Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kickfurther Merchant of the Week: DIY Screen Printing Supplies

I've run a couple of posts touting my Kickfurther Store (and I definitely encourage everyone to go over and see if there is anything there that can find its way onto your Christmas list) but this week I'm starting a new series that will hopefully go on for sometime--I'm interviewing people associated with businesses which raise funds on my most interesting investment: Kickfurther.

RTR: We're here with Gary Jurman from DIY Screen Printing Supplies. DIY just completed a fifty thousand dollar round of fundraising with Kickfurther.com. I'd guess you're feeling pretty good about that.

Gary: You bet. We're super happy about making our goal, and can't wait to get started putting the funds to good use. I'd like to thank the Kickfurther team. They helped us fill in some of the blanks with our offer, and gave us some pretty key advice about how to entice the investors.

RTR: So you'd say your experience with them was a good one?

Gary: Definitely. It wasn't our first run with them, though. For the first one, we were a bit less ambitious and only raised six thousand . We did well with that, and wound up paying back the investors earlier than expected. For the next round, we were able to shoot higher.

RTR: This time what did you raise the money for?

Gary: Well, as you know, we are a screen printing supply house, but we also develop our own products. We have a new screen printing system called Merchmakr that we are launching into orbit, and we need a good bit of inventory. Up until now we've only had just enough product to prove our customers want to buy it, but we haven't been able to keep them in stock long enough to develop our channels. We'd get the sales funnel up and running, and then, poof, we're out of stock again. Not that we're complaining about selling so fast.

RTR: Merchmakr must be pretty popular, then. You're very lucky to have a product that is so popular.

Gary: Truth be told, we had to pivot a little to get Merchmakr to be what it is. Our first product kind of flopped.

RTR: If you didn't start out this way, then how did you begin. How did you change?

Gary: When we first started kicking around the idea of DIY Screen Printing Supplies, we decided we'd release a build-it-yourself screen printing kit. It was a pretty good product for our first attempt. It had video tutorials, and was designed so that even someone not awesome with tools could build it. The problem was that the customers were few and far between.

RTR: Why do you think your customers were so rare?

Gary: Mostly because people didn't want to have to build the press just to get to the part where they were making T-shirts. We had customer after customer asking us to build it for them. It took a while, but eventually we started to get the hint.

RTR: So you started building Merchmakrs.

Gary: Well, yes, but first we had to come up with a design that people wanted. So we asked them what they were doing and why? We asked them a lot of questions about how they were using screen printing supplies, That's when we realized we needed a special system that was until now completely unavailable. Hence the special HotSwap clamp and registration system.

RTR: I know screen printing can be used to put logos on shirts, is that what Merchmakr is for?

Gary: Merchmakr is a screen printing system, so yes, you can use it for that. What makes Merchmakr special is its size, portability, and the quality of product you can make with it. It is designed so a band can take it on the road and produce merchandise as needed. It's small enough for a crafter to keep on display in their home, or for a webstore owner to use in their kitchen as needed.

RTR: Did you start DIY Screen Printing Supplies to launch Merchmakr?

Gary: Sort of. Not really. Really DIY was a pivot from being a more traditional custom screen printing company. We tried a few different ideas before we solidified on screen printing supplies and product development. We tried a few other ideas like custom screen printing niches, screen printed T-shirt design lines, screen printing classes, and crowd-sourced T-shirts. Any one of those ideas can work, but for us, we found just the right mix of what we love in product development.

Merchmakr with HotSwap Clamp: Two Very Cute Little Girls from DIY Screen Printing Supplies on Vimeo.

RTR: Everything seems to center around screen printing, then?

Gary: Well, I've been doing it for over thirty years, so I kind of know a bit about it. Sometimes I wish I could do more of it for my own personal projects. But, yes, we take all of our other competencies and hang them on a scaffolding of screen printing.

RTR: So do you see DIY as more of a traditional company or a startup?

Gary: In a lot of ways we identify more as a startup, but I think we are both. We do the kinds of things startups do: customer exploration, product development, high energy idea storming... But we also do the things that many startups don't but traditional companies do: worry about the bottom line, engage in long-term thinking, and not be so concerned with an exit strategy. Plus too, we've never really had what they call "runway."

RTR: So was it the startup mindset that brought you to Kickfurther?

Gary: Probably. Kickfurther is crowd-source financing. It's a way of getting funding without going through the traditional bank loan process. Instead, it's a little more like pitching your product. It also has a much more personal touch, where the people who finance you are actually purchasing your inventory, and then you sell it for them on consignment. They are a partner, investing in your products."  They are not just loaning you money, they are also rooting for you. We had been exploring crowd-source technologies since back before we created DIY Screen Printing Supplies. We tried our hand at crowd-sourcing T-shirt designs for a while, and there was something really appealing about it. Kickfurther just seemed to mesh with our paradigm.

RTR: So would you recommend Kickfurther to other companies?

Gary: Definitely! We already have, actually, and they've done two rounds already.

I'd like to thank Gary again for doing this interview. If you'd like to invest in a business like Gary's (or in Gary's when he comes back for yet another round--that's another thing about Kickfurther--businesses can't finance another batch of inventory before their prior round is paid out) use this referral link and you'll get $5.00 toward your first investment. The Kickfurther Store carries the kit shown above (not the Merchmakr) and if you use my link and buy anything in the store, I get a commission. If you are a business owner who sells merchandise, consider Kickfurther for your needs. If you use this link, I get a finder's fee for bringing you aboard, and it sounds like Gary would recommend you give it a try.

To learn more about the companies mentioned:

Kickfurther: http://kickfurther.com

DIY Screen Printing Supplies: http://diyscreenprintingsupplies.com

Merchmakr: http://merchmakr.com

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