What got me started in the custom screen printing industry?

I remember when I first got interested in the potential of pursuing a career in creating custom T-shirts. I used to be in the asphalt industry and it was a hard dollar. We’re talking well before the Internet had even been invented and very few people if any had cell phones. I would head out my door around 5:30 p.m. because that’s when everybody started to get home from work. I remember knocking on doors and asking people if they would be interested in a quote on sealing or patching their driveway while my crew was down the street working at their neighbors. I would finally end up getting home around eight o’clock and then I would have to schedule the job for the next day. A lot can change very quickly when you’re in a business that cannot be conducted in the rain.
Although it was a tough way to make a living, I was young and I was strong with a wife and daughter.  I had a lot of pressure to produce. I remember working extremely hard for seven or eight months of the year and then the St. Louis winter would start to set in or around November and work would stop. Unfortunately the bills kept on coming. I remember hanging out at Northwest Plaza just people watching and I noticed that everyone who passed by was wearing something with a logo or piece of artwork on it in the way of a tee shirt or hat. I thought to myself, I can do that. I don’t know the first thing about it, but I think I could sell it. So I went and got some business cards printed up and sold my first screen printing in custom embroidery job. At first I was very excited, and then it occurred to me that they probably want their T-shirts. I remember finding an old broken down T-shirt press that was homemade, rusting in someone’s garage and I ended up buying it for about $75. I remember pulling down the head of the press and letting it go, and it catapulted the squeegee across the room and hit the wall. Although I wasn’t an experienced tee shirt printer, I had a feeling that that was not supposed to happen. To make a long story short, I ended up finishing the job and all my customer knew was that the shirts looked good and he got them on time. I did end up getting paid in full for my effort. I ruined a lot of shirts in the process, but just viewed it as paying for my education. I found a St. Louis embroidery and screen printing company who I went to work for in order to get some firsthand experience of how this was done and how a silkscreen press should perform. Here we are more than 20 years later and I’m still in business and the company that I went to work for has long since closed its doors.

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