Apparel Redefined is revolutionizing the apparel industry through innovation and elevation. The company emphasizes creating high-quality, memorable apparel, delivering on brand promises, and elevating the industry as a whole. Apparel Redefined loves to help entrepreneurs deliver on their “Brand Promise” with World-Class Branded Apparel Solutions.

The team discusses the latest developments in print on demand technology, including eco-friendly and sustainable aspects, quality and consistency, and photorealistic and spot color capabilities. They also share their experiences and insights on building a successful business in the manufacturing industry, highlighting the importance of innovation, taking calculated risks, and building strong relationships within the community.

IMEC Illinois is a team of improvement specialists and technicians dedicated to providing organizations in Illinois with the tools and techniques to create sustainable competitive futures. The experienced hands-on team at IMEC works closely with its manufacturers to plan critical business improvements in the areas of Leadership, Strategy, Customer Engagement, Operations, Marketing, eCommerce and Workforce.

Join John LaRoy and Derek Brubaker from Apparel Redefined in this discussion with Jaclyn Kolodziej from IMEC.

Key Highlights

• Print-on-demand technology and its benefits in the apparel industry. 0:00
• Using digital technology to improve screen printing quality. 8:25
• Empowering businesses through custom merchandise and creating lasting memories for customers. 12:19
• Manufacturing, marketing, and SEO with a focus on iMac and Apparel Refine. 16:40
• Branding, marketing, and apparel industry insights. 24:05
• Brand promise, market opportunities, and business advice. 30:50
• Business growth, relationships, and marketing strategies for manufacturers. 35:18

Presentation Transcription

Curt Anderson  00:00

Good morning Happy Thursday guys hey we’re live here at apparel redefine wonderful manufacturer in Chicagoland. I’m with the president the extraordinary John Le Roy. John. Good morning. How

John LaRoy  00:10

are you? Morning, Curt. Thanks for coming by. Always great to see you in person we see a lot over the screen but great to have you here on the south side.

Curt Anderson  00:19

Well, absolutely. So let’s we’ll go down the line. So I’ve got my dear friend Jacqueline. Hands down the best last name and manufacturing. Hello, Jaclyn. Good morning. How are you?

Jaclyn Kolodziej  00:29

Good morning, Curt. I’m doing great. Happy to be here.

Curt Anderson  00:34

We’ve got dB over here there. Derek Brubaker. So, Derek, good morning. How are you? What’s going on, man?

Derek Brubaker  00:39

Good. I’m so good. So let’s,

Curt Anderson  00:41

you know what might get the mic. Let’s start with you. You know what, I don’t know if we asked them last time. So they asked him the question. Sure. So hey, first off, tell us what’s going on with that shirt. They’re

Derek Brubaker  00:49

just a little bootleg, Freddy vs. Jason, I have a very specific t shirt that I like to wear. It’s the only shirt that I wear. So I buy things and kind of repurpose them. So I got on the back that’s cut off of another t shirt sewn onto here kind of just a little niche that I do and done it by fixing mistakes and kind of just being a really picky person about what

Curt Anderson  01:15

I wear. And that’s your background. Right? Graphic Arts. Yes, yeah,

Derek Brubaker  01:19

that’s kind of how I started in this industry, and then kind of was full fledged thrown into the fire and learning how to operate machines. Kind of do little stuff outside of what, you know, I was prepared to do. And that’s kind of the delight of the industry and why I’m still in it. You know, the problem solving and stuff that I’ve grown to enjoy. You know, it’s fun to have a challenge every day.

Curt Anderson  01:44

Well, excellent. so I gently let’s go over to you. I know you’ve got a couple of questions that you want to ask. And let’s dive into apparel redefined. So great name background, what do you want to share? All

Jaclyn Kolodziej  01:57

right, well, let’s start with what is apparel redefined for the audience? Yeah, so

John LaRoy  02:01

it’s it’s a more from the original name, which was a in our screening, customer or a&r custom screening and mom and monogramming. So so we had to short it down. So a&r was the initials the original founders, Angie and rich. And about five years ago, when we moved into our current facility, we’re like, it’s probably time for a change. At that point, I just bought out my old partner. And I’m like, I want to pay homage to the original founders. But we want to reinvent ourselves, right. So that’s where we kept the initials and repurpose them to apparel redefined. That’s

Jaclyn Kolodziej  02:40

great. So I think it really worked out to your advantage. When you talk about apparel redefined, you’ve really done a nice job of redefining who you are as a company and a brand. So tell us a little bit more about how you’re redefining the future of the company.

John LaRoy  02:56

Yeah, so that’s like a multi approach. Question. But for me, like, Why what is really important about more than just like redefining how you decorate apparel, for me, it was more about redefining an industry because, you know, like, similar how no one thought they would get into a stranger’s car 10 years ago, and now everyone’s getting into it because of an app right and kind of destroy the entire cab industry. I wanted to reinvent an archaic industry. Everyone wears decorated apparel, right. And unfortunately, it’s just got a bad, negative, dingy feel to this industry. Like there’s no technical trade school is not technically a trade, but it’s a skill. And we wanted to turn it into a career for people because again, bring an emphasis back to manufacturing in America. This is like manufacturing, we are adding value we’re essential. But the industry is not treated as such. You know, it’s there’s there’s not a ton of barriers to entry. It’s a very garage based industry. But to elevate the industry and elevate the people in it is a goldmine. And so that’s to me too, like a two part we want to redefine how we can source decorated apparel, we’ll also want to redefine the industry and elevate it. So that’s that’s kind of a two pronged approach probably pick that name. Well,

Curt Anderson  04:15

it’s absolutely a perfect name for what’s going on here and dive in. So let’s talk a little bit about print on demand. So we’ve got the website behind you. I look at that mustache. I’m just I have such mo says me every time I see that video, but we’re looking at your website up here. So we’ve got a couple of things. You’ve got retail solutions, contract services, print on demand, explain what is I know you’re super excited about print on demand. Let’s explain what that is. For folks. Yeah, so

John LaRoy  04:41

the easiest way to describe it, you know, Instagram, Facebook, everyone that has a following or not are emerging as following. One of the ways you can make money is merch. And the old way of doing merch was you would predict what would sell and it would be housed in a warehouse somewhere in the Midwest order would happen online. or through traditional retail channels, and then they would ship. There’s just a ton of waste and a ton of uncertainty and what’s going to happen, you don’t know what sizing you’re going to hit. So print on demand has been around for a while. But the technology and the advancements in the equipment and the execution of it is really what’s changed in the last four to five years, and us growing up in screen printing really accustomed to quality, and we weren’t going to stand behind something that we didn’t feel that would meet our quality standards and spec. So we searched all over the country, one of our previous episodes, we had the president of rock here, and that’s the partner we picked for our print on demand solution. And it’s eco sustainable is friendly, or eco friendly and sustainable. It’s a water based printing, and then just the whole method of it essentially, like you order you go into your digital cart, and we’re going from card to customer and 24 to 48 hours. So as soon as you place that order, it gets digitally printed, we pack it, we ship it out. And there is no way so there’s no guesswork. And there’s also no risk, you know, I mean, you don’t know what’s going to hit, you know, these these creatives and his artists put stuff up. And it’s a great idea to them. But it’s a great idea for the marketplace more do you have the marketing and distribution to push it out to enough channels to get that idea out there? And before you’d have to take that risk, because we didn’t have the product already produced, people weren’t going to wait five, six weeks for it to be produced and shipped out. So now you eliminate all those barriers. And a print on demand solution is the way that you know, a lot of people are moving towards EECOM. Well, sorry, no, I

Curt Anderson  06:32

love i Absolutely. So I just I keep popping in. So let’s go ahead what we’re going to

Jaclyn Kolodziej  06:37

oh, well, I was gonna grab the samples and talk about some of the examples of the amazing print on demand is a lot different than having a what is it velvet lettering that you’d iron on to a T shirt you’d find at the craft store.

John LaRoy  06:59

You know, like traditional screenprint, this would be you know, anywhere from like a 78 color design. And what that means is a lot of time in setup, right? Even with the advancements in pre press that’s going on right now, there’s two problems you have like when you set up a job like this, are you going to get the exact same color representation the next time you set it up. And if you don’t have your parameters dialed in, if you don’t ever color setup, right is really tough to do that. So even within the same design, you’re going to lack consistency. And that’s, that’s not good, especially for nighttime online retail to as licensing deals and all these types of spec you’re supposed to hit or print on demand, you’re going to get this same look every time because the digital file is being interpreted by the rib and printed the same way every time. So not only is it more efficient, you’re getting better quality results, just because of the repeatability of it.

Jaclyn Kolodziej  07:53

That’s awesome. Derek, do you have a well, we’re kind of doing a horror theme today with our Freddy vs. Jason. But Derek, do you have an example that you can show? Or like what what is your favorite type of printing or style or companies that you print for? Yeah,

Derek Brubaker  08:08

I mean, I would say these guys are these guys are really up there. Especially when you have items that are photorealistic. And then you maybe run into something like this, that is a little bit more spot color esque, you know, that is traditional for screen print, right? That doesn’t have as many colors. But it really just the feel, and the technology that we stumbled upon, you know, again, I’m really picky. And, you know, DTG isn’t ever going to be screenprint quality. You know, we’re we’re really, really close. And I think I’m pretty satisfied with where we’re at right now in terms of, you know, what we’ve been able to achieve. I mean, we took two years to kind of make sure that this is what we’re getting involved in because we were zero digital beforehand, you know, and it was a pretty brave jump to get such a heavy piece of machinery instead of just sticking your toe in. And, you know, that’s kind of what we’ve done. And I think everything that comes off of that machine is top notch. We’re continuously doing, you know, 50 Watch test cycles, I’m doing some on some fleece today. You know, just ensuring that we can, you know, stand by that quality because why we got into this and the, you know, redefining the industry, people are doing this, they’re out there, they have the technology, they built it, we’re still piecing things together, but their quality isn’t there, you know, and that’s, that’s what’s really been a challenge. And that’s where we’re kind of trying to set ourselves outside of, you know, the parameters that already exists because people do it. And they have the processes in place, but they don’t do it well. So that’s what we’re trying to do is just continuously evolved the industry because Johnson mentioned it is archaic. It’s a trade, it’s dirty, it’s messy, you know, you really have to have talent to be a screen printer. This kind of allows As us to not so much bring in somebody that doesn’t have talent, but, you know, take away some of that guesswork and, you know, questioning what color Am I using? What color did we use last time? You know, is it the right color to be using? You know, we have a ton of interesting technology here in terms of even our LTS system that shoots extremely beautiful screens, but you can’t even print the quality that’s coming out of those screens. So this is just another avenue, another tool that allows us to, you know, not say no to a job, because it doesn’t make sense, you know, so we can print one shirt. And in terms of all the overhead that John is talking about with these people have been maybe being stuck with inventory. What this really allows people to do is to not have to miss a sale, because somebody wants that shirt, and it’s out of stock. Now they can just purchase that one additional shirt, those two, three shirts, instead of them just purchasing one from that vendors website, because maybe that other shirt was out of stock. So yeah, long story short, it’s been, you know, interesting to kind of push the boundaries and be happy with the quality that we’re producing. And, you know, just continuously evolve the process, because it’s, it’s a tricky one to make all these pieces work seamlessly.

Jaclyn Kolodziej  11:16

Wonderful. So you mentioned some machinery, you also mentioned technology. Is this the the Ferrari the big green monster that’s sitting downstairs? Tell us about John, can you tell us exactly what the name of that equipment is that you have?

John LaRoy  11:33

Yeah, it’s called the rock. Now. Rock is a company, they’re based out of Portugal, their US branch, they have one in Florida and one out on the west coast. But yeah, it’s called the rock now. And it’s the it’s the highest class of print on demand out there is really like only three or four players in the market that have taken like a screen print carousel and have added digital equipment to it. The concepts been out there for about four or five years, but the execution in terms of all the components that go into it. And it’s really cool, like from a manual manufacturing perspective, like, everyone does something really well. But it’s hard to do like 10 things really well, right. So like, this manufacturing component is really cool to see like all the different companies that are kind of represented to come together to make this one machine to make freakin t shirt. You know, it’s crazy, like one of the things that Derek said today, I want to chime in on one of our guests coming on in a couple of months here. His name’s Chad McLean. And like, you’re making a t shirt. But what we say to is like you’re making a memory, right? Because you remember what you were wearing. I like your biggest moments in your life or your favorite times in your life? Well, one of the things that we talked like a really good business transaction is like where all parties win, right? So like, our customer wins, when they’re able to sell more shirts, the end customer wins when they get a product that really like, and if you meet all three of those people together having a really good experience. That’s the best case scenario. Right. So when Chad’s case, like, he’s got a platform, he’s got a following, and how can he do the most impact for his group, and he really wants to help veterans and people like that, that are struggling with PTSD. He wants to make a difference, right. And if he’s able to create really cool designs, with no overhead, no inventory, and then donate the proceeds to those of what he’s making back to these impactful organizations that he knows is actually making a difference. And you do it through decorated merch, rather than Hey, just give me money, which works, you know, but if you’re actually getting something back, that’s a high quality product. And then you’re wearing it and promoting the business like as a perfect synergy of like three or four parties coming together and everyone benefits. So having this equipment and back to your original question really empowers that. And then it makes you feel more comfortable, where it’s like, you’re not just putting a product out there, you’re not putting a tchotchke out there, like this is a shirt that will last that everyone is happy to buy and also happy to we’re happy to sell it because we stand behind it.

Jaclyn Kolodziej  14:01

Well, I’m happy to wear it. There’s so many times that you’re you know, at a charity event and you donate money and you get you know, just a poor quality poor printed t shirt and where does it go? The bottom of your drawer for or landfill. So Curt, I’ll hand it back to you because you need to have a drop the mic moment and talk about the tagline here.

Curt Anderson  14:21

Well, I just mentioned the memories right? And that is your tagline is making memories. So we want to take a look at that marine t shirt that you’ve got going so you know lots of exciting things going here on on here at apparel redefined. So, John, tell us a little bit about this shirt here. Yeah, so

John LaRoy  14:38

this is for Nike, USA Wrestling. They have a massive annual event up in Fargo North of Fargo, North Dakota in about a week. And wrestlers from all over the world will come in and compete in a national tournament and we’re really happy to partner with Nike and their team to be the provider of apparel. It’s pretty tight deadlines. But yeah, you know, it’s it’s cool to see athletes get so stoked about an event and just having a little part of it because growing up playin, hockey, baseball and traveling all over the country, one of the things that’s so cool to look back is your tournament tee. You know, are you looking like oh my god, like, I can look at that T shirt. And remember the games remember the performance of the opposite downs? And then you got you know, your thing on the back, you keep pressing star on their on site, that type of thing. So yeah, it’s, it’s really cool. And again, it’s attaching memories to a piece of apparel. And it’s so powerful, like, I haven’t seen it, you know, go through drawers cleaning out and it was wild. Like, I haven’t seen that shirt and 15 years. And it’s like, first of all in the wild, like, Why the hell do you still have it?

Curt Anderson  15:51

That’s what us guys do. You know, we keep T shirts for 20 years, just like you can

John LaRoy  15:54

just make another one. You have a whole company. I’m like, Yeah, but it’s not the same. It’s not the shirt that I got from there. So yeah, it’s crazy. How much power a piece of cotton is so

Curt Anderson  16:08

much more in whether it’s a baseball hat, like you said, whether you know, your I remember my literally, you know, teams from 100 years ago, you know, so it’s like, you know, as kids, you remember your sports, the events, the concert that you went to at certain age or the, you know, it’s all about the memories. I know that really stuck out to you. What are your thoughts? Oh,

Jaclyn Kolodziej  16:24

I just I love it. I mean, I equally am guilty of having those memorable T shirts, I have bins of them that the ones I can’t get rid of, but but can’t can’t justify still wearing so. But no, it’s a really powerful concept that you know, we don’t just make T shirts, we make memories. Your you are not only a t shirt and printing guru, but you’re also a marketing guru.

Curt Anderson  16:53

Well, let’s let’s go here while you have the mic share a little bit. So Jaclyn cologix, you’re part of IMEC. Once you just for anybody who’s not familiar with IMEC, or that MEP network, what is the MEP Manufacturing Extension Partnership? Just share a little bit of your role, how you help support awesome manufacturers like these guys.

Jaclyn Kolodziej  17:10

All right, well, so MEP centers, manufacturing extension partnerships, every state including Puerto Rico has an MEP center. IMEC is the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence center. So we serve all of the Illinois manufacturers, we really work hard to ignite enterprise excellence, really push our Illinois manufacturers to step up their game in a number of ways so that they can continue or become globally competitive or stay globally competitive in a in a really tough kind of manufacturing landscape. So different services, we have a ton of different technical specialists that can guide our manufacturing clients. We’re really big on lean and five s we have a ton of leadership capabilities and skill sets to come in and help me I sit in the marketing and growth space. So I have the pleasure of working with our manufacturers to talk about their marketing and their sales processes and programs and just really guide them helped make connections to resources like Curt at b2b You know apparel redefine has been working with Curt for a number of months and really uncovered a lot of like, things that, you know, maybe when you started working with us weren’t sure where to go and how to proceed, but really unfolding this brand into just a really amazing, like your marketing program is awesome. You’ve you’ve invested in SEO and an SEO boost. So tell us a little bit let’s bring it back to you. So engaging with IMEC and working with Curt undoing all in on your SEO. Tell us a little bit about what that what that process looked like. And then some of the results that you’re seeing because of it.

John LaRoy  19:02

Yeah. Yeah, great question. So it was it was more of like, getting out of my own way and getting out of my own head exercise with Curt and his team and doing the sequential steps and events to get to where we are today. Right You know, I kind of like the feel a dream scenario. We had a sandlot, you know, like with a chain link fence, maybe a snow fence, like just a really crappy baseball field. And we’re expecting people to come to it right. So we had to build the Field of Dreams. Our website need to be redone. Curt and his team did a phenomenal job building the website. And what’s really cool too is like, again, you’re in the kitchen, you’re making the food, making lasagna, whatever. And it’s like you don’t you taste it, you think it looks it’s great. It’s my lasagna, like my mom’s you know, but when you have other people that are customers or potential clients come to your website after and you’re like, oh my god, this is really nice. And then you have people outside of our industry. They’re like, hey, it looks really good. You know, I think it looks good, but I’m the one that helps, you know, like, give me the vision, right? So but it’s like, it’s really good to get that information from people outside your industry, even inside, like, this looks really good, really professional. So I’m like, Okay, so now I have that information. So now what’s the next step? Right? The subject matter expert interviews, and getting it out there. And it’s just like, I still, like doing it. But like, when I see you hit the social, just kind of like, Oh, God, you know, because then I’ll get my phone blows up every time. I mean, there’s actually an Instagram feed that my buddy sent last night, where it’s like, the testament of true friendship in guys is much different than girls. And like, if you’re really good friends, and you’re part of a really good group, your love language is absolutely ripping on each other. And like, if you have someone else new in your group, and they don’t rip on you, or they’re really bad at it, or they get really sensitive, they’re probably not gonna work. And it’s like, it’s true, because literally every time something drops, I get, like, 100 times. You know, so it’s true.

Curt Anderson  21:00

That is true love right there. Like, right heart sign I’ll

John LaRoy  21:05

over Yeah, so it was just like, honestly, it was like this fear of like, Oh, my God, what are they gonna think? But it’s more like, Okay. And then we go to the shows, and, you know, I’ve seen people at golf outings I haven’t seen in, like, 20 years. And like, it’s like, okay, it’s, it’s, it’s working. And it’s getting out there, and then taking it to the next level, and doing more of the inbound and anti in SEO, it’s like the strategy that you have, I didn’t understand. And now it’s like seeing it all come together kind of slowly, is really cool. It’s really cool. And we’ve never done it, you know, you talked about time stopped being the best kept secret. And for a while our view and our clients kept us a secret within their own community, because they didn’t want to lose like the relationship return time, essentially, as what they didn’t want to lose with us. But as we continue to add capacity, I got plans for the new building over there. We need to get out there. And we want to be in different industries and verticals that are underserved. So yeah, it’s it’s really cool. And one of the things to with iMac that I’m also really thankful for is they’ve turned us on to a lot of different programs, like we are really relationships with the high schools in area and a couple of adult transitioning programs, where we’re bringing your focus to manufacturing, for these kids coming out of high school or out of high school already. They haven’t gone to college and like, what do they do, and that’s another passion of mine is like, not everyone should go to college, right? You know, especially kids that don’t know what they want to do go get saddled with 200 grand in debt. And then you don’t really have a skill, right? So we’ve had kids at one of the high schools in area had a screen printing program, three kids here, and now they’ve been with us for six years, I call them kids, but there’s six or seven years here with us right out of high school. And I’ve turned it into a career. And then now we work with FCIP manufacturing, internship program. And we have four interns start yesterday, and these are kids anywhere from 22 to 24. That go through a six week program. And it’s all you know, manufacturing jobs in Cook County here, and they get exposed to it. And we’ve we’ve gone through I think this is our this will be our third iteration of a six week internship program. And we’ve actually hired full time I think, to two of those candidates. So wow, yeah, really

Curt Anderson  23:16

great. How about a round of applause for that? So congratulations. So that’s alright, so segwaying into that that’s about you know, young folks going into manufacturing, right. And, you know, we need that pipeline, you know, like my generation Gen X or like we’re starting to retire the baby boomers are retiring like crazy. So we need this young generation coming in manufacturing. Derek, let’s go with you what and what attracted you to apparel redefined? What got you fired up about manufacturing? And why do you just absolutely love what you do is we’re talking about, like, you know, providing these memories?

Derek Brubaker  23:47

Absolutely. Yeah, kind of was in the industry for four years prior, and just was kind of looking for a new ceiling. So I had a buddy that kind of taught me the entire ropes of the industry and the ins and outs of screen printing and he had worked here previously, and then he decided to come back at one point, and you know, I just kind of hit hit a cap where I was at, and I just saw that, you know, a larger company, a little bit more innovative, and, you know, just a higher ceiling of opportunity. So I came here started in embroidery and then opportunity opened up in sales. So like, just took a crack at it, you know, told John that his, you know, global plan of being in every shipping region, you know, I would want to be the first person to be at that second location, you know, so just love the industry, the creativity, the problem solving to it. You know, you’re not just spinning the wheel every day. It’s like, okay, what now, you know, what’s the what problem are we going to face today? Because there’s going to be one, you know, whether it’s with machinery, whether it’s with job, whether it’s you know, quality artwork, you know, it’s it’s something There’s always a challenge. I mean, try and find a Richardson 112 During COVID or XL black hoodie, you know, you really have to, you have to shift and you know, you got to, it’s a very minut problem, but you got to figure out how to solve it, you know, so, yeah, I just, I enjoy it. I’m a huge LEGO nerd. So just things, things like that, you know, putting pieces together, you know, to make something work is just kind of what I enjoy. John says it all the time. It’s not the sexiest industry, and it’s not the most rewarding, but at the end of the day, you know, it is, you know, because what we’re able to do is doing, nobody else wants to do everybody wants to sell their products these days, but nobody wants to actually do the work, you know, and it’s gonna be pretty awesome when you’re kind of last man standing and nobody else is doing it anymore.

Curt Anderson  25:47

Yeah, well, I’d say it’s, it’s incredibly admirable. I’ve had I’ve had the honor and privilege of being part of the team here for over a year now. It’s been well over a year, and I just have watched you grow and just, it’s just phenomenal. And again, you know, back to the memory thing, think about the kid out there, you know, teenager out there riding his bike with his horror movie t shirt. And thanks to you guys, or the lily team that’s out there just rocking it and they just wonder championship would celebrate in your uniforms, or the school or the bride that just had a bachelorette party was shirt, you know, like a and again, it’s like it’s so much more than just a piece of cotton. I wanted I know we’re coming into time a little bit. Dude, I love when you getting chills even think about it before I’ve been asked you have taught me so much. brand promise I can’t I can’t not have an interview with you without you’re talking about the brand promise. So for our entrepreneurs out there, you know, you know, we work with a lot of people that are just starting from scratch, right? They have an idea, they take it from idea to Hobby turns into a side hustle. Now they want to take it into a business and they need you know, apparel redefined to kind of help them execute that brand promise. What is brand promised? Take us there? And how are you helping companies on a daily basis? maximize that.

John LaRoy  26:57

Yeah, the best way I could talk about is like when you look at established brands that have spent a ton of money a ton of marketing, like we talked about Coleman right? Are you gonna go you’re gonna go climb Mount Everest and a Coleman jacket, even though they make apparel, or we’re going to climb it in North base or Patagonia right without even knowing the product line. That name is promising warmth for North Face right and durability that you can go climb that mountain with it now if you’re gonna go cooking on your camp, right? You’re gonna bring a Coleman, camping griddle, or, you know, or something else, but you’re not gonna bring you know, it’s, it’s that promise of consistency, reliability, and quality. And some brands, you know, like everything about Amazon is not necessarily quality. Its speed, right? Amazon sells speed more than anything. So it’s what, what does your logo, what does your name what does it convey? either consciously or unconsciously to the customer? And whatever it is conveying? It hopefully aligns with what you want it to convey? But if not, how do you fix that? Right? Or how do you get it out there? Because not everyone has the marketing dollars of Amazon or BestBuy or Patagonia or North Bay? So how do you start small, how do you get it out there and not only deliver that print that brand promise to your external client but your internal client to your employees because you have to you have to do what you say and say what you do in order to create that belief and what you’re trying to do not only for your customer but for your employee as well. And one of the easiest way to do that is to solve the eternal human need of feeling belong, you know, feeling part of a group right? And nothing does that better than decorated apparel. And if you have a really good logo, and if you have a really good saying or whatever it is that is unique about what you do and about your company or organization, convey it, get it out there, get people behind it. Get people proud. You see that every Sunday in the NFL, you know fans going nuts over for me a G you know for other people will see. But it’s crazy. You know the brand loyalty you just watch. You know the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Every freaking fan in Edmonton owns a jersey. That entire stadium is orange and blue. You know, and it’s crazy, you know, and they’re not cheap, but neither are tickets but everyone is so proud to wear their team’s colors will make them proud to wear your company colors right? If you’re if that logo means something, convey it get it out there and like pencils and cups and mugs and at times. It works but it’s temporary. You know you have to wear clothes, you know so to work and again like the depending on the industry, but you know, the, the the suit and tie model is gone. You know, and that allows the suit and tie didn’t tell you much about anything other than that You’re formal and corporate, and you’re going into the same setting, right? Now you can still have a formal corporate setting, but people aren’t wearing a suit and tie, they’re wearing a polo and wearing a quarter zip. And there’s an opportunity to advertise on that. Your brand. And that logo. You know, everyone wants to talk about prejudice, but it’s an absolute human nature, whatever you want to call it, you have literally under a second to convey something positive or negative. And that logo can do it along with your person. So it’s really important. Don’t you just

Jaclyn Kolodziej  30:34

drop the mic?

Curt Anderson  30:34

What’s your what? I’d love to hear your thoughts, brand promise, whether you want to hear from, oh,

Jaclyn Kolodziej  30:39

no, I was good, I was gonna reinforce why I called you a marketing guru. Like you work with your customers, and you educate them even more than beyond a t shirt. And so you’re guiding them, telling them about you are the subject matter expert, like your logos are important. Your color schemes are important. Not only that, it’s it’s your company, and your people are important who you serve as important. So like, I’m just really impressed. I’ve got goosebumps right now. Because you not only just walk the walk like well, you, you don’t just say it, but you stand behind it, like your promise to your workforce. And that, you know, skills, and education training, you’re a testament to that standing right here, being able to, to develop those skill sets. Not only that, but like working with your customers, it’s just all around amazing. So I don’t know, I don’t have anything else to say besides kudos to you, I feel really privileged to be able to work with you guys and apparel redefined and be here with Curt and work with him as a partner. You guys are pretty cool.

Curt Anderson  31:44

They’re pretty cool to hang out. How about brand promise that I’m actually going to just share like is this? You know, this is such a new concept to me? How does that resonate with you? Or what are your thoughts is like how you and again, you’re spreading a lot of love, you’re pretty amazing yourself of how you help manufacturers? What’s your, what’s your takeaway on brand promise at IMEC? Oh,

Jaclyn Kolodziej  32:03

geez, it’s a big question without preparation, um, you know, our brand promise is to be able to work with as many Illinois manufacturers as possible, identify and meet them where they’re at, to be able to identify the ways in which we can help them. So for us, I guess my brand promise is to always be there as a support and a guide, and an assistance to help continue building the community, building the connections, building the skills, so that all of the different types of manufacturers we work with continue to be competitive and strong and thrive.

Curt Anderson  32:40

Oh, how about a little drop the mic there? So why don’t we start winding down dB, I’m gonna put you on the spot thoughts take aways words of wisdom that you want to share for folks that are potentially looking at apparel, or maybe entrepreneurs, new entrepreneurs out there, and like trying to figure out this whole brand promise, anything that you want to share from your expertise?

Derek Brubaker  32:58

I mean, so big question as well. Just, just Yeah, I mean, the market is changing, there are opportunities to, you know, have these low overhead opportunities. And, you know, just I guess, don’t be afraid to try something, you know, as the market is no lower entry point, there are solutions out there like us that can get people involved and, you know, try things out that they maybe want to do before, you know, I spoke to a gentleman this week that spent 23 grand on starting up a golf company, you know, and that’s a huge thing, if it doesn’t work out, you know, God forbid, you know, I surely hope that it does for him. But, you know, some people start with things as a hobby, some people want to take it a little bit more seriously. And I think this really, you know, new developments that we’ve came across, it helps people you know, at least have a chance, you know, that don’t have a couple grand to invest in 144 pieces of this and that and, and sit on it, you know, just, you know, opportunities are out there that can, you know, let let people at least try to do something new and exciting in their life, you know, so, go for it and you know, seek out people like us that are going to, you know, provide that quality, you know, and, you know, again, back to the whole branding, you know, give give a hoot about your brand because you know, there’s people out there who will take your money print your stuff and not care you know, so like, do your research and there’s people out there like us that will you know, be a partner you know, that throw rocks tagline your partner in print, you know, that’s what we want to be you know, not just a business relationship.

Curt Anderson  34:38

Awesome, great answer. I will start winding down I love to ask this question. So I’ll put it out there to give you guys time to to resonate you and I hit this up quite a bit. I love asking and again just selfishly sent shamelessly for me to learn best business advice that you’ve ever received or the best business advice that you would love to share it to a new entrepreneur, young entrepreneur. Who wants to go first?

John LaRoy  35:02

Mansur again? Yeah, I gotta have new stuff every time for the same, same question. Well, there’s a new audience. Yeah, okay. Okay. Best business advice I’ve ever got from the great Dan Walsh Walsh construction is that the water is deeper when you get in, right, and you have a huge responsibility. And don’t ever take that for granted. Because the decisions that you make or don’t make, sometimes the worst decision is indecision will have an impact on on people’s lives, especially in manufacturing, right? It’s not five employees, and nothing wrong with only having five employees. But as you grow north of 50, north of 100, to 50, like, multiply that by 567. Like, those are the number of people that you’re impacting. So every decision matters, right. And that’s the powerful thing, but it’s one thing I really love, it doesn’t matter if I was making brake pads, chairs, tables, cameras, whatever, you have the ability to impact people’s lives in a positive way. And take that seriously, because a couple bad decisions can really also have a negative effect. So the power of what you’re able to do, for people is a great responsibility. But something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Yeah,

Curt Anderson  36:11

would, you know, man, another draft of my great do you get chills goosies on that one. So all right, you know, as a business owner, you know, it’s not just, you know, an employee come in the door, it’s, you know, livelihood that you’re providing it’s dance lessons, it’s literally gets, you know, kids growing up families and, you know, going on vacation, it’s, you know, it’s providing in your how many 1560 strong here 55 and 55, strong. So, I mean, it’s just so admirable what you’ve accomplished here, John, and again, you know, I talked about this frequently, you know, four out of five businesses fail in the first five years, first five out of, you know, four or five businesses fail in the first five years. How many years? Have you on the business now? Nine have gone on 19? Oh, going on? 19. Right. I mean, you’re you’re entering potentially going into your fifth five year cycle, like you’re, you’re an anomaly, you know what I mean? Like so many businesses fail, and you know, hardly hardly many businesses make it to 10 years, let alone 20. And you guys have stood the test of time just providing great quality product for the community here. Absolutely. Love it. How about business advice, anything that you want to share? Put you on the spot? I

Jaclyn Kolodziej  37:15

was, I thought you’re going to ask what my walk up song was? Thank God because I’m not prepared for that. Right? So I guess my best business advice would be, don’t try to boil the ocean. Walk, or what crawl, walk and then run. So you need to be ready to, to scale in that type of way. And don’t get overwhelmed by trying to boil it all.

Curt Anderson  37:39

I love it. All right. Last words, John, just anything that you want to share, as we close out today. First off, I want to thank you, thank you, for your friendship, thank you, for your trust, in IMEC and myself to be part of your team, part of the family here. It’s just such an honor to watch you grow this company, just you know, sky’s the limit. And it’s just so admirable, so exciting, so inspirational for me to be part of your life, you know, part of this, anything that you want to share as we close out?

John LaRoy  38:02

Well, first, thank you, thanks for coming, coming in and doing this live. It’s really cool, live, live or live here. And we’re live in person. But I just want to say one of the things that I really love about the manufacturing community is that to me is near and dear because it’s close to athletics, because you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Right? And building that team and building a relationship. One question I want to tie back in is like, what can you do out there, or what’s new for the manufacturing community and us as manufacturers, that, you know, we’re heads down working hard all day, and we don’t ever really talk about ourselves because we’re uncomfortable doing it, and we haven’t had to write. And we’re so relationship based, like we’ve built our business based on relationships, and I love it, because I call it the last frontier, right? Where it is about the relationship and not about the price. And about what have you done for me yesterday, they put trust in us and they sell. So that’s one thing I would say to the manufacturing community out there is like, one of the ways to either strengthen that relationship or get a good relationship, or a new relationship or customer is give to get right. And one of the things that you can do with decorated apparel, it’s easy to go spend, you know, a not a ton of money, but get some high quality stuff, introduce yourself have that relationship or strengthen that relationship, you know, with actual gifts, you know, not just kind of tchotchkes stuff, but stuff that with their logo, or with your logo, whatever it is, but help help that relationship because gift giving is one of the oldest things in time, but it works, right there’s a reason why it works and, and decorated apparel and that type of stuff really goes a long way because it’s not something that you throw in the back of your truck and maybe you never see again, right? It’s something like that. If it’s quality stuff you can wear and convey that that trust and convey the brand promise.

Curt Anderson  39:52

All right, no words after that one Jaclyn. Right. So just drop them like so. I thank you, Derek. Thank you, Jacqueline. Thank you, John. Appreciate You guys just wishing everybody an awesome day rest of your week and just you know like we’d like to close out Jacqueline just go out and be someone’s inspiration just like these three guys. And so how about a big round of applause for everybody here so we will catch you guys next time and go to apparel redefined. John has all sorts of he’s doing live shows every week you can catch all sorts of videos. If you need some amazing T shirts, horror T shirts, your favorite horror movie, they’ve got it here so check out apparel redefined. If you’re a manufacturer out there, go to your local manufacturing extension partnership. If you’re in a great state of Illinois, contact our friend Jacqueline. So we’re checking out we’ll see you guys soon.