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The folks at Ink Custom Tees don’t wear their pride on their sleeves. They print it on T-shirts, then ship those shirts worldwide.
Ink has been printing brands and logos onto T-shirts and other custom apparel since 1988. That’s when founder and co-owner Holt Condren, a University of Arkansas graduate and Razorback varsity cheerleader, had a vision of creating screen-printed T-shirts for campus groups. A $5,000 loan from his grandfather helped Condren get started.
Over the years, with a broadening approach from co-owner and President Scott Masters, the company grew to make shirts for special events, local businesses and even nationwide retail brands. In recent years, Ink has designed and printed up to 750,000 shirts annually.
Though 2020 broke a string of year-over-year revenue gains as COVID-19 shut down public events and company gatherings, the company is nearly back to its pre-pandemic employment of 40-50. And it is expanding its order fulfillment business — printing and warehousing merchandise for certain companies and managing their online stores — to offset business lost in canceled marathons, festivals, camps and conventions.
“We’ve had to stretch ourselves to create growth opportunities this year,” said Jacob Schimmel, the company’s director of finance. He said people, culture, excellent artwork and top-quality printing are Ink’s ingredients for success. “We’ve always had some of the best artists and printers in the business, but COVID required us to take the next step to keep ourselves and our clients relevant with e-commerce solutions.”
Ink, which makes shirts, hats and other merchandise featured in catalogs for brands like Mack’s Prairie Wings and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, “always had a grassroots mentality,” Schimmel said, “with hardworking people who provide big-shop solutions with small-shop care.”
With event cancellations and businesses cutting costs, “selling T-shirts has been incredibly challenging at times,” he added. “But Ink has adjusted well and weathered the storm. We feel very blessed and fortunate to face the challenges and be able to continue to make a profit and have good sales and growth for the company.”