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Screen Printer Finds Good Help in Man with Down Syndrome

Whether it’s screen prep, folding, or bagging, he knows what needs to be done each day for Hansen Screen Printing in Elkhorn, WI.

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Screen Printer Finds Good Help in Man with Down Syndrome

NATE HANSEN, OWNER of Hansen Screen Printing in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, has drawn inspiration from the young women in his family to increase his business’ revenue and the quality of his local area. Four years ago, after a lengthy career in construction, Hansen started working with a friend in the screen printing industry and never looked back. He began in his basement and has since moved to a brick-and-mortar location. His entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to bettering those around him makes his business a pillar of the community.

These days, Nate’s three oldest daughters, whose ages range from 16 to 19, help in the shop and hone their business skills while working with their father. Nate’s niece, who was born with Down Syndrome, also plays a large role in his life; she opened his eyes to new information about people with disabilities. She was born right around the time his business took off, and he eventually came to realize he wanted to employ others with Down Syndrome. One year ago, he hired Eric, a young man with Down Syndrome who has since become an irreplaceable asset, for both morale and meeting production deadlines.

Nate, Eric, and Tom find success in networking at brewery festivals because they gain new and local clients.

Nate, Eric, and Tom find success in networking at brewery festivals because they gain new and local clients.

“Prior to my niece’s birth, I knew nothing about Down Syndrome. Since then, I’ve done research. I met Eric’s mother at a brewery festival we were live printing for. She mentioned her son has Down Syndrome and I let her know to contact me if he was looking for work. So, he came in and asked for an application. I sat down with his mom to get an HR plan together, just to find out what his needs are,” says Nate. “It just kind of worked out. He does a lot of screen prep, a lot of stacking, folding, and bagging. He gets all the tasks done that I can’t, because I’m doing everything else. He’s a huge asset to have. Eric knows what needs to be done every day, and he enjoys repetition. He’s not on his phone, he’s not complaining. He’s happy to be there and he creates good morale in the shop.”

Nate’s daughters have gotten real world working experience in the company. He’s made sure to take them behind the curtain so they can one day be profitable and charitable business people in the community.

“With my daughters, they come in here and they work. Some days they don’t necessarily want to come in here and help, but they really show their dedication by committing to it and learning,” says Nate. “And then I have Tom, who is a graduate student in a bit of a managerial position. He’s going to school for print making at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and our shop really has a good flow because of him.”

Hansen Screen Printing has become a place of business and education through intentionality. When it comes to gaining new clients, Hansen recommends zeroing in on your community and finding out what people care about. Then, go to those dynamic companies and pitch your offerings. For his shop in Elkhorn, those businesses are breweries, coffee shops, and summer tourist spots.

“Breweries are popping up everywhere here. And a lot of the times their designs aren’t very complicated, meaning they don’t have 30 colors or ornate details. It’s simple to print and it’s good networking,” says Nate. “There are a lot of festivals these breweries put on that I live print at. I’ve got a little three-wheeled bicycle that we have a press set up on. Just to get the staff out of the shop, we go to a brewery to print and give back by buying some beers when we drop shirts off. It’s better than just printing shirts for a 5K, for example, because you’re not building a relationship with that type of job.”

Nate has found a passion and income stream that works for him and his family, and discovered ways to better his community in the process. Whether it’s preparing his daughters to be successful business women, or encouraging others like Eric and his niece by providing opportunities to become tax paying, capable members of the town, Nate is making his mark.

To learn how to employ people with disabilities, watch the Let’s Talk About It webinar and read the companion article here.

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

Alex Marcheschi is the Associate Editor of Screen Printing and Big Picture.

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