In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Printwear chats with Elsie Acevedo of Deluxe Screen Printing about her experiences as a shop owner.
Can you take me on a journey through your industry background? What made you say, “I want to run my own screen-printing business!”?
My name is Elsie Acevedo. I started working for a large commercial screen-printing company. For 12 years, I worked with big brands focusing on contract printing, large volume, fashion-driven. The industry was changing, and more and more production was headed to China and Mexico. The owner decided to sell, and I was left to think about my future. Since screen printing was the only thing I knew, I decided that I would start my own business. From the ground up, in my garage, I launched Deluxe Screen Printing Inc. with my business partner Liza D’Agostino. With business going outside the USA, there was a demand for sampling here in the states. For a couple of years, I focused on providing samples and small runs. With my previous years in the commercial screen printing, I was able to network amongst companies and designers I worked with in the past and established myself quickly. In time,transitioned from samples to doing small production runs. I moved into a small warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, and quickly business picked up. During this time, Liza D’ Agostino lost her battle with breast cancer, but her spirit carries on with us. Her motto remains true and strong today. She would always say, “We’re tiny, but we’re mighty!”
Eventually, I brought in Chris to help me be my right-hand person. She came from the same company and similar background, and together we’ve elevated Deluxe into one of L.A.’s top small screen-printing and female-owned companies that it is today!
How has your fashion background prepared you for the day-to-day challenges you face with customers, staff, vendors, etc.?
With my background in working with companies focusing on fashion, I’m able to bring that to the table and advise clients on the latest styles, trends, and screen-printing techniques that will elevate their project. Also, coming from a large printing company, I’m able to take that experience working in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment and manage and multi-task with my smaller business. Since we’re small, myself, Chris, and staff wear many hats. There is no I in ‘team,’ and we take that very seriously and work together to get all our production out.
From your 12-plus years in the industry, what’s one triumph that’s stuck with you through everything?
As a woman-owned small business owner, we’ve triumphed adversity in a predominantly male-owned and operated industry. With the women’s movement, we found it necessary to create a safe space for women. We networked with other female entrepreneurs and quickly gained more exposure, drawing in more women, women of color, and created other safe avenues for people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.
On the flip side, tell me about a time you were challenged and how that shaped the way you do business.
Our biggest challenge was taking a step financially and mentally to move up from manual presses only—to incorporating an automatic and building the business up. Pulling the trigger to actually purchase one was stressful but necessary if we wanted to grow. After purchasing an Anatol Volt 7/6 station, all-electric automatic machine, we were able to take on bigger jobs, and it’s been the best decision we made.
As a business owner and screen printer, what’s one thing you want to work on this year? Why?
For 2020, we’d like to offer more styles and printing techniques. With the up and coming elections, we’d like to join forces with groups trying to get the message out there to vote and make change within their community. There’s no better platform than to voice a message on a T-shirt.
Keeping growth and challenges in mind, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ten years from now, I’d like to see us continue to grow, add another automatic machine, and add more employees from the community, and reach out to the community and continue to create and inspire people.
And what advice can you offer others who are thinking about stepping into business ownership?
The advice I would give someone starting their own business is, “Do the thing you love, and love the thing you do!”