John LaRoy, CEO of Apparel Redefined, and Nick Wood, VP of Sales at GraphXsource, share their experiences and insights on building a career in fashion branded apparel, emphasizing the importance of learning from industry legends and mentors. They highlight the value of networking, authenticity, and efficient workflows in navigating the industry. 

Nick and John discuss the latest innovations in apparel printing, including DTG technology and color management systems. They emphasize the importance of staying on the cutting edge of technology to improve print quality and streamline the design process. Nick also shares his insights on the potential of AI to transform the industry.

Key Highlights

• Apparel industry, company backgrounds, and services offered. 0:02
• Partnership and efficiency in graphic design for manufacturing. 5:55
• Innovations in apparel industry, including print on demand and direct to garment technology. 10:40
• Color consistency and innovation in the apparel industry. 14:58
• AI’s impact on graphic design, including faster concept-to-text creation and eliminating barriers. 20:09
• Building a business, networking, and success stories. 24:37

Presentation Transcription

Curt Anderson  00:02

Hey, welcome to the program here we’re with John LaRoy. The our fearless leader and apparel redefined John. Dude, you’re not at the shop. Where are you, man? No,

John LaRoy  00:11

yeah, we’re out in Columbus at a trade show sports Inc. Outstanding buying group made up of family businesses all over the country selling sporting goods and we’re here to offer our services and ran into this guy here. industry legend Nick Wood. John’s the real industry legend.

Curt Anderson  00:31

Hey, we’ve got two industry legends. Nick Wood is in the house. Nick. Happy Thursday to you, man. What’s going on your Are you excited to be in Columbus? Or what’s happening here?

Nick Wood  00:40

Yeah, absolutely. So this is our first sporting show. And it has been incredible. So you know that with them being a buying group, I feel like the caliber of client is is exceptional. So yeah, I mean, like, we’ve landed a couple like, we’re working with Shipley now, which is a big, like web platform for kind of like order my gear. So yeah, I mean, it’s been an exceptional show. One contract kind of pays for the entire show. So we got we got a bunch of

Curt Anderson  01:05

awesome. Well, that’s awesome. So let’s dive in here. I’m gonna do little, let’s do a little deep dive on you. I want to hear a little bit about your background. What or who inspired you to really build your career in fashion branded apparel? Like what led you down this road? Yeah,

Nick Wood  01:22

so the origin story is actually pretty cool. You know, let’s rewind almost 21 years now. So it’s a long time. I wanted to learn how to screen print, I was dating a girl at the time who was an artist and she’s like, let’s make some T shirts, you know, as they all kind of, you know, you’re like, Okay, let’s, let’s figure this out. So I start talking to my parents, and randomly enough, my dad was working at a Ford dealership, and they had this driver that was like, Hey, we’re like building this, this big distribution company. We need like helping the shipping receiving. We’ll teach you how to screen print. But we need you in the shipping and receiving side, which ended up being Chris miles from Nortek. So yeah, it was like very much the nucleolus of Ryanair. So I take the screen printing class and like, you know, the first time you pull a squeegee is it’s magical. You’re like, Wait, that’s that first, I was worth significantly more work. You know. I think people think there’s an easy button which which John has a little bit of an easy button. So yeah, origin story. My dad hooked me up with Chris miles, Chris miles and you know, taught me how to screen print and one of the roundup classes and they’re like, hey, we need a we need a guy. And yeah, that’s how so like Brian Chris wiles. This guy named Marvin Gill, who’s like, recently passed away, but kind of an industry legend. So I’ve learned under some,

02:39

some some serious go. Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, I love you know, there’s

Curt Anderson  02:44

always a story, right? And usually, like, there’s a girl behind the scene. So you know, usually it’s a girlfriend, and maybe dad is involved. So I love how you kind of pulled that together. And so what’s awesome is like, we’re talking here a graphics source. So share a little bit about your company. You guys. I tell you, it’s very impressive what you guys are doing. Just how do you guys make the world a better place? What’s going on there?

Nick Wood  03:04

Yeah, it’s great. First off, that’s a that’s a great leader. Thank you, Kurt. So yeah, graphics source have been around for a long time. The company was founded in 1984. So I think we’re just hitting that 40 year mark. But even before that, there was the whole nucleolus of outsourcing graphics was started by I guess its third generation grant third generation. His his great grandfather had a patch manufacturing division that made the patches that literally went on the Apollo mission. So you walk into Dallas, there’s a Black Swan, it was Richard Nixon was the president at the time. But yeah, they Apollo 11, those patches that went on the moon they manufacturing. But as they had this big manufacturing division, they realized digitizing, it’s a it’s a manual art form. And so as they grew, they realized, hey, you know, people could send this stuff in, and we could use our expertise, and then send them back a paper tape to run on their embroidery machines. And then, you know, fast forward another 60 years, and yeah, we’re 900 employees, John, John, being one of the absolute goes to work with, like their, the volume that they move is a significant amount.

Curt Anderson  04:18

Well, I absolutely love that, you know, and as Murphy, if you don’t mind, I’m shamelessly I’m gonna pull up your website real quick. I just want to share that real quick as you guys have a really impressive website. So can you guys hear me okay? Yeah, sure. Okay. So, Nick, just so sure a little bit about your services, your solutions. What do you guys do here? I tell you very impressive what’s going on? Just let’s hear what’s good. What’s happened in here? Yeah, it’s

Nick Wood  04:43

a great. So the website, we have a couple of different kind of avenues that you can go down. So we’ve worked with a lot of like our it’s primarily b2b. So you can either do like the ala carte, which is kind of a pay as you play. So if you need a vector redraw proof made Screen print separation, a digitized file, you know, kind of anything in that in that area? Yeah, yeah, there you go. Yeah, you’re already logged in. Wow, that’s impressive. Yeah. So that’s our dashboard. And we use AWS servers. So we back everything up. Once you place an order, we archive it indefinitely. Yeah, and this is all custom software that we’ve built. So our platform similar to no most, you know, knowing software architecture is, it’s a whole animal. So when you place an order with us, it either goes to our digitizing department redraw or department, separations department, that then triggers a task that they have to complete. Once the files are completely re uploaded to the website, email the customer saying, Hey, your orders ready to rock and roll? They then go through and download the files, you can have a preview. But yeah, we archive stuff indefinitely.

John LaRoy  05:55

Hey, Chris, Curt, we, we’ve been working with graphics for almost three years now. Right? We just added a second artist. And they’ve been phenomenal. I mean, one of the things we we did a vendor presentation earlier today, it’s actually a really, really cool story. guy’s name is Johnny Cupcakes, t shirt tycoon to the max is just so creative. But one of the things that he said, You know, it’s not the to be it’s not for you to see, it’s human to humans. And it was, it was really cool, because I, again, very creative, haven’t thought of it. And I was always like, a little a little concerned about taking a resource that wasn’t inside the building. You know, we’ve always been remanufacturing. Kurt, you’re, you know, you’re the manufacturing marketing guru, there’s not many opportunities to have people work outside your building. And really, the only job that we can allow that for is graphic design, right? And how do you communicate the efficiency, the flow, the style, outside of the building, and graphics has done a phenomenal job of assimilating with our company, and really delivering and helping our existing team become more flexible.

Nick Wood  07:10

That is a that’s a business that coming from John, that carries a ton of weight, but vice versa, you know, with our team, having nomos having the team, like the integration has been really seamless, because I will say this much. There are companies that aren’t and you have to kind of organize the architecture, build the structure, but apparel redefined is like, if you were to draw an ideal customer profile, I didn’t pay.

Curt Anderson  07:38

That’s music to our ears, Nick, we have to love that. And that’s exactly what we preach. So for manufacturers out there, we just did a LinkedIn workshop about an hour ago. And that was one of the manufacturers like, hey, how do I narrow down my niche? You know, like, and that’s the thing is when you try to be everything to everybody, you become nothing to no one right? And what I love what you just said, John, you know, for entrepreneurs out there, we always like to say it takes a village, right? It takes a village to raise a business. And so John partnering with somebody like Nick, a company that you know, always has your back, and then it’s helping you elevate the company. How important has that been to your success? And apparel? Redefining

Nick Wood  08:13

soccer? Can you repeat that one more

08:15

time? Yeah, sorry. Everyone term our time here. And you trade show floor? Yeah.

Curt Anderson  08:22

How about China, we always talk about like, how important it is, like I say, it takes a village to raise a business, right. And it’s so important to have like, you know, that support system around you.

John LaRoy  08:35

The support system is everything. Because in our industry, nothing happens until the artwork is gone. And if you have a delay, you know, we talked about this on our other shows her the Amazon effect has transposed on every industry, right? So everyone expects things faster, quicker. And in our industry, everything is around the art. And if the art is not done quickly, you’re now losing production days, because that due date is here. And you have all this sequential events that need to happen. And that due date can’t move, especially in athletics, Friday Night Lights, Friday Night Lights, you’re not going to push the game Saturday, you know, you’ve got to have the stuff done. So having partners like them that we can rely on, to get stuff done is not just about getting it done. It’s getting it done the right the first time, right? Because if you if you send that proof to a customer and it’s not right, that customer might not be available to get you the edits. So we want to get them the artwork revision right the first time every time and their team really helps with that. So then after the artwork is approved, then we can start doing all the other stuff to get the order done. So yes, it’s it’s it’s absolutely essential to what we do. And having that ability to kind of ramp up ramp down depending on business cycles is something that’s very, very powerful.

Curt Anderson  09:55

Yeah, I love it. Can you guys hear me Nick, can you hear me Can you hear me? Nick? I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.

10:04

I think you’re on mute.

Curt Anderson  10:07

How about can you hear? How about about now? Yeah,

10:15

gotcha now. Okay.

Curt Anderson  10:16

So Nick, you were talking about ideal customer, right? You’re about how John is an ideal customer for you guys. Just share a little bit, you know, you just mentioned 1984, you guys span over four generations, 40 years, five offices? You’re in five countries. I heard you mentioned 900 employees? What’s the key to your success on taking care of customers?

Nick Wood  10:40

Well, that’s a great question. I think I think the biggest aspects of us is really getting ingrained, like, like giving an example, almost like we’re in there, you know, we’re operating as if we’ve learned employee, we are detecting, I think that stickiness and like, it takes a lot of work, you know, there’s, there’s a big, you essentially have to train us very much as if we were having a boy. So, so once that, you know, I was, like, jumping on the grenade initially, once, once that grenade is like, you know, you got the, you got the standard operating procedures, you built up an SOP on your side, you know, once that, once that’s established, it’s, it’s scalable. I’m not gonna say, adding a secondary person is SES, it’s not, you know, it’s another human being right, there is training, but I think the stickiness of it is really is learning that customer, and then, you know, ingraining yourself in, you know, so you have to be immersed, it can’t just be transactional, hey, Curt, you need this, okay, whatever we got you, you know, this time around, it’s like, you’re really operating, you know, as if, as if you’re part of the team. And you aren’t. I

Curt Anderson  11:51

love that. So being you know, being a partner is critical, right? Being a partner is critical to the success, right. So next question, Nick. If you can, can you how can you hear me? Can you hear me? All right? Yep. Yeah. All right. Let’s go here. You know, you guys are innovative on the cutting edge. Give us a little bit of like the latest, greatest technology going on in your industry? What’s like, and again, what’s giving you guys that edge?

Nick Wood  12:17

That is a great question. Because I feel like as everything we’re, you know, lightning speed advances. One thing I have to give John props for his he stays on that cutting edge, which oftentimes we don’t get to see that. There’s only a few people that have tech, like like that advanced, I think in terms of what we’re seeing lots is DTF. DTF is really kind of engrained itself. So what that’s done is, it’s a digital output. So as opposed to screen print, where you have to separate all your colors, you know, build this, it’s really, it has to be done by an artist. And it has to be done by somebody that that has walked the path through know that understands, this is how it’s going to print on press that I’m not gonna say it eliminates it, but it really shows up that gap. So DTF, we’ve been seeing a lot, we’ve been seeing a lot of people try to mimic screenprint with DTMF. So using using tonal values and knockouts, we’ve seen that a lot. I mean, we’re we’re on the forefront of like, we use like mid journey chat GPT four. So we’ll utilize that and kind of build a proof of concept. So we’re not we’re not using that as the production file. Sure, just because we feel like it has to be edited, right? Like, it can’t just be directly something from mid journey, hey, here you go, this is going to be exactly what you want. So what we’ve been doing is using that for proof of concept, and then proposing it to the customer, are we going on the right path before we spend, you know, eight hours designing something only to find out, you guys are way off, which happens all the time. So charge up to four is amazing. There’s some really good image tracing tools that have like, that would take some, you know, an eight hour process that just kind of like, shorten up that gap. But digital, digital is really where we’re seeing a lot of innovations. Yeah, I mean, DTF is really kind of changing that mark. And same thing with DTG. To like, like the true hybrids the true, you know, inline, like direct to consumer is is gonna Yeah, that’s that’s where it’s at short run, shipped direct to the customer. And that’s, that’s

Curt Anderson  14:28

Oh, John, I think apparel, right. Yeah, that’s, that’s music to your ears. Right. So you’re huge on print on demand direct to garment, right. Why don’t you just share a little bit from your insight on technology in apparel?

14:43

I missed that one. So I would say

Curt Anderson  14:45

no worries. So just piggybacking on a question for Nick on innovation, I know you’re huge on print on demand. You’re huge on DTG. Just share a little bit on your insight, piggybacking off what Nick just said.

John LaRoy  14:58

Oh, absolutely, yeah, so it It seems like one of the things we’re talking about on the show, this is an athletic community, right. And we talked about the importance of color consistency. So we’ve partnered with DuPont, we have the DTG DTF, hold using Dupont systems so that we can guarantee color consistency to the to the customer, right that the gold’s got to be gold, orange got to be orange, the Reds got to get red. And whether your screen printing or DTG and TTFN, embroidering vinyl, you need that consistency. And for us, it’s really important, but it’s also really hard to do on a digital platform, we’re learning as we go of what it takes is not as easy as waiting on a PMS chip, and mixing a custom color. You’re using, in most cases, digital for color CMYK, to try and hit every color and the gamut. And it’s not totally possible. So for us, like talking, you know, I’ve never learned so much about color that I have in the last couple of weeks with du Pont’s new code come into our shop. But like there’s a there’s what we call in the industry. Now delta. And the eye, the human eye can only detect, like within three or four variants of delta, right, that’s what we’re trying to get our color gamut within two delta for every decoration type that we offer. So we’re taking it to the next level, because I mean, the one thing with DTS, there’s a pro and a con with every our industry doesn’t have a lot of barriers to entry. And now with DTF, those barriers entry is actually like, it takes some of the skill out. It creates efficiency and speed. But where you’re gonna see people like us, I feel like separating themselves is that color consistency. Because with this, with this technology is gonna allow really anybody with essentially, a bedroom started, they can start making T shirts, you know, but quality, the quality for us is really important. And driving innovation like we’re DTG was 10 years ago, he was a little nervous at first they said it was gonna replace, right? That’s not going to happen. There’s a part for every No, we want to be that decorator that has the complete toolkit, you know, you walk in you got the Craftsman tool chests, what do you need, we got it all, you know, and that’s what we want to do for our customers, but not to do it, but do it better than everyone else. Again, it all starts with the artwork, if you can’t get that artwork done correctly, doesn’t matter all the tools you have you have all the festivals in the world, but the artwork is what drives that product. And that’s where Nick and his team comes in.

Nick Wood  17:36

I gotta get the Johnson props though because you have a lot of customers that will that will not take the time to profile all of their machines to be talking the same language like hearing this that is a master class and you know, like profiling one machine to the next is a whole different animal so like, you know, drawn like they have to be color accuracy is huge, especially when it comes to you know, athletic gold and you know, royal blue. Like that’s hard to do digitally so like having that profile that that’s that’s some next level thinking right there.

John LaRoy  18:09

And I I don’t want to take too credit for that. Oh, that’s esoteric. These guys are sitting in our booth right here. Well, good unsung heroes and hours and hours of time. It’s just, they’re just they’re geniuses.

Curt Anderson  18:23

That’s awesome. All right. How about how can you hear me now? I’m moving your commercial days. Right? Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?

18:31

Say it again. Kurt.

Curt Anderson  18:32

You know what? Maybe I should call you John.

18:35

My phone’s underneath here. Oh, should I be on my computer? Make it level?

Curt Anderson  18:41

How about? So Nick? Let’s go here, Nick.

Nick Wood  18:44

Yeah, call me. Area code. 360907360

Curt Anderson  18:52

What was it 36036090749269 Don’t you just love technology when you’re going live? This is awesome.

Nick Wood  19:07

Dude, but you know, it’s like we’re at a trade show. So the fact that we can even do this in fact

Curt Anderson  19:12

we can even do this so let’s go here. So Nick, can you hear me now can you hear me now? Gucci Alright, here’s my question for you. You guys cutting edge innovation we’re talking about understanding your ideal customer you’re on the computer. We got you on the go here can you hear me now? Yeah much better.

19:43

Okay.

Nick Wood  19:53

Future

Curt Anderson  20:00

So, Nick, what are you excited about for the future with branded apparel? And what are you looking forward to on on screen printing and everything else here?

Nick Wood  20:08

Man, I mean, I feel like we’re at such a pivotal point with like, you know, AI and like, there’s, they’re, I think the big thing is with us, you can get to the proof of concept faster. So as opposed to, you know, really kind of ping pong, this designs back and forth, which, you know, hadn’t even like five years ago, not even that a year and a half ago, it had to be a new keyless and somebody’s brand or a 72 DPI jpg picture of a card, then that person would have to take that concept, build it out, illustrate it by hand, scanned it into a computer. Now you can use, you know, text, text crops that have imagery, which is, it’s crazy,

John LaRoy  20:53

it is wild, and really, like, you know, graphic artists, again, AIS and replace graphic artists. It’s not the case, right? It’s the graphic artists can be more efficient with their time. Thank you. It should enhance it should if it scares you, you’re probably not a good graphic artist. Yeah, you know, if you can utilize a tool, you know, it was pretty, it was like, Hey, I’m coming up with an idea, especially when, like we talked about in our industry 90% of the art we create is recreated. Right, you’re starting with a concept now get it to the finish line as fast as possible. But there’s a client that comes in and says, I don’t know, I need a new logo, or we got an event coming up, I have no idea what I want to do. You can’t get in their head and see the vision that they want to see. But with AI, you can come up with 40 Different examples in five minutes. You know what I mean? And then you’re able to say, hey, I don’t like this one. I like this one. But that getting from concept to creation happened so much faster with

Nick Wood  21:51

that. Yeah, you summed it up exactly. And like what we’ve been what we’ve been training aren’t because full disclosure, our creative team was very scared. Like, you know, there was a big barrier. And it’s like, hey, like this thing is your tool. So really training them on the prompts to get to that end result faster. Yeah. And then, you know, it’s like, it’s really it’s like John said, it’s, it’s kind of Springboarding that that idea to concept to text. Right? Yeah. It’s just it’s a fast forward button on getting to the end result.

Curt Anderson  22:26

All right. I absolutely love it. I know. Can you guys hear me at all? Yeah, you can hear me now. Okay, awesome. All right. So John, plug your ears, Nick. Nick, when we came on the call, I asked John to plug his ears. Can you hear me? John’s got to plug his ears. While we were we’re talking about John being a legend. What makes John Leroy such a legend and apparel redefined?

Nick Wood  22:50

Oh, man. Okay, let’s start out. So first off, it’s pretty, it’s extremely rare for somebody to build their own software in this industry. Let me like expand on that a little bit further. You know, there’s a lot of out of the box software solutions, that’s cool. It’s very rare to kind of have somebody build the architecture and mold from the customer back and eliminate those barriers, like, first off that, you know, that shows is a super organized person in general, but alone, kind of like eliminating all of those pitfalls on a normal t shirt order. So that’s legendary in its own. But secondly, John is on the forefront, like, we’re not talking about on the screenplay side, which has obviously been, you know, on the forefront for years, like directly consumer takes, it takes a lot of effort to be on that forefront. So it’s not just learning the process, like really understanding how do we pull from that customer back and just be that that draws tool chips, and it’s, it’s difficult, like, it’s probably the hardest thing to do, you know? So yeah, somebody that can really like intellectually dissect. Okay, let’s pull from the customer backs. Let’s eliminate the barriers. Let’s make sure that, that when we have this order, it’s being checked into the exact same time as the screens. Like all that stuff is hard. And the hardest thing to do, so yeah, I mean, that’s just one of the many areas and John’s Josh’s the gangster, like, like, homie, you know, like, text him about sports like, yeah, just the guy.

Curt Anderson  24:23

He’s just a guy. So, John, can you hear me? So, John, can you hear me? Yeah. All right. Let’s embarrass Nick. What makes such a legend in the industry?

John LaRoy  24:37

Do I mean where do I start but first of all, again, I gotta give credit to my team because everything Nick said, I appreciate but it’s not just me. My team is the engine behind all innovation all execution and is not possible without to Nick Okay, so I met you probably about three or four years ago. And at first and no one I I’m like, Who is this guy? I mean, like, like when you meet people that are this authentic, it’s sometimes feel like, is it fake is a facade and the genuine authenticity that comes out of this guy is is exuded and it precedes him in the industry. Everybody knows Nicholas. I mean, Nick woods on speed dial and everyone’s phone. He comes to trade shows. He’s a magnet, people just are glued to him that now you got his number. Let’s go maybe, but it’s like it’s not fake. It’s absolutely 100% real. Yeah, he’s got your back. He’s invested in your success. Whether it’s networking, graphs, graphs, or snacks, graphic source, whether it’s a connecting you to a client potential fit. I mean, this guy, it’s, he’s rare. He’s really rare. That’s why it’s such a legend because it’s everything he do. He talks about how do you build a business you give first, he is the epitome of giving first and just just a great guy

Nick Wood  26:10

Hey, you know it takes a lot sometimes, but you just got to do it. You know, it’s like alright, let’s let’s get to the shortest path.

Curt Anderson  26:21

All right, so hey, I love the I love the bromance, man. Love the bromance. So let’s take let’s take it home guy so again, you’re at you’re at a trade show in Columbus. This is absolutely awesome. While we let’s take it home, Nick parting thoughts, words of wisdom that you want to share as our as we wrap up our program today?

Nick Wood  26:39

Yeah, sounds great. Let’s, let’s kind of focus on where we’re at first, and then kind of like wrap it up. This show has been incredible. Like I was talking to the show, organizer, Tiffany, we were talking about John and like, you know, because this is our first show, right? So we’re kind of learning the lay of the land. You know how, but it’s been a really, really successful show. Like, business growth. I think connecting with Shipley was a was a big, big win for sure. We’re gonna send a pm out to their shop on a good show. Awesome.

Curt Anderson  27:19

John. parting thoughts, words of wisdom as we wrap up today. What do

John LaRoy  27:23

you think parting thoughts for me is when you get a VRBO, do a Google Earth. And make sure it’s nice as the house looks, the area’s also important. And then also, don’t assume that every car is a Lyft or Uber because I just started loading our stuff into what I assumed was an Uber we got a t 40 inch TV, we got all of our tradeshow stuff. This guy could have drove away and taken everything. And he’s kindly was like, What are you doing? Like I saw your new Uber do I know.

Nick Wood  28:03

Hey, speaking up that happened last night to us as well. We started hopping into an Uber and the guy was like, Are you like, like

28:15

usually it happens in the front seat.

Curt Anderson  28:17

So if if you guys need bail money, if you guys need bail money, just tax me okay. If you guys get in trouble, so I, why don’t we wind down I want How about a big round of applause for Nick Wood? How about a big round of applause for Nick. This guy’s the goat the actual guys the goat. So I love it. So hey, I wish I was with you guys. When you’re in Columbus. Hey, I gotta give a shout out to the buckeyes when you’re in Columbus, right? Yeah.

28:44

Right, right. Ohio State’s backyard. Yeah,

Curt Anderson  28:47

that’s right. So Hey, John, you guys have a great time. Stay safe. Enjoy yourself. Keep crushing it. We appreciate you, Nick. Thank you, my friend. It was an honor privilege hanging out with you today. You guys have a blast. And John. We’ll be back next week, brother. Sounds great. Yeah, thank you.