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What I Wished I Knew Before I Became a Screen Printer

Buzz session: Candid insights from our Brain Squad.




IF YOU LISTENED to Season One of the Screen Saver podcast, you know we asked each of our guests the same three questions at the end of every episode. We gave our Brain Squad the chance to answer the first question: What’s the one thing you wish you would have known when you started in the business? Here’s what they had to say:


  • I wish I had known about contract printing much sooner. I enjoy outsourcing larger jobs to my subcontractors. I would have saved countless hours slaving over my printing press. — Deonjala Williams, Dee’s Sweet Tees and Heart and a Heat Press, Lake Worth, Florida
  • The skill you need to do this business. — Stephen Williams, S&S Custom T-Shirts, Valdosta, Georgia
  • I wish I would’ve known more about software used for screen printer like Inksoft or Printavo. — Victoria Jones, Inbound Ink, Lynn, Massachusetts
  • Lonely! There’s no foxhole mentality like you have with a regular job. Whether you’re working away in an office, pounding nails with a hammer, or picking in a warehouse, there’s a sense of community. You’re in it together. When it’s your business, it gets pretty lonely in the beginning. You have a lot of responsibility and it’s yours alone. You combine that with the difficulty of the task and it’s easy to see why so many businesses fail. The solution to this is find at least one other business owner you can relate to and, if nothing else, be able to safely vent to. Surrounding yourself with life minded individuals will only help you grow. — Ron Augelli, Talk shirty to me, Dickson City, Pennsylvania
  • How much work and how much fun it would be. — Dennis Bruso, East Coast Printers, Essex Junction, Vermont
  • You can (and should) fire clients. You should also say no when you are doing something that is way out of what you want to do. — Eric Carnell, Independence Printage Corp, Bellevue, Washington
  • How to promote our business to create the type of sales we want. We have been strictly word of mouth for 43 years. — John Wilhelmsen, Distinct Impression, Tucson, Arizona
  • I can think of a million things — but I can’t say there is one Big Thing in particular. If I had to answer I’d say: I wish I knew that I would be successful and that there would be a bright future with a lot of opportunity to grow. — Kyle Baker, Baker Prints, Chicago
  • The importance of cash management and financial competence. Too much emphasis on the technical delivery of the product. We spent countless hours chasing monies owed to the detriment of production. — Mark Coudray, Coudray Growth Tech, San Luis Obispo, California
  • How growing in volume can be the worst thing for your business. I regret ever being more than a one auto shop. — Pete Junior, New Era Apparel, Oceanside, New York
  • How time consuming and demanding it is. — Frank Cusano, Vernon Display Graphics, Carlstadt, New Jersey
  • I wish I had known there would be a pandemic in 2020 LOL. — Tracey Johnston-Aldworth, Traces Screen Printing, Waterloo, Ontario
  • Maybe my situation is a bit different because I felt confident going in – on the business, management, and marketing side of things – at least I felt confident enough that I can learn them quickly. I wish I would have known the printing process better. I wasn’t so confident in this aspect of the business. It’s tough trying to learn how to screen printing, marketing your business, handling customers, doing artwork, and at the same time learning a complex craft. The ideal situation would have been to spend a month or 2 in an established shop environment before opening my own. There is so much a new screen printer has to learn. Have a mental roadmap and a little bit of real-life experience would have made the process so much easier. — Gavin StGeorges, Proud Tshirts, Miami
  • How quickly new technology can take over the traditional way of doing things. — Robert Francis, ScreenPrintPlus, Naperville, Illinois
  • To trust my gut. Most any job that I got a weird vibe when the customer walked in I should have either, 1) priced it high, or 2) said yes, I can print that in three to four weeks. Conversely, those great jobs that I made money on I always jumped on was by trusting my gut or instincts as well. Most of us ‘know’ when a weird customer walks in just by the vibe. — Bill Bischoff, Bischoff Design/Atomic Tees, Modesto, California
  • Accounting. — David Summerlin, Tropical Enterprises, Port Orange, Florida
  • How vital delegation can be. — Keith Abrams, The Decoration Facility, Indian Trail, North Carolina
  • Sales and business hunger are far more important than technical skills, but that’s not what I brought to the party. — Richard Greaves, Screen Police, Wyandotte, Michigan
  • That it never gets any easier. Many parts of the process have gotten easier because of computers and digital technology, but new challenges are always popping up – John Drake
  • Better training on people management. — Edward Cook, ECI Screenprint, Watertown, Connecticut
  • How widespread and utilized SP technology/processing is in so many different industrial and manufacturing sectors. I guess what goes along with that is the level of automation that was/is available, and training to use it. — Andy MacDougall, MacDougall Screen Printing, Royston, British Columbia
  • Learn to delegate more. What tasks are you good at doing and enjoy working on? What tasks do you handle that you either don’t enjoy or don’t really have the skill? What is eating your time? Delegate the tasks that are time sucks, you don’t like, or aren’t good at. Keep the stuff you enjoy or are really fantastic at completing. If you do delegate, make sure the person understands what’s needed, has clear objectives, the right tools and skill set, and a deadline. — Marshall Atkinson, ATKINSON CONSULTING, MESA, ARIZONA
  • That the business would be still operating after 9 years so make sure you enjoy the ride. — SHANNON MCKINNON, St Peters, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • Being boss was so much work. — Arnold Footle, Dahlgrens, Deerfield, Illinois
  • The one thing that I wish I would have known is how to calculate costs correctly to ensure pricing structures are earning a good profit. We didn’t technically struggle in the beginning but when looking back on it, I can envision how much faster we could have grown if we would have had a better pricing structure. The one thing that I am glad I didn’t know about is how much paper work goes into being a business owner! — Joe Ortinau, ORTINAU ART, PEMBERVILLE, OHIO

Listen to all 15 episodes of Screen Saver at or on your favorite podcast platform.

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If you’re the owner or top manager of a screen-printing business, you’re invited to join the Screen Printing Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting screen-printing pros. Sign up here.

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