We can be your hero… of print!

The Print Hero team

The team behind freshly formed Print Hero of Worksop have decades of garment decoration experience under their belt. Now this new company, which only started trading in February, has big plans to take on the workwear world. Tom Asplin tells all to P&P editor Melanie Attlesey.

When it is said a company has decades of experience, often this means the team’s combined years in the industry. But, not in this case.

Managing director of Print Hero, Claire Locke, founded her first business called Smarty Pants around 18 years ago. The business initially traded from Meadow Hall in Sheffield, with Claire printing her own designs on T shirts and selling the tangible stock in stores. However, as rent prices increased, Claire took the decision to take the business online around six years ago, selling on online market places such as Etsy and Amazon.

Smarty Pants is now very successful in the print on-demand sector, and with the skills, knowledge and connections collected over the years, the team began to plan how they could expand beyond the B2C remit, as Tom explains: “With this really successful B2C side of the business, we believe we have really got our foot in the door of the industry and are really confident in the products we sell, so we wanted to move more into the B2B side and start doing trade orders.”

The formation

One of the main reasons behind the formation of Print Hero was to avoid having all of the business’ eggs in one basket. By selling through online marketplaces, you are very much susceptible to their rules, price changes and commission structure.

“For example, if I sent out an order of mugs through Royal Mail and it arrives smashed, despite plastering fragile stickers all over the box, it is not uncommon for the customer to complain to Amazon. If you get too many complaints in one category then Amazon can kick you off the site,” explains Tom.

Selling direct to the trade avoids all of this. “We are creating a stable and sustainable future for ourselves,” he adds.

Operations manager Tom joined the business around two-and-a-half years ago, roughly six months before talks of forming Print Hero and conquering the workwear world began. But how does the team plan on doing just that?

Best of equipment

First of all, if you plan on printing and embroidering high quality workwear, then you’re going to need the best of equipment. To date Print Hero has spent around £1m on such items to ensure excellent results can be achieved. The investment includes a Kornit Storm HD6 DTG printer, multiple Happy six-head embroidery machines, a Schulze Mug15-Turbo Press and a Roland VersaUV LEF2-300 UV printer. Despite only trading since February, Print Hero has further invested in a Roland TrueVIS SG2-640.

“We mainly use this for garment transfers, but to be honest we can do anything on it, such as stickers, signage and banners. This is nice as it makes us a bit more adaptable. With the UV printer as well, we can print on hard substrates, so we cover all bases,” says Tom.

With Smarty Pants having grown up with Roland, these machines were an obvious place for Print Hero to start. The team were used to using the Roland software, the way the machines work, the maintenance and the cleaning methods involved. “This is why we have always stuck with Roland. We are very happy with the products that we use,” adds Tom.

He continues: “The reason we have all of these machines is for adaptability. If a customer comes to us and asks for something bespoke, like 100 T shirts and a few mugs for around the office, and we didn’t have the equipment to be able to fulfil this order, we would have to contract out. We can do everything for our customers.”

Due to the volume of work currently being produced, the team are looking to purchase a Kornit Avalanche HD6. A second Schulze Mug15-Turbo Press is also on the cards due to the vast demand for mugs from customers.

It is clear with this impressive line-up of equipment that the team has thrown everything it has at Print Hero in their mission to rival the big players in the workwear industry, such as Workwear Express.

It’s no good having the best equipment in the industry and being able to print and embroider to the highest quality, if you don’t have the orders coming through the door. Tom says the team are fully aware that Rome was not built in a day and explains they will spend the first 12 months of trading building brand awareness and growing the customer base. “We understand that year one is never going to be the money-making year. We’ve got quite a large advertising budget to become the name on everyone’s lips. We recognise that not everyone needs workwear right now, it’s about being there in two or three months’ time when they do,” says Tom.

This involves spending cash on Google Ad campaigns and a targeted radio ad campaign, which is due to start in July. For anyone not in the know, you can tailor radio adverts on smart speakers to target a certain geographical area and a certain demographic, who listen to certain radio stations or podcasts. “We’ve set the target. We want to reach anyone over 25 that are high up in business or management in Yorkshire,” explains Tom.

Playing on the hero element of the branding, the radio advert will take on a fun and comedic sound. This can be seen throughout Print Hero’s entire branding, from the team’s website, where Claire is described as ‘Our Hero’ and Tom is ‘Supertom’, to the tracking emails that are sent to customers, where phrases such as ‘Is it a bird, is it a plane? No. It’s your parcel on the way’ are received. It’s little quirky things like this which make Print Hero stand out and as Tom says makes the experience memorable for customers.

Set apart from the rest

Another thing that sets Print Hero apart from others in this market sector is the fact that on the team is an in-house digitiser. Samantha Whitby is worth her weight in gold having 15 years of digitising experience under her belt. Her skills mean the quality of the embroidery produced by Print Hero is 10 times better than if the digitising was outsourced or automated by the machine.

“Sam tells the machine how many threads to put into the logo or the artwork and specifically tells the software where to place the stitches. This achieves a much better result than if we just auto-digitised the artwork,” says Tom.

Not only this, but Print Hero has an in-house design team ready to help customers with any artwork or logo design requirements they may have.

“We aren’t just another business trying to print garments. We are very competitive on price and produce high quality products. Even on just one or two prints we can be competitive. And who knows, an order of one or two, may eventually lead to 300 T shirts,” he concludes.

It is clear from speaking with Tom that Print Hero has strong ambitions to be the best. And if the team continues along this thread, then they will surely become the Print Hero they desire to be.

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