It all started with a vinyl cutter
Three years ago, Shawn Espinoza was working as an operator for an oil casing company, spending long grueling hours in the cold of the winter. But, as brutal as those Colorado winters were, he ultimately owes his success as a custom apparel business owner to them…
It was in those frigid temperatures that Shawn had the idea to start printing custom hoodies.
Using a simple, hobbyist vinyl cutter, similar to Ricoma’s RCP-6301 Model, Shawn got to work fulfilling orders. Starting with his coworkers, one order turned into two and before he knew it, SE Shirts and Hoodies was born.
Expanding his business
It wasn’t long before Shawn would “trade in” his trusty vinyl cutter for an MT-1501 commercial embroidery machine. He said it was the machine’s ability to embroider both the front and side of caps in just one run that really sold him on it.
With it, he was able to expand his small vinyl business to include embroidery.
Sooner rather than later, boxes, each containing dozens of caps, started accumulating in every room of Shawn’s small, one-bedroom apartment.
Most of those boxes belonged to a single order of 2,900 custom embroidered caps, which remains to be Shawn’s largest order to date. One that he said the MT-1501 handled with ease.
Needless to say, his 15-needle single-head machine served him well…
So well, in fact, that he was able to pay off the machine within the first month of owning it.
But, as reliable as it was, his business was growing at an alarming rate and he was forced to outsource orders to keep up with demand.
“Outsourcing really isn’t a good business model because you’re dependent on other people,” he said.
It was at that time that Shawn came to the realization that he would need to upgrade.
Bring on the big guns…
After exploring different options, Shawn found Ricoma’s CHT2 series, which is available from four to 12 heads. Having learned from his previous investment, he wanted his next machine to be one that he could grow into rather than outgrow in a year’s time.
So, logically, he went with the CHT2 8-head wide, which similarly to the MT-1501, is capable of the 270° wide angle cap rotation.
But there was more to his decision than that.
Ultimately, it came down to money.
“Time is money,” he said. “The quicker and more efficient you get the job done, the more money you’re going to make.”
Now, with eight heads, Shawn can complete orders in a fraction of the time that it would take with his MT-1501.
It also frees up some of his time so that he can tend to other aspects of the business, like accounting and customer relations.
In fact, he said the latter is what truly separates his company from the rest, giving SE Shirts and Hoodies an advantage over larger companies.
“If you call my phone, I’m going to call you by your first name…it’s building relationships that has gotten me this far.”
That’s something that SE Shirts and Hoodies and Ricoma have in common.
Customer service above all else
Shawn couldn’t say enough about Ricoma’s training academy and customer service.
Referring back to when he first purchased his MT-1501, he expressed that his account representative was genuinely interested in his needs and in finding the right machine for him, rather than just selling a product. He received that same attention when upgrading to his CHT2 8-head.
But, what really set Ricoma apart from the competition was its phenomenal technical support.
“Not every company in the apparel industry has that kind of tech support,” Shawn said. “If you can call and get someone on the phone within five or 10 minutes, that’s a pretty good company.”
As a multi-head user, Shawn was also privileged to a two-day, in-person training.
Over the course of two days, he learned everything he needed to know about the CHT2 series machine, including instructional training, panel operation, troubleshooting and maintenance.
Click here for a behind-the-scenes look at one of these trainings!
Without hesitation, Shawn said he would recommend Ricoma to anyone looking to start or grow a custom apparel business.
In fact, Shawn’s own plans include expanding his business and moving into a bigger warehouse space within the next six months.
“When that time comes,” he said, “I’ll definitely be coming back for more machines. This is just the beginning.”
The Bottom Line
In the meantime, Shawn offered a bit of advice to aspiring business owners looking to start their own journeys in the custom apparel world.
First, “be careful what you wish for.”
Speaking from experience, he noted that big orders, high-profit margins and repeat customers require hard work and dedication. Not to mention, business will eventually grow to a point where it can no longer be sustained without hiring help.
Second, “just go for it.”
“You’re going to have 50 people tell you you can’t do it rather than one person telling you you can,” he said. “Me personally, I’d rather try and fail than never try at all.”
If Shawn’s success has inspired you and you’d like to learn more about our embroidery machines and other custom apparel equipment, be sure to visit us at www.ricoma.com.
Leave a comment down below and tell us what you think about Shawn’s custom apparel journey or if you have any questions about purchasing a multi-head embroidery machine of your own!