mobile ink pod

Moving Prints: Mobile Ink P.O.D.

Mike Clark is the associate editor for Printwear and Sign & Digital Graphics magazines. Contact him at mclark@nbm.com

For many apparel decorators, the thought of fulfilling on-demand orders can be a difficult endeavor, especially when it comes to screen printing. Having to pause production on large commercial orders for a small, one-off custom job can be a risky move for many shop owners, since there is always the reality of diminishing returns. While many shops do accommodate smaller orders within reason, the on-demand format is usually not at the forefront of their business model. This is where Mobile Ink Printing On Demand (Mobile Ink P.O.D.) decided to experiment with a slightly different setup.

Cofounder Rob Ujevic and his partners Barrett Snow and Joseph Domino started the Richmond, Virginia-based company Mobile Ink P.O.D. to provide not only on-demand, but onsite screen printing. Ujevic says he began as a business major in college with no prior screen-printing experience, but the idea of a startup with a unique concept helped introduce him to apparel decoration. Snow’s initial experience in screen printing is also what helped fuel the initial idea, Ujevic points out.

“He (Snow) already had his own screen-printing shop with a manual press,” Ujevic explains, adding that Snow had a strong initial client base with lifestyle brands and local businesses as well.

Snow’s connections to the off-road bike-racing world helped build the initial list of clients for which the company began printing. With an upcoming off-road bike race tournament in the Richmond area, Ujevic and his partners brainstormed ways they could try to capitalize on the occasion by offering screen-printed garments.

“The event was typically just food and music,” Ujevic explains. The primary goal, he says, was to find a way to print enough shirts to accommodate attendees but not end up with excessive overages.

Coincidentally, Snow also happened to be a mechanic, so the crew constructed a towable trailer, retrofitted and equipped to function as a mobile screen-printing shop. With the trailer, Ujevic explains, the team could print a more concise number of T-shirts in relation to the event turnout.

That prototype trailer is what Mobile Ink P.O.D. uses today as their veritable print shop on wheels. Equipped with a four-color manual press and conveyor dryer, Ujevic and his colleagues literally bring the business to various events and establishments in Richmond and surrounding cities. The shop sticks to primarily simple, one-color designs and provides customers with a variety of standard garment options like T-shirts and hoodies on which to print the design. Regarding niches and markets, Ujevic says that the event and party planner market fits the company’s services well.

“We want to really work hand-in-hand with event planners, and help them come up with designs for their event,” Ujevic explains, pointing out that the overall idea is to form long-term bonds with event planners who hold year-round events. “All they really need to do is provide us with artwork, and we do the rest of the work.”

Despite the compact model of the portable shop, Ujevic says the company has had success printing for events with crowds as large as 8,000 people. Currently Mobile Ink P.O.D. operates as a service provider, but Ujevic says eventually the company hopes to turn the model into more of a franchise by supplying users with hands-on training and gradually helping them transition to running a truck on their own. For now, simply by being on the ground at local events helps the company grow its client list and generate new potential business.

“We’re basically our own best lead generator,” Ujevic comments. “We can collect contact info (for other businesses) at the events we work at, and follow up with them afterward.”

Ujevic says that he and his partners hope that in addition to building a client list, they can turn the Mobile Ink P.O.D. model into a more universal design. A mobile solution for various companies, he explains, could help provide entrepreneurs with new ways of reaching customers. 

For more information, visit: http://www.mobileinkpod.com/