When businesses decide to go into apparel decoration, there’s always an important choice to make regarding retail and wholesale sales. Build relationships, set up orders, and outsource the actual printing work to a contractor, or saddle up to run all aspects of the operation yourself? There are valid arguments for both approaches, but in the case of Go2 Decorators and Varcity Apparel, art director Mark Hansen and his associates saw the benefit in maintaining two companies to cover both the wholesale and retail markets.
A veteran of the industry, Hansen has been involved with various aspects of apparel decoration for more than 10 years. He points out that Carl Mucha, president of Go2, also comes to the table with 30 years of experience in the industry, including past work with athletic wear, screen printing, and embroidery. Mucha and Hansen met while Hansen was attending college. Mucha was then the president of Skyline Screen Printing and Embroidery, an athletic screen printing company. Hansen connected with Mucha through his son, a fellow teammate on Hansen’s college baseball team.
“Mucha was just starting up his company (Skyline) and was in need of a designer,” Hansen explains, noting that his Bachelor of Arts, with a concentration in computer graphic design, made him the perfect fit.
In recent years, the idea of building a new contract screen printing business, and a separate consumer-oriented, promotional goods company was hovering for both individuals. In 2015, Skyline Screen Printing and Embroidery, based in Naperville, Ill., and Sportco USA, another Illinois-based screen printing company, merged to form what’s now known as Go2 Decorators. Soon after Go2, Varcity Apparel was also formed as a separate company.
“We started Varcity, basically, as a retail division (of our company) and a way to sell for ourselves,” notes Hansen, adding that by building a retail company, Go2 Decorators was able to avoid issues with varying quality and service from outsourced contractors.
In addition to serving as art director and president for Varcity Apparel, Hansen lists creative director at Go2 Decorators as his simultaneous role.
“I work on all sides of it, overseeing the retail side and the art staff, hi-res screen separations, embroidery, and quality control,” notes Hansen.
While Varcity covers a wide spectrum of markets like parks departments, local sports teams, and larger food corporations, Go2 sticks primarily to business-to-business relationships. With the merger of Sportco and Skyline, Hansen explains, Go2 Decorators set up the business in a 15,000 sq. ft. facility.
“We have four automatic presses, three manual presses, and three numbering machines (for team uniform numbering),” Hansen says, commenting that while heat transfer is common for team lettering in many shops, his business sticks primarily to screen-printed numbers.
When asked what he loves about working in the industry, Hansen says he’s been glad to experience all aspects of the business, from washing screens on up to building client relationships. He also notes that one of the exciting parts of doing larger contract jobs are some of the clients Go2 Decorators takes on.
In particular, printing concert apparel for touring musicians and bands like Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, and KISS afford Hansen and his co-workers the opportunity to produce stunning, photo-realistic prints. While Go2 doesn’t create the original artwork for these prints, Hansen says it’s still a rewarding job building the screens and printing these challenging designs.
“Since I’m artwork-based, I like to see designs come to life on T-shirts,” Hansen stresses. “That was a pretty cool change for me once we got into the concert apparel.”
Despite the recent merger and new facility for Go2 Decorators, Hansen still sees a bustling future for both Go2 and Varcity.
“We’re still growing, and it’s been an interesting ride so far,” comments Hansen. “We’re still a relatively new company, but we hold the experience, and we’ve (all collectively) been in the industry for a long time.”
For more information on Go2 Decorators, visit: http://www.go2decorators.com/