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Shawn Barney is a professional youth sports photographer based in Westfield, Indiana, who has been innovating in his market for the past few years. Selling through local schools, clubs, leagues and other organizations, his company, Indy Sport Pics, offers amazing images that he creates using green screen technology, digital backgrounds and themes that turn ordinary portraits into extraordinary memories.
Though his primary focus is still on photography, Barney recently decided to expand into offering sports gear, t-shirts and other photo-decorated products to his existing clients. He had offered such items before, but things are looking very different for his business now that he can produce these items himself using the Virtuoso Desktop HD Product Decorating System.
“I had already been selling sublimated products from several vendors, but the cost of the final product and shipping, as well as service problems with the vendors made me look for an alternative,” Barney said. “I wanted to find a way to make this aspect of my business more profitable, since everyone loves these products.”
As a member of the Advertising Specialy Institute (ASI), he used his trade show experiences and online research to determine how he could benefit from bringing sublimation production in-house, instead of outsourcing to photo labs or other vendors. With his industry contacts and access to the vendors and resources available to him through ASI, he ultimately chose Virtuoso for his sublimation system.
Barney saw immediate cost benefits from producing the sublimated products he offered himself with Virtuoso.
“One of the major benefits that I immediately saw was a reduction in the cost of sublimated plaques that I am responsible for per contract with some of my leagues,” Barney explained. “Before, I was paying about $9.50 per 8 x 10 plaque from one of my vendors in addition to shipping costs. Multiply that by 35 or more, and it was getting expensive. Now, I can buy blanks for about $3.45 each, with print costs at about $.50. I usually wait for a sale or to find a vendor with discounted or free shipping at a certain price point, and take advantage of those savings, as well. The result is a significant reduction in product costs, which boosts my profit margins.”
Barney has also found production times to be very economical. With only about 80 seconds to wait for a plaque to press, he is able to attend to other work, thereby maximizing his efficiency. All of this together enables him to fulfill small orders of only one or two products, something that had been cost prohibitive in the past when dealing with outside vendors.
Barney expects to make back his investment within the first year of sublimating his own products, and has already seen larger orders from single customers than he would have gotten from selling prints alone. A recent sports league shoot resulted in one customer buying $100 in mugs alone. With competitive pricing and no extra costs for shipping, Barney is seeing a lot of profit from this one product.
In addition to mugs and plaques, Barney is looking to offer prints on metal very soon.
“Metal prints seem to be hot right now and something that only studio photographers seem to offer,” Barney said. “These prints have a significant ‘wow’ factor, and I’ve seen sales go up with I offer them. The quality and look of sublimated metal is a big leap above just standard glossy prints. It’s something that most customers haven’t been offered, and nobody else is selling them in my markets. I can also get a better margin than I do from just standard paper prints.”
In addition to photo panel prints, Barney expects to be able to leverage sublimated metal prints to expand more into the awards business. He sees opportunities to sell metal keychains, name tags and trophy blanks.
“I am going to keep slowly adding different metal products to my customers and see what does well and what doesn’t. My big push will happen this upcoming season with my new metal alongside standard photographic prints.”
Barney is already planning on significant growth for his business. He initially launched his business in 2010 as Indy Sport Group LLC. When he expanded into vinyl graphics for cars, he launched Indy Sport Stickers. Now, he is working on securing a third moniker, just for his sublimation and decorated products business: Indy Sport Prints and Gear.
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