An encouraging eco-friendly story about garments

The thumbnail version:

  • An encouraging eco-friendly clothing story
  • Consider whether your shop could benefit by getting on board

The full version:

Illustration per Regatta Professional

The March edition of Images Magazine has an encouraging eco-friendliness story about a garment manufacturer. I’m not sure that their garments are available in Canada but it’s nevertheless a story that should encourage and inspire those of us looking forward to our industry making better progress in eco-awareness. It’s a global problem that could benefit from innovation in this regard from anywhere on the globe, for instance, in this case, the U.K.

Regatta Professional (check out their website here) are offering an 11-item eco-friendly line of clothing including bodywarmers, fleeces, softshell, and waterproof jackets they’ve called Honestly Made. What’s so eco-friendly about this line? Well, it’s manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. They’re very proud of the fact that since 2019 they’ve saved almost 2.5 million plastic bottles from the landfill.

We’ll let you know when we locate a similar line here but, in the meantime, if you could find such a line of eco-friendly garments it would help differentiate your shop from the competition in a market that is becoming increasingly aware of the bad eco reputation of the current clothing industry.

We sense a trend to eco-friendliness among Canadian consumers.  It could make sense to take account of it in your business model.

Setting up a small textile shop — #5 in a series

The thumbnail version:

  • You will have to be able to wash out and reclaim screens.
  • A separate and properly-equipped facility is best but there are temporary measures you can take.
  • There are things you must know about mixing chemicals and drainage

The full version:

You are going to have to have somewhere to wash out freshly-shot screens and to wash reclaimed screens.

Well-established shops have separate rooms equipped with wash-out tanks, power-washers, racks for chemicals, appropriate drainage, ventilation, and so forth. You can think of it as a bathroom for screens that is more commonly referred to as “the swamp”.

Once you have the necessary equipment (washout tank and pressure washer), the mechanics of the “swamp” are pretty straight forward. A less obvious but important aspect is eco-friendliness. This takes into account the types of chemicals you use and how you dispose of them. In most jurisdictions you can’t just flush the chemicals and ink into the public sewer system. You need to be clear on the applicable local bylaws.

Even if you find that you can flush your “swamp” run-off into the public sewer system (perhaps after processing through a settling tank, filtering, or some other such mechanism) you need to be aware of which materials you can and cannot mix in your wash-out system. For instance, I once saw the results of a print shop ignoring a warning that they couldn’t mix Varsol (used as an ink remover) and an SBQ (Styryl Basolium Quarternary) photopolymer one-part emulsion. The Varsol solidified the emulsion until the drainage pipes were completely clogged and had to be torn out and replaced.

A small washout tank.

When you are starting out and a separate and well-equipped “swamp” is not possible, a small stand-alone unit might be a good initial option. But even if this is not possible then there are temporary alternative ways of washing out and reclaiming screens. However, budgeting for at least a washout tank and pressure washer will make your life and production a whole lot easier. A separate, well-equipped “swamp” would of course be better still.

Talk to any of the Stanley’s folk at one of the four branches about your washout and reclaiming options. They can help with the equipment and chemicals you’ll need.

Positive language and irritable customers

The thumbnail version:

  • The language you use with a complaining customer is important
  • Negative language will compound the customer’s frustration
  • It’s a keep-or-lose the customer proposition

The full version:

While we’re railing against sloppy business practices (see previous post about ghosting inquiries via your website) let’s throw in dealing with irritable customers as well.

You decide which route to take if you want to keep the complaining customer.

An irritable customer doesn’t want to listen to explanations about why you cannot do anything for them; they want to hear what you are going to do for them. And the language you use is critical to the reaction you can expect. For instance, using any words or phrases that suggest that the problem is the customer’s fault (even if it is), or that the customer has to solve the problem themselves, or that you’re not able to address their concern for any reason whatsoever, is not a good idea.

So don’t say things like, “You have to . . .” or “I want you to . . .” or “Why don’t you . . .”, and so forth. Say things like, “I’m going to . . .” or “I can do this right now . . .” or “I’m going to work on this until it’s solved, can I call you back shortly?”

There are many aspects to handling customers’ complaints and concerns effectively, but positive language is one of the more important ones.

Now, that being said, you will run across the odd unreasonable, rude customer that cannot be pleased under any circumstances, no matter what you do. These are the ones where you want to take a deep breath, calm down, and politely encourage them to go deal with your competition by “admitting” that you’re obviously not capable of satisfying them.


Don’t ghost your “Contact” page inquirers!

The thumbnail version:

  • If you don’t answer inquiries via your “Contact” page promptly, you’re losing business.

The full version:

What do I have to do to get you to answer my inquiry?

If you think you’ve seen this here before, you’d be right. And you’ll probably see it here again in the not too distant future. This is because businesses just don’t seem willing or able to do this very simple but important thing—promptly answering inquiries made from prospective customers via their website “Contact” pages.

What is the point of the “Contact” page on your website if you don’t pay any attention when people use it? It seems to be a maddeningly common problem regardless of business type and size.

So here’s a simple way to differentiate your shop from the competition . . .  Make it yours or somebody else’s job to check for email inquiries off your website at least twice a day and to answer them right away. A prompt answer from a real person (not an automated response), even if it is just to say that the inquiry has been received and you’ll respond in detail shortly, is way, way better than no answer at all. And waiting a day or two to respond is as good as not responding at all in this impatient society.

“Ghosting” your next potential big-order inquiry is a really dumb way to do business.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — #4 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • A decent exposure unit is an essential item of equipment
  • You have research to do

The full version:

I once heard a screen printer explain how he exposed screens when he started out in a small shop in Hawaii. He said that his dark room was a grass hut and his exposure mechanism was a grass curtain in the ceiling that he drew back with with a cord and  pulley mechanism. The sun was his light source. This was how he burnt images into his coated screens.

Not an ideal dark room

He had figured out the length of time he had to draw back the curtain and “expose” the screen. Obviously unconventional, and definitely not recommended. First of all, Canada is not Hawaii, but secondly, we want to start you off using the right equipment because you can be sure that your competitors are not drawing back a reed curtain to expose their screens!

An exposure unit built by a reputable manufacturer is an essential piece of equipment. Quality matters. Precision matters. You also have to decide between a bulb unit, a UV unit, and an LED unit. LED units are a little more expensive but worth the investment because they last longer than UV bulbs, they use much less power, and the stencils are sharper.

Do your research. Ask the folk at Stanley’s; they can help and advise.

Finally, if the investment is a bit steep when you’re starting out, use a screen-burning service until you’re ready to make the investment in a good exposure unit.

HSBC webinar — the 2021 outlook for small business

The thumbnail version:

  • You need to hear an expert on the outlook for 2021 for small business

The full version:

Today HSBC hosted a webinar for small business owners about the outlook for the rest of 2021.

The key speaker, Ray Kong, highlighted some interesting points. Here are some of them in summary:

  • Contrary to what we’re frequently told, we’re NOT in this together. Some are worse off than others and some are actually thriving. You need to understand where your customers are on this scale of horrible to great.
  • A digital presence is a must. Though it’s not all digital or all brick and mortar, it’s a combination.
  • Surveys are finding that 75% of Canadians favour buying local. You need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to do so.
  • Consumers are looking for businesses who have set about differentiating themselves via socially-responsible and noble causes. he cited a textile company,  Mungo of South Africa, as an example.
  • Sample your business from the outside as a customer would. Fix what wouldn’t please you if you were a customer.

This is all good stuff and well worth taking seriously.

Leaping ahead of the COVID-19 rebound

The thumbnail version:

  • You need to get ready for post-COVID
  • There are 6 specific things you need to take care of

The full version:

Ben Richmond, an Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor, recently had some sage advice for small business owners looking ahead to rebounding after the COVID-19 situation subsides.

We want to see you celebrating at the end of COVID

He listed six ways to ensure that your shop is as prepared as possible to take the necessary actions when the time comes.

  1. Determine what your shop’s cash flow needs are going to be. Plan to preserve cash until at least June.
  2. If you have to secure financing before June, build a truthful but impressive case for lenders. Demonstrate your success before COVID and how you plan to return to those levels of business post-COVID.
  3. Anticipate inventory levels. This is not just to return to what you were doing before COVID, but also for opportunities that you may want to pivot to after COVID. For instance, think about the travel and accommodation industry gearing up again.
  4. Prepare to hire. Identify candidates. Stay on this issue and time hiring carefully.
  5. Continue to monitor safety precautions for when you gear up again. We are all going to have to be cautious for some time until COVID is well and truly beaten.
  6. Look for good financial advice from good accountants and financial advisors.

Take these measures to give your shop the best possible chance of coming out of this thing successfully.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — #3 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • Uncured ink will wash out
  • There are effective and ineffective ways of curing prints

The full version:

It’s a basic and inescapable textile screen printing fact—don’t cure the ink properly and it will wash out. So, what’s to know about this?

The answer is a decent conveyor dryer. Start-up screen printers will often try to save money by using a flash cure for the final curing of their prints. It can work but is not optimally production friendly and the possibility of under-curing is significant. Some have been known to even use a heat press for curing prints. But by far the best-case scenario is a conveyor dryer, and not just any conveyor dryer.

Lower-end versions bought from less-reputable manufacturers to save a few dollars can disappointed. Do your research. Ask many questions. A good dryer is a critical item of equipment. You can have fantastic artwork, all the right screens, the best emulsion, the best ink, and a great print, but if the print washes out, all the rest doesn’t matter.

Talk to the crew at Stanley’s about dryers. They can help.

Over-flashing your underbase

The thumbnail version:

  • Underbasing requires certain precautions
  • Over-flashing the underbase causes problems

The full version:

Stefan Mertes recently warned against over flashing your underbase. He points out that over-flashing the underbase causes the pallets to heat up to the point where they can cause the ink in the other screens to begin to gel or dry. This is particularly true of water-based inks. And that can mess up your prints.

His point is that even if you get everything else right about printing an underbase  including the right mesh count, the right emulsion thickness, the right squeegee, the right pressure, the right off-contact, and the right screen tension, you can still have problems just by over-flashing. The trick is to keep the temperature of your pallets as low as possible.

If you have any concerns about the right underbase and how to use it, talk to Stanley’s. They have the right ink and the right information.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — #2 in series

The thumbnail version:

  • New shops are springing up like mushrooms
  • There is much to consider in equipment and supplies
  • You will need a flash dryer

The full version:

A typical flash dryer.

Assuming that you’re going to be printing multicoloured designs with plastisol ink, you will have to be able to gel the ink. For this you will need a flash dryer. Gelling ink between colours is a quick process; the time under the flash dryer is generally just 5 to 10 seconds at most.

But understand that in established, high-production shops there are two types of dryers—flash dryers and conveyor dryers. Whereas a flash dryer is used in the printing cycle to gel ink, a conveyor dryer cures the finished print.

However, although curing prints with a flash dryer is generally frowned upon, it is not uncommon for smaller start-up shops to do just that. The main reason is avoidance of the cost of a conveyor dryer. Historically though, when prints crack or wash out, the reason is under-curing and often it’s because the curing was done by flash dryer in a smaller shop.

That said, some industry professionals will tell you that plastisol ink can generally be fully cured with a flash dryer. But then there are steps you must take to ensure something approaching a decent cure. You should set the flash dryer to its highest temperature and position the heating element just 3 to 4 inches over the garment for 25 – 30 seconds. You want to reach the 320 degrees on the surface of the print that plastisol generally requires for curing. You can test the temperature with a donut probe.  Expect to have to experiment to arrive at a print that doesn’t crack when stretched or still looks good after, say, three wash tests.

You will need a flash dryer but, ideally, you’ll also need a conveyor dryer. We’ll discuss conveyor dryers in the next post in this series.

Hear an expert on textile screen printing trends for 2021 (Video)

Adrienne Palmer, The Editor-in-Chief of Screen Printing Magazine, was recently interviewed on the topic of screen printing trends for 2021.

Now, that’s a great idea!

Some of the advice she imparted included the need for screen printers to:

  • Have an online presence for selling direct to customers.
  • Search Pinterest regularly for ideas and trends.
  • Visit for, as the name implies, design inspiration.
  • Use Instagram for promotion of your prints.
  • Use TikTok for promoting your prints.

Screen Printing Magazine is exactly the type of resource Canadian textile screen shops should stay in touch with.

You can see the full interview: Click here. 

Print on demand — it’s really a thing

The thumbnail version:

  • Our culture is shifting away from the homogeneity of mainstream products
  • The time has never been better for print shops to make a switch

The full version;

This, intentionally, is the second post this month on print-on-demand coming to the the textile decorating industry (Yes, that includes your shop!). The increasing number of articles in trade journals about this phenomenon is “writing on the wall” that print shop owners should be paying attention to if they want to remain relevant in an evolving industry.

Ian Bell, writing for Images Magazine, claims that the time has never been better for print shops to make the switch from business-to-business (“B2B”) to business-to-consumer (“B2C”). He bases this on indicators that “our culture is increasingly shifting away from the homogeneity of mainstream products and markets to more niche, personalized goods and services.”

But, he argues that for a shop to maximize its profitability in the B2C market, a high degree of automation is necessary. He mentions digital technology, automated ordering systems, automated order processing, and highly-automated production (including bar-coding garments so as to be able to track them throughout the process from order to delivery).

To a traditional industry notoriously slow to adapt to change, this might sound like sci-fi dreaming. It’s not. It’s really a thing. It needs to be taken seriously.

Setting up a small textile screen shop — # 1 in a series

The thumbnail version:

  • New shops are springing up like mushrooms
  • There is much to consider in equipment and supplies
  • The first piece of equipment is a press

The full version:

So you’re planning to set up your own shop. Whether you’ve worked in a textile shop or not, this series will be helpful in determining what you’re going to need in the way of equipment and supplies. We’ll start with the assumption that you have suitable space set up for your operation, be it a rented space in an industrial complex or your own garage.

The first item you’re going to need is a press. Unless you have deep pockets and a reason to believe that you’ll be printing hundreds of Tees an hour every day right off the bat, you’ll be looking at a manual press.

There are many manual presses on the market that range from table-top models to multi-station models. Don’t make a press decision on your own! Ask a number of sources for advice. Read. Research. Watch videos. Talk to the people at Stanley’s.

Stanley’s has access to established manual press brands with tried and tested models. Your press is the hub of the shop, make sure you buy a good one.

The next post in the series will deal with gelling and curing your prints.

Print on demand — a growing phenomenon in 2021

The thumbnail version:

  • Print on demand forecast to take off in 2021
  • Speedy turnaround and delivery is key

The full version:

Writing for Images Magazine, Marshall Atkinson suggests that 2021 is the year the print-on-demand concept is going to take off for textile screen shops.

It’s not a new concept and has been a feature of book publishing for a number of years. I can deliver a copy of my own book, Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business, in the USA, Canada, the UK, or Australia within a few days of receiving an order, thanks to print-on-demand.

Print ion demand is about receiving the order and shipping it within hours.

Now the concept has come to the textile screen printing industry. All you need is an online store on Shopify, Etsy, or even your own independent website. The concept is built on speed and efficiency.

The shop has to be organized for maximum efficiency. The order comes in and the product is produced and shipped all on the same day, or the next day at the latest. In a textile screen printing context this means either direct-to-garment printing or pre-printed transfer applications. From an in-house investment efficiency perspective, it means lower inventory holdings (for instance, no printed Tees are kept in stock).

This increasing attention to the concept should come as no surprise given the online retailing trends in plain sight for us all to see. Screen shops looking for additional revenue streams in this competitive market would do well to consider print on demand.

Reading yet?

The thumbnail version:

  • ” . . .  they (books) are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

The full version:

I’ve just seen an article by Matt Duczeminski, “10 Reasons Why People Who Read a Lot Are More Likely To Be Successful.” It reminded me that we haven’t yet given you our annual reminder to make a resolution to read more this year, particularly stuff that will be helpful in growing your business and managing it better.

Business owners (and this of course includes all textile shop owners) can’t exist in an information bubble. If you’re not in touch with what’s being written about your industry specifically, and business management generally, your business will lag behind. It’s a fast-moving world.

And, as we’ve written before, if you don’t like reading entire books or think you don’t have time to read entire books, there’s a solution for you. Soundview has a service whereby they reduce business books to 10-minute summaries. Check them out here. 

Let me remind you what Charles W. Eliot said: “Books are the quietest and most consistent of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

And here is more evidence for the reading case from two names you’ll recognize . . .  Mark Zuckerberg, “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.” And Bill Gates, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

Special effects (but re-think glitter)

The thumbnail version:

  • Winter is the time to experiment in the shop with special effects.
  • There are a lot of special effect materials to use responsible, just not glitter.

The full version:

Winter is the time when things slow down for most Canadian textile printers, and right now COVID-19 is not making it any easier. But, on the upside, it’s a time to experiment in the shop with, for instance, special effects.

Glitter might look good on a Tee, but not so much in the ocean.

Realistically, special effects will never be your core activity, but it has the potential to add to both your reputation as a skilled shop and your bottom line. It does however require that you practice, experiment and become skillful at special effects printing. And what better time of the year to have some fun and invest a few hours in this than the slower winter season?

Popular special effects usually involve metallic finishes, high density prints, faux suede, reflective prints, and a number of other techniques and materials. One of those other materials has been glitter; but we need to re-consider that.

Recent research has shown how glitter is adding to the microplastic problem in the oceans as far away as the Arctic. At 1% It’s not a significant part of the overall microplastic problem but we have to start somewhere and glitter is one of the easiest to start with—just stop using it. There are plenty of other ideas and materials for creating special effects prints.

Call Stanley’s for the materials you’ll need to do special effects printing and add a new dimension to your shop’s skill set.

The power of email in conversion rate optimization.

The thumbnail version:

  • Email marketing is inexpensive and effective.
  • Services like mail Chimp make it easy.

The full version:

Businesses, particularly small businesses, seem to miss out on the power of email or treat it as a secondary option for conversions.

Email is an effective way to stay in touch with your customer base and to convert

Email is among the least expensive marketing tools available to businesses for a couple of reasons: (1) you already have the technology; and (2) the people receiving your emails are already familiar with your business. It has often been pointed out that it’s much easier to sell to existing customers than it is to persuade people who don’t know your business to buy from you.

There are various services that make maintaining an email list and emailing your customers easy, for instance, Mail Chimp. Another useful application tracks abandoned carts on your website and then emails to remind them to complete the purchase.

Give some serious consideration to setting up a mass-email base on a service like Mail Chimp, keep building it, keep it up to date, and use it to convert sales.

Raising investment capital for the shop? Start with a pitch deck.

The thumbnail version:

  • We’re in times where capital may be needed
  • It’s hard to raise capital
  • A pitch deck is one way to get a foot in the door

The full version:

Finding investment capital is hard.

Raising money for the shop can be really tough. And it’s particularly tough right now after almost a year of COVID-19 rotating shut-downs and lost sales. So here’s some advice from Courier that you should consider if your plan is to raise investment capital—start with a pitch deck.

I think it’s a good start to raising capital, large sums or modest sums, and from any source. It’s even a good idea for nailing down a clear overview of your business in your own mind even if you’re not anticipating raising capital at this time.

So what is a pitch deck? It’s a visually-compelling, succinct presentation that tells the story of your business at a high level of overview. It explains why your business is worth investing in. It’s not all you’ll need to seal an investment deal, but it’s a door opener. It should consist of about a dozen slides, each addressing a single, clear point in the telling of the story of your shop.

Here are some indicators to underscore why it has to be “visually-compelling and succinct”:

  • “If you can’t get an investor’s attention in 3 minutes, you’re going to have a lot of trouble getting a customer’s attention in that same time.” – M. Vernal.
  • “Investors spend on average three minutes and 44 seconds looking at a pitch deck” – From a study by DocSend.
  • “The number one question your pitch deck needs to answer is what problem your business is focusing on, why it needs to be addressed and how your business or product is the solution. However you tell the story of your business, it’s the problem you’re solving that needs to be addressed.” – Courier

With regard to the last bullet point above, the ecological impact of non-organic clothing items would be an example.

Why you should pay attention to this chocolate story

The thumbnail version:

  • Godiva Chocolatier is shutting its U.S. retail stores.
  • There may be a message in this for T-shirt shops.

The full version:

Yesterday it was announced that Godiva Chocolatier, the well-known, 80-year-old, almost world-wide chocolate brand, is going to shut down all of its 128 brick and mortar retail stores in the U.S. by the end of March this year.

You might be wondering what chocolate has to do with Tees. Well, nothing directly but what Godiva is doing seems to give credence to the argument that retail business is changing, and changing rapidly.

Godiva is not going out of business—it’s focusing on its online and wholesale business. When an influential brand makes such a significant strategic change, the rest of us should pay attention—it might be the writing on the wall that we ignore at our peril.

So, how’s the online part of your shop doing? If you’re not online, how are your plans coming along?

Don’t just ignore the writing on the wall—read it, consider it, and take the appropriate action.

And here’s an “added value” tip for your online business—optimize your shop’s website for mobile devices. More and more nowadays, customers are starting their searches on mobile devices and completing the purchase later on their computers.

Deciding on an emulsion

The thumbnail version:

  • The emulsion you use depends upon the ink and printing process you use.
  • Here are ten questions to help determine the emulsion best suited to your purpose.

The full version:

Dave Dennings, product manager at Kiwo and well-respected industry expert, has just published a post on LinkedIn titled, “Key questions to ask yourself when deciding on an emulsion.”

He suggests that providing the answers to these questions will help your supplier (in this case, Stanley’s) find an emulsion best suited to your needs:

  1. Will I use water-based, solvent-based, plastisol, UV or other inks with this emulsion?
  2. What solvents do I use to remove inks at press and in reclaim?
  3. Do I reclaim most of my screens or reuse them for repeat jobs?
  4. How many screens do I image per day?
  5. How long are my typical jobs?
  6. Do my jobs require high level of detail?
  7. What type of screen exposure system do I use?
  8. Do I use a computer-to-screen imaging system and if so, which one?
  9. What type of automatic screen making and/or reclaiming equipment do I use, if any?
  10. How well is humidity controlled in my screen room and exposure area?

Online sales and free shipping

The thumbnail version:

  • Shipping costs are a significant consideration in online shopping
  • Businesses have to take this into account when trying to attract customers
  • There are various ways of addressing the issue

The full version:

If you operate an online store there are various ways to promote business. One of the more common ways is manipulating the shipping component of the total transaction price.

Big online business have been doing this for some time. Amazon is a good example. They offer various shipping-cost options including “Prime”, their subscription “free-shipping” scheme. You subscribe to Prime for $9 a month and are then offered “free” shipping on deliveries. $9 doesn’t sound like much but you can be sure that they’ve worked it out carefully and are not losing on the deal. However, that’s Amazon—it’s not going to work for a small business with a limited customer base.

So what can a print shop with an online business do to use the shipping-cost component to make it seem attractive to customers? You can’t simply eat the shipping costs if you want to stay in business. So here are some options to consider:

  • Build the cost of shipping into the product price and offer “free” shipping.
  • Build part of the cost of shipping into the product price and offer partially reduced shipping.
  • You can offer free shipping if the order meets a minimum value at which you can accommodate the the shipping cost without destroying your margin. But if you opt for this, don’t make the minimum so high that it is unattainable—it is bound to be disappointing to customers and probably more harmful than helpful.

If your online business doesn’t address shipping costs as an inducement to do business with your shop, it should. You really have no choice because online customers nowadays expect it, thanks to Amazon and a few other influential online businesses.

We need to know this about polyester

The thumbnail version:

  • Polyester is polluting ocean water as far away as the Arctic

The full version:

We need to be aware of the adverse impact of the products we produce, in this case, Polyester. Not because the mere wave of a wand to effect immediate change is possible, but because if we are aware of the problem we can start to contribute to a solution.

Here’s what we need to know about a recent study conducted in the ocean waters of the Arctic:

“The most comprehensive study to date found the microplastics in 96 out of 97 sea water samples taken from across the polar region. More than 92% of the microplastics were fibers and 73% of these were made of polyester and were the same width and colours as those used in clothes. Most of the samples were taken from 3-8 meters below the surface, where much marine life feeds.”

Setting goals for the shop for 2021

The thumbnail version:

  • 2021 is difficult to plan for.
  • Try a different approach.
  • De-emphasize traditional budgeting
  • Set a series of small goals.

The full version:

Can the detailed budgeting based on an unpredictable short term future. Try something different for 2021

So now we’re approaching the middle of January and you’re looking ahead to 2021 wondering how the year is going to unfold particularly with regard to COVID-19. For most of the country it’s not looking too good right now.

So given these circumstances, what do we do about projections, planning, and budgeting for the year? Whether you plan at the beginning of each year in the traditional way (strategic plans and a budget) or don’t plan at all (fly by the seat of your pants like so many other small businesses), this year requires a different approach. We’re in uncertain, unpredictable times, at least in the short term. Trying to budget in detail based on an unpredictable short term future may be a waste of time.

Ben Taylor, co-founder of the British knitwear brand, Country of Origin, has an interesting approach you may want to consider. He says they set short-term goals as opposed to detailed budgeting. They work towards growing the business by setting goals for the year for sales and campaigns. This, he says, organically amounts to growth.

Another point to consider is that since most small businesses operate in a fairly informal way, setting a series of smaller goals is likely to be easier to manage and achieve than a few grand objectives built on uncertain projections. A series of marginal gains can add up to overall success.


You can’t read the label from inside the bottle

The thumbnail version:

  • Do potential customers know what’s inside your “bottle” from the description on the label?
  • Outsiders may not be getting the message you want them to get

The full version:

How would anyone know what’s inside the bottle if the label gives an inaccurate description or no description?

Someone used this expression recently on LinkedIn in an article directed at business owners. I’ve seen it before using “jar” instead of “bottle”; I prefer bottle.

The message here is to take a break from your day-to-day activity within your business, step out, and view your business as others see it. Is the label on the outside of the bottle an accurate depiction of what’s going on inside the bottle?

In the case of your shop, the “label” would be all the stuff that potential customers see and consider when they’re deciding whether or not to do business with you. This would be your website, social media pages, pamphlets, signs, and anything else you use to promote your business. Are these things collectively telling the story about your business that you want to tell? In addition to looking yourself, ask people to look at your “label” and tell you what they think is going on inside the “bottle.” You may be surprised.

If you don’t view the label objectively from the outside once in a while, a disconnect between what you want the label to say and what it is actually saying could be inhibiting your shop’s growth.


Welcome back!

Welcome back and Happy New Year!

The crew are back at all four Stanley’s branches today, well rested and ready to get 2021 off to a flying start. 2020 was a difficult year and as we start 2021 we should do so optimistically, keeping in mind what Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

And while we’re looking ahead to a better year, there’s another wise quote we can use. This one is from the author, Maria Robinson, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Stanley’s is ready to attend to your needs. Just keep in mind though that the COVID protocols of last year are still in place.

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Tie-dye sweat shirts are apparently back.

The thumbnail version:

  • Tie-dye is reappearing
  • It may be trend worth watching

The full version:

Tie-dye sweats apparently didn’t go away in the sixties after Woodstock. They’ve reappeared in California.

Tie-dye sweat shirt available from

Given that many of our fashion trends start down in California this might be one to keep an eye on. is offering tie-dye casual garments like sweat shirts and pants as a fashion item. And they’re priced like fashion items too. For instance, the sweat shirt shown here is listed at USD160.

The question is whether your shop should offer tie-dye garments. Perhaps an embroidered or printed design could be added for extra effect. If a tie-dye sweat is selling for USD160 from a fashion house, there must surely be room for a local shop to come in well under that to take advantage of a trend that may come to Canada.

But as you know, trends can come and go quickly in this industry, so you’d have to keep an eye open and be ready to move if tie-dye becomes an opportunity again.

Pivot [ piv-uht ]: verb (used with object)

The thumbnail version:

  • “Pivot” is the current buzzword in business
  • You need to consider the concept in these times of COVID

The full version:

“Pivot”—the new COVID-19-inspired buzzword.

In the context of business it’s come to mean turning to doing something else when what you’re doing isn’t cutting it anymore (a synonym for “pivot” used this way could be “diversify”).

For instance, a lot of businesses in a variety of industries pivoted to make hand sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic. Then there were the textile screen shops that pivoted to print masks, and the sign shops that pivoted to produce floor graphics.

It has recently been reported that more than 70 percent of small businesses in the U.K. began offering new products and services as a result of the pandemic. We don’t have figures for Canada but it would be surprising if it were much different here.

All this pivoting demonstrated short reaction times, creativity, and innovation—experience that could stand businesses in good stead in the future.

Did your shop pivot or diversify in 2020?

The concept might be worth exploring particularly now when you should be rethinking your business model and adapting it to the expected circumstances of 2021.


Stanley’s holiday hours

Finally! This crazy year is drawing to a close.

The crew at Stanley’s want to thank you for your support and for your understanding as they implemented the necessary measures to help battle COVID-19. It wasn’t always convenient but together we kept the industry going.

Next year will be more of the same initially but with responsible behavior and the introduction of vaccines, hopefully 2021 will be end up more “normal” that 2020 has been.

Regardless though, as always, the Stanley’s crew will be there to attend to your needs with their range of brand-name products and technical support.

In the meantime, if you’re going to need supplies from now to the end of the holiday period, please keep in mind that all four branches will be closing at 4.00 pm on the 23rd and reopening at 8.30 am on January the 4th.   

Fishing friend

The thumbnail version:

  • Stress-relief is essential
  • Business causes stress
  • A regular, scheduled break provides relief

The full version:

This month Images Magazine featured an excerpt from the Fishing Friend chapter of Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. This is the chapter that encourages small business owners to have routinely scheduled away-from-the-business recreational dates. It works best if set up with a friend or friends who can also benefit from such an arrangement.

Copyright: Michael Best

It doesn’t have to be “fishing” of course. It could be hiking, skiing, or any other activity as long as it’s outdoors (weather permitting) and completely disconnected from, in this case, the shop.

Here’s how the chapter in the book opens, I’d be surprised if you didn’t recognize the circumstances . . .

“”Harbouring regrets is unhealthy—I get that. But if I were allowed to harbour one regret, it would be that I didn’t routinely schedule whole days off from my business for recreation.” Here’s more: “I now know that one day a week away from my business would have alleviated a lot of accumulated stress.”

You have to do this.


More COVID-19 trends and responses that affect the industry

The thumbnail version:

  • Other industries are crossing over into textile printing
  • Customized and personalized prints have been on an upward trend
  • COVID-19 has spawned home-based competitors for textile printers

The full version:

To further reinforce the point made in the last post about non-textile-industry competitors being projected into textile printing by the circumstances of COVID-19, there’s more in Sign Media Canada about it. (Notice how these insights into the textile industry are now appearing in sign industry publications). It raises the question again about how concerned traditional textile printers should be about what appears to be a trend.

The excerpt in question . . .

“Personalization and customization trends continued through 2020, as brands moved their businesses online and smaller, home-based businesses entered the marketplace. Small-format, affordable equipment provide a robust yet easy-to-use platform, allowing users to quickly build a T-shirt, poster, sticker, and decal graphics printing business.”

More to think about!

These appear to be the appropriate questions for traditional textile screen printers at this time:

  • Is it time to diversify into the market places of those encroaching on our market place?
  • Do I need to diversify to offset the erosion of my traditional market place?”
  • Do I stick with my traditional marketplace but boost promotion?
  • Do I stick with my traditional textile screen printing but change my marketing and sales channels, i.e., look at establishing or boosting my online business?