BT Imprintables: Small Shop Serves University Community
Situated just a stone’s throw from the campus of Colorado State University’s Fort Collins, Colorado campus, BT Imprintables Green & Gold Shop has an array of equipment behind the counter, and a retail shop in front. Also behind that counter is Vincent Booker, owner, who started the company in 2012. It’s an operation of one, making Booker a busy man.
A Quick Glimpse
The company, Booker says, offers embroidery, direct-to-garment printing, plotter-cut and print-and-cut film, and screen printing, which is offered through a contractor. About 70% of the company’s work is custom, and he has no “top end” for jobs. “I’ve done 7,000 T-shirts,” he says. “If it’s a big job, I’ll take it. I’ll figure out how to get it done.”
The company is also a licensed producer of CSU apparel, fully licensed to apply holographic authenticity decals. That licensure, he says, was gained in 2008. “It was easy to get back then,” he adds.
Booker’s first step into apparel decoration was in 1996, when he got a job in Louisville, Colorado — about an hour south — running an embroidery machine. As a former corner-back for the CSU Rams football team, his expectation was that being a former player would give him an advantage serving the university community.
While his status as a former player didn’t provide the advantage he expected, holding positive connections with the university athletic department did. Currently, about 40% of the company’s work is university related. “I do some club sports,” Booker says, “groups and organizations, even clubs with 12 kids.”
The company’s current equipment lineup includes an embroidery machine from Tajima, an Epson direct-to-garment unit, and printer-cutter and plotter-cutter units from Roland. He recently added an online ordering portal, made possible by small business funds available by the City of Fort Collins. While it does give the company an e-commerce presence, Booker says he finds the system difficult to maintain, and that it lacks the robustness of portals used by larger producers.
Looking toward opportunity with new technologies, Booker says he is currently interested in the possibility of a small UV-curable printer, which would expand his ability to print promotional products, including golf balls and flasks. Asked whether his is considering expansion into wide-format inkjet, he says he sees it as an opportunity, but “it’s hard to compete with others operating on a national scale.”
Booker says his biggest challenge in business is competing with larger, online companies such as Mugs.com and Rush Order Tees. For his retail shop, he says he isn’t able to have the same access to students as the campus bookstore, and that he has limited outreach to students.
Regarding the current supply chain, Booker says his biggest challenges have been sourcing Richardson and flex-fit caps, crew-neck shirts in green, and backing material for embroidery. Supplies for DTG, he says, have been fine.
Asked what he likes most about the business, he says he likes working by himself, and helping orders with rush jobs. In particular, he has found the apparel decoration work he has done to support funerals to be particularly rewarding. “It good to help customers honor the person who has passed,” he says.