assessed, asked questions, came up with possible solutions, implemented those, and reassessed to be sure their processes were as efficient as possible. “The teams at Ryonet, ROQ, Made Lab, Rogue Lab, Golden Press Studio, Graphx Source, etc., have all been instrumental in our success. We have amazing coaches who are available whenever we need them," Andrew shares.
Chantel has dialed in their approval process pipeline, too. "When a client comes to us, it's the same now as it's always been. We ask them what they need and share how we can help them meet it. Our approval process ensures that we have done our best to meet that need all along the way. We make ordering from us easy.” Chantel explains. And for banes of all screen printers’ existence - deadlines and setup and teardown – Chantel runs the print jobs on a calendar, and they tag team setup, teardown, and screen reclaiming and coating every time so they don’t run into burnout or backorders.
LIVING BY THE BUY NICE OR BUY TWICE RULE
From the basement to barn to garage, the Boyds kept being creative with their small studio spaces for years until they had no choice but to upgrade. They knew they had two options when they moved into their commercial space. Buy nice or buy twice. They entertained the idea of buying secondhand equipment and making upgrades again. But they hit the ground running with all new gear because Andrew had seen how breakdowns or bottlenecks in production had slowed creation down. The Boyds suggest getting creative when finding a space and having an open mind. Be willing to put in some renovation work or hire it out. They had to install a garage door in their new space and rework the electrical. Their new shop is in an old gas station – perfect electric, but low ceilings.
Their New Setup:
- ROQ Next 12
- Aeolus Conveyor Dryer
- ROQ Quartz Flash Dryer
- Eco Dunk Tank (fits 6)
- SGreen 48-inch washout booth
- Sgreen Washout booth filtration system
- 10 Screen Baselayer Drying Cabine
- PRU unit
- EMAX 120 Gallon Air Compressor and chiller
More Ryonet Supplies the Boyds swear by:
- Baselayer Complete emulsion
- Sgreen Emulsion Stripper
- Rite Premium Waterproof Film
- Pallet Tape for Masking
The only remaining items from their previous shop were their exposure unit, ET-8550 film printer, Stahls hat press, and workbench they called "Big Bertha," which they built in their garage shop that is 4ft x 8ft long. They have sometimes regretted selling their manual press and even entertained getting a manual press for some applications, but with their heat presses, Stampinator, and different platens, they have been able to print all orders on the auto.
RELATED: ROQ AUTOMATIC PRESSES
GROWING AND GIVING BACK IN THE PROCESS
The Boyds gave away some equipment and sold other equipment for reasonable prices. "We had blessings along the way with affordable equipment, so since we took good care of our equipment, we wanted to continue to bless others,” Chantel explains. The Boyds have continued reinvesting into their new setup. "We have bought youth platens, and dual sleeve platens, and will buy another set of single platens to complete our set."
With the volume the Boyds are printing and the demand for custom art, they are always looking for ways to support their customers better. "We are doing more custom neck labels using our Stampinator or Stahls hat press, more special effect inks, more eight color prints, and the more we stretch ourselves, the more we dial in our processes," shares Andrew.
To continue to grow and spend quality time with each other and their daughter Paislee, the Boyds know the time is coming when they might need help. For now, they have friends in the industry or family come in and learn from them while helping on big jobs. "We sometimes have purchase orders that are several thousand pieces, and it's easier to have someone at the end of the dryer catching and sorting as we print and pull,” Andrew admits. Eventually, they will be extending some positions to skilled print industry professionals, knowing that will be the pinnacle of growth to where they want to be. "It's always been just us, and we like it that way for maintaining quality control, but we're only two people and two shop dogs, and we have a lot of clients. We want to give a great position to a printer who wants to grow with us so we can serve those clients well. We've heard from many of our industry friends to hire quickly. We want a plan to ensure they'll be trained and treated well. That wasn't always the case for me" relents Andrew.
The Boyds are happy to serve as mentors for other shops who need help scaling and making themselves available, as their mentors did for them. "We truly believe that it's about community, not competition. We love this industry of screen printing, so when we're posting about our prints and processes and experience in this industry, it's not just to show what we can do for our customers or cross-promote for them; it's so other decorators and creators can learn from us, as we learn from them." Chantel says.
The Boyds keep proving it’s not about where you print but how you print. They are a print duo printing nonstop, and they’re still having a blast doing it. Continue to follow their journey on social media to keep up with their prints, hobbies, and continued growth.
EXCITING UPDATE! Since writing this blog, Andrew and Chantel have hired their first part-time employee! Larry Idle brings valuable screen print shop experience and will initially be responsible for managing the dark room process, which will enable Andrew and Chantel to spend more time on the shop floor. Join us in sending a warm welcome to Larry!