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She Says Automation Isn’t Just for Big Companies

Deanna Smith, a Women in Screen Printing Award winner, says even small crews can benefit from state-of-the-art equipment, add-ons, and software.




She Says Automation Isn’t Just for Big Companies
Deanna Smith
Co-Owner | N the Zone Ink, Bend, Oregon

Q: Your nomination form states: “Deanna has built a successful business from the ground up. She now uses state-of-the-art equipment and advanced technologies. Deanna stays abreast of industry trends by attending tradeshows, industry events, and networking opportunities.” Why is it necessary for you to have an ear to the ground on new technology and trends?    

Deanna: As our shop has grown, it has become ever more important to run as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. I cannot imagine doing this all on my own. I share our amazing shop with my husband and business partner, Josh. Together we have tag-teamed all of the hurdles and reaped the rewards. Personally though, in the last few years I’ve come to realize what our shop is truly capable of – something I didn’t always recognize before. So, staying up to date with equipment and technology has been a large focus for us in the past few years.

During 2020, we realized how important it was to run as efficiently as possible. With only half our crew, the need for more automation and technology was very apparent. I used to believe that you had to be a certain-size shop [to use automation tools such as] screen reclaim, computer to screen, auto coaters, graphic design services, and fancy software. I no longer believe that is true. I think any shop should make those advancements as soon as finances will allow and sales can support. I wish we would have done some things sooner. Automation propels your company like no other by providing more control over quality and the constant variables in apparel decoration. Efficient processes also require fewer employees, make it far easier to train new employees, and make things easier on yourself, giving you a better work-life balance. Technology efficiencies were also high on the priority list. We’ve made large improvements by moving to an outside graphic design staffing solution and a cloud-based shop management system that handles all of our needs, from quotes to merch stores to payments. This software automation helps us move faster and provides a better experience for customers.
Every year I create a new goals list – all the changes or advancements I want to accomplish in the year. I find it very helpful to have in front of me every day. It becomes not just a work list, but in some ways, a manifest list. Keeping an ear on the ground by attending tradeshows and events, listening to podcasts, utilizing social media platforms, and networking keeps me inspired, motivated and searching for more. All these things are really why my vision for our shop has grown, why I see things differently than I used to, and where I find motivation to keep reaching for more.

She Says Automation Isn’t Just for Big Companies Offering screen printing, embroidery, promotional items and more, N the Zone Ink positions itself as a “one-stop shop.” A focus on advanced technology has driven the company’s growth.

Q: Your nominator also mentioned how you share a weekly motivational post on your Instagram story, and that this social media platform has helped you advance your career and create a better workplace for your employees. Can you elaborate on how this has affected you personally and professionally?

Deanna: This statement makes my heart happy. The social media platform has definitely pushed me along because I have met so many inspiring and skilled people and shop owners because of it. It just feeds your shop soul and creativity. It helped me find friends who “get me.” The day-to-day of print shop life can be very hard. We put endless hours, sweat, and tears into our shops. We raise our kids in our shops. I’ve been there and felt all of the emotions – good days and bad days. When Print Girl Mafia came to life, I decided that I wanted to give back by sharing my own little bit of inspiration – just resharing a cool quote I find once a week. Something so simple but meaningful. Several times people have reached back out letting me know that my quote that week resonated with them or helped them in some way, and that is why I keep at it. Every week you can find a quote on my Instagram story or PGM’s (@mytrueself.printshoplife; @printgirlmafia). Sometimes a person’s story will motivate me in a way that I want to reach out more, and so when I can, I’ll send a simple little PGM postcard note in the mail to let them know that I’m thinking of them or am inspired by them. It helps that person and it helps me, too. I gain motivation and strength from everyone in our industry, and that has helped me be a better boss [and] a better partner, and it ultimately helps fuel growth and inspiration within our company as a whole to keep pushing forward.

Q: What does being a woman in the screen printing industry and a founding member of the Print Girl Mafia mean to you?

Deanna: I love being in screen printing and apparel decoration! I really can’t imagine another industry that is so fun, friendly, supportive and inspiring. I believe our industry has chosen to take charge in diversity and inclusion and be all the better for it.

Being a founding member of the Print Girl Mafia seems strange to say at times because it was completely unplanned – I just had been introduced to a small group chat of women in the industry that later evolved. When we hit the tradeshow floor in Long Beach back in January 2022, we were just so excited to connect in person and be together as a group of women that we made it our own party and celebration! I had no idea what that fun weekend would evolve into. Our small group of women, we felt so connected to each other. We felt understood. We felt the same emotions. We felt the same frustrations and the same accomplishments. We found strength and motivation within one another, and it became quickly apparent that there were other women who needed that, too. I truly had no idea how many women were in our industry. Before PGM I could count on one hand how many I knew. Now we are a strong group of hundreds with a big voice, and that feels really amazing to be part of.




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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