Q: Your nomination form states: “There is no better way to connect and reshape than on social media. People get to see first-hand what it’s like to be a woman building a small business. She is a true influencer in our industry.” How has using social media affected your business? What are your tips for being a brand ambassador in the screen printing space?
AB: Social media is a tool I use for my business for two main reasons: connecting with other printers for friendship and advice and showing our customers what we can do. Of course, I try to put my best foot forward on Instagram, but I also post about the stressful times and the learning experiences – like when I was trying to learn our new auto press and it was going so slowly, or like when our power went out and we had to stop production for the day. I learn a lot from other printers and I hope I help those learning to screen print. I also really like learning about the way our industry operates. We believe there is a conversation to be had about sustainability; this means more than just choosing an organic cotton tee. Our customers want to know about where shirts get made and how well the people in the factory are treated. I’ve been lucky enough to visit some garment facilities. Posting about things like that – the bigger picture outside of our shop – has gotten a lot of engagement. Even if you don’t travel overseas, there are so many interesting videos about screen printing techniques around the globe that are fun to repost and share with your audience.
Q: You host ThreadFest, where you live print, support local artists and businesses, and raise money for a cause. Why is it important to give back locally and how has it affected your company?
AB: ThreadFest was brought to life because we wanted to have a fun party and celebrate our shop’s expansion in a new space. Then it occurred to me that maybe I should try not to lose money on it, ha. In the end we did, but it was a marketing expense, right? We supported several local artists, bands, and vendors. We raised money for our local watershed and drank beer made from that same watershed. We tried a new ink made of algae by-product and our customers and friends were able to chat with printers and see us in action. I’ll definitely do it again next year. First and foremost because it’s fun, and secondly because being a part of our community attracts customers who care about more than just getting the cheapest service. We are not the cheapest in town, but we throw the best party!
Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date and how did you get there?
AB: Earlier this year, we moved from 1500 square feet to 5000 square feet, and went from a manual shop to an auto. I’m really proud of how far we have come, but it has been a challenging year. We did it because we lived by one of our core values: Embrace the Unknown. Like so many things in this small business life, you can’t expect perfection overnight and you have to be able to roll with the punches. Our shop can feel frustrating at times, and dirty, and hot, and we can get snappy at each other. But we are always striving for improvement, and this year has been proof that we can accomplish so much.
Q: What does being a woman in the screen printing industry mean to you?
AB: Like so many crafts, screen printing was historically done by mostly women long ago. But like everything else that became a money-making industry, it became dominated by men overtime. I find the running a business part to be more intimidating than the actual screen printing. I’m so glad to connect with more and more women all the time who make a living screen printing. When I first started, I had doubts about myself, mainly because back then I just didn’t see a lot of women running a commercial print shop. But luckily now I do, and they have always been there, just harder to find. I’m really focused on learning how to run a profitable business that is successful, pays employees well, gives back to the community. and tries to make the world a tiny bit better.