Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Jason Feather. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Jason, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Are you happier as a business owner? Do you sometimes think about what it would be like to just have a regular job?
The thing about being a business owner is you don’t have time to think about anything else. For as long as I can remember I wanted to work for myself. I grew up watching my father and grandfather work together at their Century 21 franchise and watching my father lead the company really made a huge impression on me.
The great thing about my business [aka] is it has grown organically, and day by day, year by year, every day is a new challenge keeping it exciting and fun to manage. I mean, my business partner (Javi Nunez) and I have moved our business 3 times in just 9 years… and all for good reasons you could say. We just keep getting better and better at what we do and as our field changes we just change with it. Screen printing apparel these days is not what it was 9 years ago, I mean it isn’t what it was 2 years ago, the processes, techniques, and equipment keeps getting better and better and you have no choice but to jump in and hang on, or be left behind.
Jason, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I got the screen printing bug when I was in high school. We had a great facility and being in a band at them time, all I wanted to do is design and print tshirts to sell at our shows. To be honest I think our apparel booth was better than or music haha. Years later when I moved to San Diego to go to SDSU I got a part time job at a print shop. It was amazing to me to see how my love for tshirts could be a business. I worked just about every position there and all though it was a messy, loud, crazy job, I loved it. After I graduated and got a “real” job at a graphic design department for a government contacting company I kept my feet in the printing game by printing tees at my house for beer money. Fast forward a few years a mutual friend introduced me to my business partner and there you go, [aka] was born. It was interesting to find another person that was as crazy as I am and printed out of his house. It was just meant to be I guess haha.
Javi had his own clothing line with a few friends and it was soon after joining his company that we rented an art studio space and finally moved our equipment out of our houses. It wasn’t long until friends had us print custom items for them and to a growing rate that eventually we decided to team together and start [aka] as a screen printing company. As soon as the lease was up at the studio we moved into our first store front location in a pretty shady neighborhood because the rent was cheap and we didn’t really care to be honest. When you have very little money and horrible credit you are forced to do what you have to do. But we loved it, we had our first storefront where we sold our clothing line out of the front and printed in the back. We had to use our personal credit cards for years until we built up our business large enough to get our first company card. As time went by our client list got larger and we had the opportunity to move to a better neighbor hood that was better for business and closer to where we lived. Our location on 30th was awesome. We designed it to have a super small storefront were we sold apparel and spray paint and we designed the back space to where we could fit some more equipment to help print better and faster, and that’s the name of the game really. For screen printers there is a ton of competition and if you do not do amazing work and a competitive price you simply will not make it very far. Still to this day, now sitting in a new building 5 times the size as our pervious locations if you do not produce quality you have no business being in business. We still maintain the small boutique store front with the shop in the back, only now we focus more on give items and things that make us laugh really haha, and our shop now has 2 auto presses, 3 manual presses and can output a few thousand shirts a day.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
As most small businesses out there, COVID has had a HUGE impact on our business and forced us to change, edit, and survive. The good thing I guess you could say is before COVID hit we had our business in a healthy financial point with some reserves in the account because our plan was to hire more employees to try to take the stress and hours off our selves. Well needless to say, COVID fu$ked that all up. We went to work one day like we always do and literally lost all of the jobs we had on the board. I don’t think I have ever felt the way I did when I saw thousands of dollars just disappear in front of my eyes. Our client list at the time was bands, festivals, and bars. The only thing we could do is take a good long look at our business and make some changes quick. The first thing we did was we offered crazy low cost deals to help our customers/friends/neighbors. Looking back hearing all the stories about people sitting on the couch for months with nothing to do is just crazy to me. The bills and responsibilities of taking care of your employees doesn’t stop just because the government says you have to stay home. I don’t think I have ever worked hard then when I was told not to. We shifted gears and helped startup brands and others looking to find some sort of income and eventually had a new client list that was strong enough to keep the doors open. We, like every small business out there is still dealing with COIVD issues but as long as we make the customer the most important person in the room and continue to love what we do, we have a space to go to day in and day out and do what we love.
Can you tell us about what’s worked well for you in terms of growing your clientele?
Honestly the only way we have ever grown our clientele is through word of mouth. In the t-shirt printing game there is always the conversation where someone says “hey, where did you get that T-shirt printed?” and the answer is, “I got a guy”. Well… I want to be that guy, haha. In any job, if you do amazing work and are better then the competition the only out come in my eyes is success. I know now that being raised in a small business family and watching my father treat his customers with the utmost respect is the only way to do small business. I will never say “the customer is always right” because I mean, come on… some customers are just… haha no comment. But, why go to work everyday and hate what you do, and lash out at people that are trying to build their own business. I love my job and I hope my customers and see that.