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Profit Town

A Road Trip Through…

Josh Ellsworth

Josh is the VP of sales, dealer channel for Stahls'. He deals in the sales and implementation of heat-applied, apparel-decorating systems with a focus on customization. He holds skills in the production, sale, and marketing of customized apparel. He presents seminars at trade shows and contributes articles to trade publications, like Printwear magazine.

Team sales may make up the majority of decorating sales today but creating apparel for all kinds of local businesses is really no small business at all. I often spend my drive to work thinking of all of the different ways to make money in this market. A recent idea came to me on my thousandth-or-so trip along Route 21—to put myself in the shoes of a decorator and think about how I might capitalize on the opportunities that exist in the local area.

Are we there yet?

Making the turn from a country road onto Route 21, immediately to my right is the YWBA, The Youghiogheny Western Baptist Association, which is also my first sales opportunity. I’d file this type of business into the church/nonprofit category. Churches and nonprofits often participate in community events and need matching T-shirts. When presenting to a church or community group, bright colors often work as the groups want to be noticed, and bright matching T-shirts are a perfect way for them to stand out at events. 

For bright shirts, simple single-color graphics usually do the job. Reaching into the heat-applied graphics arsenal, show screen-printed transfers, which are perfect for groups when using a repetitive design. Similar to screen printing, the cost of the screen to make the transfer gets amortized across the number of pieces decorated, so the larger the group, the lower the cost of the transfer.

Driving on, the next stop on the right is Franco’s Driving Range & Miniature Golf Course. Franco’s is possibly the nicest driving range in the area, complete with a small pro shop. A few opportunities come to mind. First, a polo shirt with a flock application would be a nice fit as casual work shirts for the employees. Flock is an easy choice for uniforms for fewer than a dozen employees; it’s a nice alternative to embroidery that meets the customer’s expectations for a golf shirt. 

Another idea here is to get creative and pitch the concept of T-shirts as prizes for longest drive, hitting a target on the range or sinking a hole-in-one on a particular mini golf hole. Pitch T-shirt designs that announce the accomplishment in a funny way. Something like a play off of the popular beach style shirts—I sunk a hole in one at Franco’s Mini Golf and all I got was this T-shirt. Transfers or heat-applied film make a nice fit for these types of shirts.

Continuing on for about a quarter-mile, up ahead is the Springdale Golf Course. Now this is an actual course, so opportunities abound. Once again, the flock on a polo shirt idea fits, but also there’s an opportunity to offer customized golf flags and T-shirts for their next tournament. Setting a golf course up with a package for outings is a way that they can earn extra revenue at the time of booking their groups.

Naturally, after two golf courses, the next stop is the 19th Hole. This small bar is one of many on the drive, along with Mario’s and the Double T. When selling to bars or small restaurants, a nice T-shirt usually fits the bill for wait staff to look coordinated. For a bar with more of a happening crowd, present a glow-in-the-dark or foil material to help them stand out. 

Beyond golf country, our next encounter is with Hranec Corp., one of the larger employers in the county and a manufacturer that specializes in duct work. Based on its size, the company has to be a top target of other decorators in the area, so I’ll need to show them something different. I’d walk in with sublimated moisture-wicking T-shirts sampled with their logo for employees installing duct work out in the field, highlighting the benefits of this choice over a standard T-shirt. Given the season, I’d also consider showing a fleece garment with moisture-management qualities.

Another potential gold mine along our drive is Albert Gallatin North Junior High School. There are tons of opportunities here, and most are very competitive. Sports teams, small clubs, boosters and the band highlight the list of whom to show an entire range of decorating options.

After the school there are a couple gas stations, Sweet Peas and Sunoco. Typically, these companies go through a uniform rental service, but some heat-transfer products can be industrially washed. I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to show a heat-applied patch and some workwear choices that are very durable in a high-temperature wash.

One of the last stops along my commute is the grocery store, Shop N Save. Different stores have different styles, but for certain—they go through a lot of shirts and employee turnover can be high. In this case I’d show a low-cost pique polo or quality T-shirt with the store name on a left- or right-chest placement. I’d recommend leaving off the employees’ names in favor of a nametag. Of course, some stores, including this one, also have a floral shop in them. A unique idea is to offer custom T-shirts delivered to the store on call-ahead orders. Think about the store offering “I Heart ____” T-shirts or “Established” T-shirts to their customers for next-day pick-up.

Just before I pull into work, I see the last opportunity on my route and, unfortunately for me, these nice folks seem to always be somewhere along the way—the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. For these roadway work crews, high-visibility is a must. Start by showing safety T-shirts with safety colors. Also show vests with a certified reflective lettering or striping. 

But so much for daydreaming about sales, I’m ready for another day at work. I wonder how many sales opportunities will pop up tomorrow if I take a different route to work? With a heat press, I’m certain I can capitalize.