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When Marion, Ohio-based My Imprint Studios launched in 2010, its focus was primarily on printing t-shirts. Co-owner Michael Bodine said that the company started as a side business with a very specific focus on screen printing and vinyl decoration. Within the first six months, however, his team quickly learned that there was a whole world of money-making possibility available by adding sublimation technology to their shop.
“Sublimation is a very diverse field,” Bodine said. “With just a printer and a clam shell press, you can make many different items. With screen printing, you buy a press and you make shirts. Adding a sublimation system enabled us to expand our product offerings from a few various apparel items, to now having too many items to even start listing.”
The My Imprint Studios team has always seen design as its competitive advantage, employing gifted graphic artists to create custom designs for customers and develop off-the-shelf options for general production. Bodine said that screen printing limited their options for really showcasing the quality of his team’s craft, as the analog decorating process could not replicate their graphics the way digital technology could.
When the team began shopping for a sublimation system, they started with a desktop printer that had a maximum media size of A3+ / 13” x 19.” The printer was not compatible with the off-brand inks they purchased, and the result was increased costs to replace the printer multiple times. As demand for sublimated products increased and orders for larger items, such as interior signage, came in, the team decided to upgrade to a 24” / 610 mm system with Sawgrass inks.
“We’ve had our 24” / 610 mm system for about two years now, and have also added a 44” / 1,200 mm system,” Bodine said. “Given that sublimation accounts for at least half of our business now, these are really the right systems for us. I would greatly recommend using printers like these if you are planning on getting into sublimation on a business scale.”
Bodine said that sublimation has enabled them to offer at least 10 times the number of products to customers, including promotional products, such as coffee mugs and water bottles. This diversity gives customers more choices than just strictly offering screen printed/vinyl items, and the owners more creative freedom to develop products that greatly differentiate the company from its competition.
“Recently a little out-of-the-box thinking has allowed us to create products that aren't available anywhere else and market,” Bodine said. “In particular, we offer sublimated metal signs and have developed alternate applications for various products. We recently started offering an old product (mouse pad material) with a new application for a specific type of business, and this has proved to be very successful. More product ideas like this have the potential to take our business into different markets that prove to support our future growth as a business.”
As interior signage is a huge market, My Imprint Studios has been seeing an increase in orders for sublimated signs on metal substrates. With a strong design team and sublimation’s high-definition, full-color print capabilities, My Imprint Studios is knocking these jobs out of the park - from small point-of-purchase signs to large panels and tiled murals.
“Sublimation has allowed us to showcase the designs we offer at our shop better, especially when compared to our competitors,” Bodine said. “The customization aspect excites our customers, which then generates creates more customers and work. Having a graphics background greatly helps, if you’re getting into the sublimation business. Even though sublimation allows you to do very unique things, it’s up to you to decorate blank products. You must have the vision to know what to do with these products. I would encourage anyone to be adventurous. It could pay off in a big way.”
My Imprint Studios’ sublimation business is growing steadily every day, which Bodine attributes to the designs and products offered, as well as the company’s focused marketing and production strategy.
“Even though you can offer sublimation, it’s really important to think about what your goals are with it and how you plan on marketing it,” he said. “It is also very important to have the right printer picked out for the demand your business requires. After 4 years of sublimation, you learn that shortcuts may get you into sublimation, but are not always the best path. You should save your money on presses, and spend it on printers and ink. If you are creative and able to market these services, it will greatly expand your business and profits.”
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