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Legal Tips for Reducing Your Print Shop's Risk

Finding a crack contract lawyer is a good place to start.





When COVID-19 hit, Keith Burwell, owner of Precision 1 Apparel in Yuba City, California, jumped on TikTok, looking for ways to sustain his business. “I noticed several bigger influencers were telling people to check out their merch store. That’s when the light bulb went off,” he says. “I was following some people who were up and coming, and then I just started asking them about doing their stores. And it worked.” He then moved to Twitch, an interactive livestreaming service for content spanning gaming, entertainment, sports, music, and more. His son, who streams often, was able to help get fellow gamers to set up merch stores.

Precision 1 Apparel currently has 18 merch stores set up for influencers on Tiktok, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch. “The gamer stores are setup for a specific length of time, and then we close and produce. Others are all on-demand,” he says. The shop has other stores in the works, but because they’re high-profile clients, they can’t disclose names. “They’ll be my biggest and most famous clients, if all parties can agree to terms,” he says.

“This store is simple, with not a ton of options,” says Burwell. “If I put up a store with much more than this, it will not do well.”

“This store is simple, with not a ton of options,” says Burwell. “If I put up a store with much more than this, it will not do well.”

When Burwell started working with influencers who have a decent number of followers, he decided to speak with a lawyer. “I knew I needed something in place, so I would not lose them to someone willing to do it cheaper or give them more profit of the sales.” Luckily, Burwell has three good friends who are attorneys. “They have all helped me for nothing at times, or not a lot,” he says. “But I do pay them as I use them. I told them they need to make a living, as well.”

Precision 1 Apparel has a contract that outlines artwork, compensation, length of the contract, basic terms, and special terms, like using their names to promote Burwell’s business. Each contract is different, and terms will vary case by case. “It’s tough when some are TikTok famous so to speak, and they want more money,” he says. “Play hardball. You really have more control than you realize.”

Watch Precision 1 Apparel’s TikTok video promoting their online merch store offerings.

There are artwork buyouts in place and things to protect the influencer, Burwell, and Precision 1 Apparel should they part ways. “The NDA is on the artwork I create, and it cannot be used by them unless terms are agreed with compensation to me,” he says. “This has never been ugly so far, but there have been a couple discussions as to why we need them. Ultimately, not everyone will be happy. So, if they want to go elsewhere, you need to protect the work you have done.” This includes compensation for your time or artwork created. “Let them know you own the artwork,” he continues. “They can buy it 100 percent early on or in the end. Sometimes it’s just basic lettering, but if they’re wanting a physical file, they are paying for it. Make sure all this is in the contract.”

If you’re considering partnering with an influencer, Burwell says communication is key. “Let them know what is going on. Find out what their expectations are. And build an exit plan if it comes to that.” Burwell also says to ask yourself “Do you support what they’re doing?” “Some people will say money is money, but if I don’t believe in what they’re doing I probably won’t do their merch.”

Burwell says working with influencers was a great way to pivot during the pandemic, but because they never backed off, it’s continued to be a profitable part of his business. “It has been good, except for the supply chain issues,” he says. “We had to get creative with product descriptions, like saying it will be a tri-blend, but not listing specific names, and so on.”

At the end of the day, despite how great the merch looks, how perfect the contracts are, and how well Burwell communicates with the client, it’s up to the influencer to promote the store. “Those who promote do well, those who don’t won’t,” he says.


Why You Need a Lawyer, And How to Find One
Gavin StGeorges, founder/entrepreneur of Proud T-shirts and, shares how to balance growing your business while reducing risk.

Legal Tips for Reducing Your Print Shop’s Risk

Legal Tips from the Brain Squad

  • Don’t be cheap. Spend money on the right tools, the right education, and the right guidance (mentors, consultants, professionals). Joe Sudrovic, Gorilla Joe Printing, Youngstown, Ohio
  • When it was only a side hustle, I went ahead and became an LLC. A customer I connected with did my business insurance when I opened a brick and mortar and workman’s comp when I hired my first employee. I didn’t have to do any of that stuff, just call up Mitch. He knows the business and what I need, and I don’t have to worry about it. My business grew very quickly. My biggest regret is not hooking up with an accountant from the very start. Charlie Vetters, Organic Robot Designs, Greenfield, Indiana
  • Don’t ever think you can do your own legal work. There are so many things that can trip you up. Make sure anything you do that requires legal review gets the proper attention it deserves. If you are doing any kind of lease or real estate purchase, 100 percent have a competent attorney that specializes in that area give you their opinion and legal input. Contracts are only as good as the intent of the opposing party. I have had perfectly good contracts go south because the other party did not want to honor the agreement they consented to. Even if you must sue, realize that’s only one part of it. Even if you win, you have to go through the process of collecting. Mark Coudray, Coudray Growth Tech, San Luis Obispo, California
  • “Don’t be afraid to engage with a lawyer or a CPA. In fact, find ones you like, and keep them on retainer. Eric Solomon, Night Owls, Houston, Texas

  • Buckle up, buttercup. Danny Gruninger, Founder and CTO, Denver Print House
  • In my opinion, partnerships rarely work in the long run. Make sure you have a legal “exit” plan or “shotgun” plan in place as business divorce can be messy.
  • NDA, no problem, I’ve signed lots, all in relation to companies launching new branding, sometimes with a new name and/or a new logo or new artwork. Usually these come through a marketing department while we are creating goods for their clients. I have signed NDAs for artwork being used for a large manufacturer launching a decorated T-shirt line. You want your client’s business. Confidentiality should be a given, anyway, in my mind.
  • For everything else, talk to a lawyer, seriously. All that glitters is not gold. I have retained a lawyer when I bought my partners out and when I have had offers to buy my business.
  • I have my lawyer look over all NDAs from clients, only if they seem complex in any way. If they’re straightforward, NDAs are usually very clear about what information is strictly confidential. I had no issue signing.
  • In any case, the less your general staff know, the better. They could be your weakest link. NDAs are a serious business. Breaking that contract could be costly – to your pocketbook and your reputation. Tracey Johnston-Aldworth, Traces Screen Printing, Waterloo, Ontario
  • Talk to other small business owners! Joe Ortinau, Ortinau Art, Pemberville, Ohio
  • We use NDAs. There are several great resources with industry consultants such as Marshall Atkinson that have excellent materials and templates. Consider hiring a professional. Scott Garnett, King Screen, Roanoke, Virginia



Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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