New York’s Printers Plus Wins Printwear Shop Makeover Contest

BROOMFIELD, Colo.—A nonprofit in New York State is the winner of Printwear magazine’s 2015 Shop Makeover Contest.

“You don’t know how excited we are,” says Don Evia, sales manager for Printers Plus, a company operating under the umbrella of Arc of Steuben, a Bath, New York nonprofit which serves people with developmental disabilities in a variety of ways.

One of those ways is to give them job opportunities. Printers Plus is the printing and embroidery arm of the parent organization, but it also lines clients up with custodial jobs or in industrial facilities doing assembly work, packaging, and shipping.

“We’ve got some great folks with disabilities working here,” says Evia. “They are very productive and really enjoy what they do.”

Printers Plus employs about 10 staffers and approximately 20 disabled people, some of whom have been there longer than he has, Evia states. They work various jobs within the shop, including running the screen-printing presses, checking incoming apparel, and preparing fulfilled orders for shipping.

“We’ve tried to put folks in all situations,” Evia says. “We don’t have the luxury of a folding machine but we’ve been able to find people who are incredibly fast at folding.”

For winning the shop makeover contest Printers Plus will host industry expert Lon Winters for a five-day, on-site consultation. Winters is president of Colorado-based Print This Inc./Graphic and a Printwear columnist.

This is the third such contest that Winters has been a part of, he says, the last one being in 2013.

“I like working with clients and this is particularly fun because of the involvement of the magazine and the daily takes on things,” Winters says, referring to blog postings that he will make each day describing his experiences working with Printers Plus. “I really enjoy these and I’m looking forward to it.”

Winters says he’ll fly to New York state at the end of August for his five-day stay.

The timing for winning the contest and Winters coming to visit is perfect for a couple of reasons, Evia says. First, state regulations are forcing Printers Plus and other nonprofits like it to fundamentally reconfigure how they operate. That’s opening up doors of opportunity but also causing some headaches. Also, this is an opportunity for his staff to take advantage of a rare training opportunity that otherwise just isn’t in the budget.

“We don’t have the opportunities to send people and staff to a lot of trainings and stuff, and my hope is that he can give us a lot of insight into better ways to do things,” Evia says. “One of the things that’s happening is we’re getting looks now at newer and better work opportunities that are going to require us to up our game, and (we need) advice in, ‘How do we move to that?’

“What are the things we need to be looking at in terms of training? Perhaps we should be using some additional software in our graphics? Upgrades we ought to make equipment-wise—I don’t think we’re too bad there, but I’m sure there’s a lot of information as far as maybe there’s newer inks we should be thinking about. Maybe we should be changing screen meshes in some of the things we’re printing, so a lot of that fine-tuning," he explains. 

Evia says he read Winters’ five-day blog last time the expert did a shop makeover, in 2013, and thought to himself, “Oh my God, I’d kill for this.” He says he’s passed out copies of those blog entries to his staff to get them thinking about what they would like to learn or what questions to ask during his visit.

Regulatory changes are forcing Arc of Steuben to adapt, Evia says. Meanwhile, the nonprofit doesn’t want to stop the 10- to 20-percent growth it’s been experiencing annually.

“We’ve been meeting bi-weekly, looking at all parts of our apparel business and how do we improve it? With our growth, how do we stay on top of quality too? Accuracy, making sure all our prints are good? We’ve tried to kind of revamp everything to put us in a better position for this growth moving forward,” Evia says.

Winters says before his trip to New York, he’ll be doing some “pre-discovery” homework on the business through phone conversations and email exchanges with Evia.

Once he gets there, he’ll try to “show them a few tricks, and give them a few ideas,” Winters says.

Often, there are improvements he can suggest that involve little expense but could definitely be a boost to the shop’s bottom line. That’s the benefit of having fresh eyes on the business, he says.

“A lot of their own instincts are usually correct,” Winters says. “Sometimes they just need assurances.”

Printers Plus beat out more than 35 other entries to win the 2015 Shop Makeover Contest.


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