Watch: Jerzees’ Marshall Atkinson Marvels at Our People-Powered Operation
March 29, 2021
Marshall Atkinson is a success coach, consultant, and a veteran of the screen printing business. His video series for Jerzees features visits to custom apparel shops around the country, focusing on their people and process. So naturally, RushOrderTees/Printfly was on his list. And we were happy to have him visit.
Marshall dropped by last month and spent the day with us to shoot his third video installment, and have our team create a special item: a mixed media print on a hoodie. We squeezed some time in for him on a busy day and created a unique and eye-catching customization that combined screen printing with specialty ink and embroidery with a special technique. Isn’t that special?
After the video I’ve provided some behind-the-scenes commentary. Enjoy.
After a brief introduction and mentioning how awesome Philly is, Marshall first talks to Mike Nemeroff, the founder and CEO of Printfly/RushOrderTees. Mike gives an overview of the company in his typical understated fashion. Let me state it with less modesty: we are more than industry leaders, we are trailblazers. We know this because we can see all the companies following in the trail that we’re blazing.
Mike is a real inspiration. I admire the heck out of the guy, and not because he’s my boss. He truly built a company from scratch, and you can read more about that here. But it’s his vision, work ethic, and ability to attract quality people that has led to our success. (Also, his note-taking skills are unreal and something to behold.) He’s probably the main reason I’ve spent more than four years here and counting.
“We quickly turned into a rush order business because more than half of our customers needed in a deadline so we accommodated that and built our facility and systems around that.”
Then Marshall talks to Kane Posner, our marketing/finance/data guru. Kane has been instrumental in our recent growth and sets the pace and direction for our newest projects. The video doesn’t capture the Kane we all know at work: quick to joke, and a refreshing no-nonsense approach. He also has some ridiculous number of motorcycles and makes the spiciest beef jerky you can imagine. Tastes like burning.
Kane explains how we offer our customers something over and above what they expect:
“If a customer were to call up and say ‘I want to design that’s really going to pop and it’s really gonna have some nice contrast you know what can you help me with?’ That’s when we’d suggest that you can mix printing methods… that’s kind of on the cutting edge, it’s really interesting looking.”
Next up, Marshall visits our Art Department, where he talks with assistant manager Kacie Doran about the process involved in creating this special mixed-media customization. I worked alongside Kacie for a few years when I was in Art, and let me tell you: she is the best. She knows her stuff, and she is always willing to help with whatever anyone needs. On top of that, she’s a fantastic photographer and videographer. Check out the amazing job she did on our most recent Six Shooter Challenge video.
Kacie explains how coordination between departments ensures that everything works right:
“What we do is we actually have sort of a dual art team set up between the art department and the embroidery department. In the art department, we’ll handle the screen printing setup and then we’ll send it over to embroidery, so that way they can ensure the correct setup on the production end, and we have everything aligned correctly in both sets of designs.”
Soon Marshall is on the warehouse floor to talk with our production director Joe Wolos. Joe is one of my favorite people in the building. I have no idea how he keeps he manages to keep his cool, even on the craziest days with massive orders and insane deadlines. He always seems to have things under control– I’m not sure if he always does, but he seems like he does, and that’s what’s important. Keeping cool is Joe’s superpower.
The other great thing about Joe is that he’s down-to-earth in a way that makes everyone feel that they are important to him, no matter who they are or what the situation. He also has no problem busting your chops, but in a clever way that you might not even notice, so watch out for that. At the end of the day, everyone loves Joe– and that’s a good thing, considering he oversees our biggest department.
Talking to Joe about our daily volume is when Marshall had his “Holy smokes! That’s fantastic!” moment.
“We have about 21 manuals. We have one single head, and we have 11 autos. So we’re cranking out anywhere on our autos from about 7,000 to 8,000 shirts a day. We’re hoping to reach our goal of 10,000 shirts a day. And our manuals are getting anywhere from like about 1,000 to 2,000 shirts out a day.”
The next stop for Marshall was to visit Mikey Lince, our lead digitizer. I’ve worked with Mikey in the Art Dept and he’s top notch. He took on digitizing for embroidery as his specialty and has been a huge value in that role. Lots of people count on him every day and he doesn’t let them down. Outside of work, Mikey is also the lead singer of his band, check them out here.
Mikey explains how he prevents thread breaks on puff embroidery:
“The difference with puff embroidery compared to a normal embroidery job is we’ll beef up the density on the file and we’ll run the machines a little bit slower, so that way when it’s printing on the screen printing portion of the garment it creates fewer thread breaks.”
At this point, Marshall checks in with Letitia Lewis who runs our embroidery production. He is clearly impressed with her, as the rest of us are. Her expertise shines through as she explains the variables involved in doing this job, and demonstrates her ability to perfectly center the garment in the hoop by eyeballing it, which Marshall takes note of. “You can tell she’s a pro.” We know! She recently did some sample embroidery on fanny packs for me– a job that was a real challenge, and she pulled it off with flying colors.
Letitia explains how she set up this job:
“So what we have here is the puff RushOrderTees logo. It’s here on the control panel of our Tajima high power machine. I’m gonna run this at a stable pace of 750 RPMs. I will be using black polyester thread to give it a great shine. I’m going to raise my pressure foot up just a little bit from standard to enhance the puff 3D effect.”
Meanwhile, our DTG department printed up a design by one of our artists on a Jerzees DRI-POWER ringspun tee. Maybe they felt left out of this video shoot and wanted to show off a bit. Our DTG department makes some of the highest quality prints in the industry, so they have much to show off. Marshall loved it. “Look how awesome that looks.”
While he was here, Marshall visited our vinyl department and talked to Kevin Santana about the various types of vinyl printing we do. Cut vinyl, printed vinyl, and foil all get a mention. It was cool that he checked in with them, even though that department was not part of the mixed media print featured.
Next thing you know, Marshall is in our break room shooting mini basketballs and grabbing snacks. He really loved the snacks. He brings up how great this break room is to Mike, and mentions the mini basketball, without mentioning the two ping pong tables. I mean mini basketball is cool, but c’mon. Ping pong tables!
As we get towards the end of the video, Mike talks about what I think is one of the secrets to our success: we’re a people-powered company. The systems and technology can only get us so far. To really make everything work, you need high-quality, dedicated people.
“People are the most important thing to the business without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do every day for our customers we look for people who are just smart problem solvers and we really teach them from the ground up how we do things.”
Letitia expresses what this means to her:
“Out of my years of working, this has been one of the most pleasurable places I’ve had the chance to work. It’s the people, it’s the community, it’s being told that you’re of value. And being able to make things great for people out in the world. I feel connected with my environment.”
Before I wrap this up, a few honorable mentions: Aidan Nichols, our lead manual printer, was shown in the video multiple times doing his thing. He’s a master and the print was perfect. Nick Vettori, who manages our Art Dept, was a big part of coming up with the concept for the design and making sure it would be impressive– but also something we could bang out in the middle of a busy day. Jason Figueroa, our production manager, was behind the scenes throughout the whole shoot, making sure everything went smoothly and successfully. Not much different than what he does every day. And last but not least Drew Smith, our content director in marketing and the “face of the company” coordinated the visit without ever getting his face involved.
Marshall had fun and so did we, so overall it was a fun day with him and his crew here. For more from Marshall, check out his website. If you’re a growing shop that could use some coaching, he’s your guy. Thanks, Marshall!
Ready to create your own mixed-media custom T-shirts? Start here.
About the Author
A graduate of the Multimedia program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Imri Merritt is an industry veteran with over 10 years of graphic design and color separations experience in the screen printing industry.