Merging the traditional word-of-mouth sales method with modern-day digital e-commerce can be an arduous task for many apparel decorators, especially as technology continues to evolve and client expectations shift. While the personal touch of a high-quality job is still important, learning how to do business online is crucial to many shop owners’ survival. For Rick Provence of Ohio Screen, learning the ropes in the digital world came not only as part of his background, but a desire to move further into the future with a slightly different style business model.
Situated 25 minutes south of Cleveland, the business is similar to other screen-printing businesses, but the digital model is front and center.
“We’re completely online-driven,” Provence points out, adding that the two major markets his company targets are brands and print brokers.
Provence’s business model is designed to help streamline what can sometimes become a complicated relationship in a production chain for decorated apparel, especially T-shirts. By establishing connections between apparel distributors and print brokers, Provence explains, his business consists of strong relationships with both parties. And while the company services many large brands, Provence points out that his business still pays close attention to local establishments.
“We’re a small town, so if someone has their own brand they want to market we’ll accommodate that as well,” Provence adds. “We print it the way they tell us with our online platform and we ship it wherever they want to. We also fold every garment and re-box it so it looks professional.”
While Provence’s current business is less than a year old, he and his wife have more than 14 years of experience in the industry. Originally entering the printing world in his late teens, Provence took an interest in the craft at an early age and says he realized he had a knack for it.
“Over the course of six months I picked up on how to print signs, and kind of launched from there,” says Provence.
Eventually Provence took his skills from his first printing job further to start his own shop. Provence sold his original business, a wholesale-to-trade sign-printing shop in 2013. During their sign-printing stint, Provence and his wife built more than 10 years of a foundation learning the trade of commercial printing, and gradually began to get involved in screen printing.
“We started getting more and more questions about screen printing,” explains Provence. Clients continued inquiring about the screen-printing process for a variety of substrates, so the couple began to acquire the equipment and supplies to offer the services. Once his clients were aware of the shop’s screen-printing capabilities, Provence says the same clients began asking about screen printing on T-shirts, so they added the service to accommodate.
The current shop runs four production lines, including a screen-printing press for each line, and the shop features folding stations. An efficient layout helps move orders through the building, Provence says.
“We created this (shop layout) as one big flowchart, it’s a big circle,” he adds. “A job comes in one door and leaves out the other; we never cross paths twice.”
Provence also has a web development firm that he’s operated over the past 14 years, which has helped both his digital savvy, but also helped fuel the newer incarnation of his screen-printing operation. In the interim after selling his sign-printing business and starting Ohio Screen, Provence found clients who were interested in apparel decoration services in addition to tech assistance.
“We had a (web services) client who was asking if we did T-shirts as well, and that kind of helped re-ignite the interest,” Provence points out.
The combination of his web experience and screen-printing experience is what Provence says helped shape the current business model as well. Building an online-based contract screen-printing company that had a strong web presence, and a fluid order-building platform was a major focus, he elaborates. Today, that fluidity helps move a wide array of client projects through the door, ranging from larger-scale companies and promotional products distributors to smaller, local commercial businesses.
Provence contributes the continual growth to transparency.
“You need to tell the customer up front what their costs are,” he explains, saying that Ohio Screen makes it a point to avoid upsells and upcharges and simply maintain a clear, consistent quote on every order.
“Our motto is ‘better contract screen printing,’ so we want to maintain that,” Provence contests.
With keen attention to detail on down to fresh tape on a shipping carton for a cleaner appearance, Ohio Screen balances the fast-paced world of the digital marketplace with the hand-packed care and attention from a traditional shop.
For more information, visit: OhioScreen.com