When Zachary Traxler started his T-shirt company, he was determined to source only the materials needed to fulfill wholesale orders from Ohio-based businesses. Turns out that unorthodox vision had legs.
For proof, look no further than the fact that Traxler Tees is expanding and hiring for a third time in just over two years.
In March 2012, the company moved from a 1,200-square-foot building to a 2,200-square foot building at 4608 Indianola Suite E, and there are plans to take over an additional 2,500 square feet this March.
During the same time period, Traxler Tees grew from four employees to seven.
The plan is to expand its manufacturing operation, which would allow the company to add in-house services such as garment washing, large flat stock printing and automated printing. Further, Traxler has considered including a retail/showroom space.
“I also plan to take time to teach basic screen printing to those who have showed interest,” he says.
All Traxler Tees’ equipment and supplies are from Richardson Supply in Columbus or Ace Supply in Springfield, Ohio; its T-shirts are from TSC Apparel in Cincinnati.
To learn more about Traxler Tees’ inner workings and how the company is expected to grow in the new year, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: Traxler Tees has grown considerably in just over two years. To what do you attribute that growth?
Zachary Traxler: The focus on local sustainability is key. However, a lot of shirt shops are after the dollar and that’s it. We focus on the customers’ need and the final result. We offer more types of printing and ink than any other local shop.
Sometimes we begin a job with the cost effective goal in mind for the customer. However, we often upgrade the customers’ ink to provide superior quality at no charge. Traxler Tees also only hires trained professionals. Yes, we may all be in our twenties here. However, we have all been in the business for five to 10 years each or professionally trained at Columbus College of Art & Design.
The best example I have for a customer is something like this: Have you ever received a free shirt as a promotion item? It generally ends up becoming the shirt you wear when you mow the lawn or, worse, turned to a rag or thrown in the trash. We look at the end goal for that shirt.
It’s meant to be worn by one of your customers to get your business name out. By spending just a little more up front −sometimes nothing extra at all− and going for higher quality printing and/or apparel, your customers will wear it. Our best example is Game On− a new gaming store in Ohio. They opted for water based discharge ink− the softest ink we offer. Now everyone is wearing their shirts. They’ve even been spotted in Pakistan being worn.
Good apparel can go so much further than an ad in the Town Money Saver. Those ads run about $350 to $500 to hit about 10,000 homes. Print 72 shirts at that same cost and you will see hundreds, even thousands, more impressions. Your customers become walking billboards.
We are also rated one the of the highest screen printing businesses on Google and other sites. Our customers are very generous with their reviews.
[M]: What will your new employees do?
ZT: We will be hiring an office manager who will facilitate calls, quotes, and invoices; a production assistant for folding, sorting, screen reclaiming and basic tasks. The third position will be a flex position− someone who can design, print, and help with vinyl work.
[M]: When you were getting Traxler Tees off the ground, what resources −people, websites, organizations, etc.− were the most helpful to you?
ZT: The Economic and Community Development Institute, my mother, my wife, Timothy Wolf Starr, a lawyer and, most importantly, the Columbus community.
[M]: What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
ZT: We had to decide from the beginning if we were going to take investments; we chose not to. Retaining 100 percent ownership of our business is very important to my wife Erin and I. This has forced us to learn a lot and very fast, as we didn’t have a flood of capital to help with training. Instead, Erin changed from becoming a dietitian to a screen printer, and taking small business and accounting classes at Columbus State. She is no longer a printer, but majority owner and our accountant.
[M]: What advice would you give a new entrepreneur?
ZT: Though upfront the cost can be great, don’t launch until you are ready. Hire help when need it −like a lawyer− and exhaust every little bit of programs from incubators like ECDI and the National Business Incubation Association.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
ZT: Overwhelming thanks to Columbus. I wouldn’t have attempted to start this business if I weren’t in this community. Our first winter was difficult. However, due to the great clients we have and their recommendations, Traxler Tees has had an extremely busy winter. From small personal custom orders to big Watershed Distillery orders and even our newest account, Hollywood Casino.
To learn more about Traxler Tees, visit TraxlerTees.com.