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Episode 150 – Sublimation Printers and the Business Explained with Vik Patel

May 12, 2021

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

Vik Patel

You Will Learn

  • What is sublimation 
  • Sublimation business opportunity

Resources & Links

Episode 150 – Sublimation Printers and the Business Explained with Vik Patel

Show Notes

In Today’s episode, we talk with Vik Patel, Director of Global Marketing for Sawgrass Inks about what sublimation is, the opportunity for business growth and why working with Sawgrass and ColDesi makes financial sense for almost any business.

Transcript

Sublimation Printers power THOUSANDS of custom t-shirt and promotional products businesses around the globe. And sitting at the heart of all that is Sawgrass, the company that makes high quality, dedicated sublimation printers and the inks to go with it.

We’re talking with Vik Patel today – Global Director of Marketing for Sawgrass.

As background, when ColDesi acquired BestBlanks last year, one of the reasons we did that was because of their sublimation printer knowledge and relations with Sawgrass.

All of us here at ColDesi are excited to offer Sawgrass sublimation printers, Sawgrass Inks and more.

You can now find information and videos at ColDesi’s Sublimation Printers page and purchase online from our Colman and Company Sublimation Printers and Supply page here.

Sublimation Printers and Sawgrass

 

Mark Stephenson:

Hi, everyone. And welcome to another episode of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson.

Marc Vila:

And this is Marc Vila. And today we’re here to talk about sublimation. Specifically, sublimation explained with Vik Patel from Sawgrass. So we’re particularly excited about this episode for one, we love having guests on here, right Mark?

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah, definitely.

Marc Vila:

And we’ve been learning a lot about sublimation lately and the folks that Sawgrass have been fantastic and then Vik volunteered some of his time to step away from working at Sawgrass and join us to help educate Custom Apparel Startups listeners.

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah, welcome to the podcast, Vik.

Vik Patel:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Mark Stephenson:

So, cold SE, we’ve had a reputation for selling just about everything. We pride ourselves on people calling us up, saying, “I want to get into this business,” regardless of what product they pick and directing them to the right piece of equipment, whether or not it’s DTG or print and cut or vinyl or embroidery or whatever it is.

Vik Patel:

Right.

Mark Stephenson:

And frankly, for years, people have been asking us about sublimation and it’s just been this hole that we didn’t know enough to talk about properly. And we didn’t have anything to fill that gap for our customer base. So, we’ve been excited to launch this relaunch, this new partnership with you guys.

Vik Patel:

Yeah, no, we’re excited too. And sublimation in itself is a scary term. So most people try and stay away from it until they actually see it in action.

Marc Vila:

Yeah, it sounds like science and-

Mark Stephenson:

Oh, I hate science.

Marc Vila:

Science can be intimidating, but it just happens to be the word that fell into it where silk screening sounds so-

Vik Patel:

Sounds great. Sexy. [crosstalk 00:02:12].

Marc Vila:

Yes. It just sounds so pleasant and light.

Mark Stephenson:

Luxurious.

Marc Vila:

Yeah, I want to wrap myself in it and have some tea.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. No, you’re right.

Marc Vila:

And sublimation sounds like I’m in a lab. And I think we should get into all of that and in what sublimation is.

Vik Patel:

Absolutely.

Marc Vila:

And educate folks during this podcast. So Mark, where should we start? And then we’re going to get into what sublimation is. And then at the end, we’ll wrap up talking about why cold SE and Sawgrass think this was a good idea for us to get together and talk about.

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah. I think we should start with who this random Star Wars fan that we invited onto our podcast is, and what he does for Sawgrass. So Vik, why don’t you tell us all that? Who are you? What do you do?

Vik Patel – Sawgrass Sublimation Printers, Inks, History and More

 

Vik Patel:

Yeah. So as you all know, I’m Vik Patel. I’m the Director of Global Marketing here at Sawgrass. Been here for six and a half years, it’s going to be seven in June. It’s actually more than six and a half, now I think about it. So, seven in June and my background in five seconds is the fact that I’ve worked for DHL Express, used to come to Florida where you guys are, every week to corporate headquarters and plantation, worked for a company called Case-mate, which makes mobile phone cases. And it was Case-mate that actually got me into sublimation and fell into it. Right?

We created customizable phone cases where you can actually wrap the image around the phone case and we were one of the first ones globally to do that. Gosh, that was probably in about 2010. And we didn’t even realize it was sublimation at that point. We just wanted to print on a phone case. We fell into it, but long story short, after that I had an offer to move to Charleston, South Carolina from Atlanta. And for any of the folks listening here or watching, if you’ve come to Charleston you know exactly why we chose to come to Charleston.

Mark Stephenson:

It’s a good move. It’s a good move.

Vik Patel:

Great food, great people. And it’s a great company to work for, too. So that’s me in a nutshell.

Marc Vila:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I have been to Charleston twice and both times I just loved it. We literally parked the car somewhere and got out of the car and just walked and then walked into the hotel and got out and woke up in the morning and just walked some more.

Vik Patel:

Walked in.

Marc Vila:

And it was beautiful. The weather, the air, everything. It’s a fantastic place.

Vik Patel:

It’s an impressive town to say the least. It’s a very impressive town.

Mark Stephenson:

So why don’t you break down for us a little bit Vik, what exactly is sublimation? The non sciency version.

Vik Patel:

Sure, sure. I do have to geek out a little bit though, I have to give you a little bit of science, right? So sublimation in its purest form is a solid turning into a gas, right? And the best example I can give is take some dry ice, put it on your countertop. What happens? You don’t see a pool of water, all you see is the carbon dioxide gassing off, right? That’s what dry ice is. And that’s exactly what sublimation is. So we took dye solids or dyes that are used in sublimation and we mill them down to very, very fine powder. And we put them into a liquid suspension or liquid solution.

It’s a suspension, but all these little particles are floating around in the cartridge and bottom line is between the software that we have and the paper, but it goes on too and the heat presses that drive the process when it hits that heat press at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, those little particles in there, they tend to gas and they have nowhere to go but into the material that the paper is sitting on, and those images in the background here that you could see of all the Star Wars characters are actually on aluminum and black and white images going onto aluminum and they’re sublimated.

Mark Stephenson:

Nice.

Vik Patel:

Right? And it is probably one of the most easiest processes I have ever seen with the most complicated name I have ever had to deal with.

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah.

Vik Patel:

Right? And that’s part of the challenge we have in here in marketing is how do you get people over the hurdle of just getting over the word sublimation?

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah. And it’s funny because in the end, you’re basically using an Inkjet printer to print an image on a piece of paper and you’re heat pressing that onto a garment or an object.

Vik Patel:

That’s right. That’s exactly it.

Mark Stephenson:

Regardless of what it’s called, it’s a ridiculously simple process.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. We’ve broken it down to three steps. You create an image, you print it, and you press it. Right? Create, print, press. And it’s that easy. Our videographer, Alex, his son is 10, he’s come to the office a couple of times pre-COVID and he’s fallen in love with creative studio, he’s fallen in love with sublimation, and the kid, all he does on the weekend he goes online, make something and has his dad sublimate it.

Mark Stephenson:

Cool.

Vik Patel:

Right? And it’s that easy.

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah. Very cool.

The Opportunity in Sublimation

Marc Vila:

Yeah, absolutely. And I find that one thing, just talking about sublimation and what it is and how easy it is, leads me to a thought where I get to talk about something that I put together a bit, so brace yourselves. No, it’s not long but I found it to be interesting. So I was thinking about the different ways that you decorate apparel, that ColDesi works in a lot of different ways and I found that apparel, and it was specifically apparel, but also non-apparel items as well. But they’re really done in what I define as three ways, right?

So we have mechanical ways of decorating things, right? And mechanical ways of decorating things are physically using essentially friction to hold it all together. Right? So this would be embroidery, sewing things on, riveting things on, button snaps, et cetera. And which is probably one of the oldest forms of decorating things. Mechanically decorating things requires a mechanical machine to do it. There’s certain levels of skill that are involved.

Then there’s chemically adhering things to apparel. So this is like heat transfer vinyl, white toner printers, even screen printing, where you’re actually using some sort of chemical process, whether it’s heat or liquids or both to get something to stick to a piece of apparel, right? Or a hard surface. And you’re chemically bonding. You’re just gluing them, essentially. But with a sublimation printer.

Vik Patel:

Yep, that’s right.

Marc Vila:

And then there’s the only one that I know of for sure that’s actually a chemical change in the substrate T-shirt or a hard surface is sublimation. And I found that to be interesting because when you’re chemically changing the surface of an item, there’s no feel, there’s nothing that’s feel on top of it when it’s done. The longevity is really good and it looks the most a part of the item. And I think that’s really one of the big appeals about sublimation is that when you make it, you chemically change the item, the item is different, it comes out of the heat press different than it was before. And that’s why it looks so great. Because you didn’t just glue something onto it or tack something onto it.

Vik Patel:

That’s right.

Marc Vila:

But you actually physically changed your item.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. We’re physically dying that item. Right? And everything that we go on to has to have some form of polyurethane or polyester based coating on there. Right? And this is the last time I’m going to geek out on you guys. But at that temperature, the beautiful thing about that temperature is the fact that the molecules open up, the polyester molecules literally open up like a flower for that short period of time, and that gas which is in very close proximity because it’s under a heat press has nowhere else to go but inside of that molecule and encapsulate itself in there.

And so, Marc, you’re absolutely right. It’s a chemical process. Again, another scary term. But it’s not chemical, right? It’s not harmful. It doesn’t leach out. And when that heat press opens up, it’s just like a Venus flytrap, those molecules encapsulate that dye and you get really high definition images, whether it’s a T-shirt or a hard surface or a coffee mug, you get some amazing output.

Mark Stephenson:

I got to say, it really is, just looking at the whole package. It is the cheapest way to customize something beautifully. If you have a beautiful, high resolution image, you want to customize something, you’ve only got X number of dollars, a full color photo on a coffee mug.

Vik Patel:

Yeah, you can’t beat it.

Mark Stephenson:

The highest end design shirt that you’ll ever see, the best graphic, photo and painting reproduction, whatever you want to do, if you need something amazing on a shirt, if you walk through the mall and you see the all-over prints on these guys walking around that just assault you as you walk by, they’re so bright and clear, [crosstalk 00:12:43], you can tell that sublimation. There’s not much else that will do the same.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. And the interesting thing is to get that level of high resolution, it really isn’t expensive. It’s pennies on the dollar to make that and to convert something that is white or pale in the beginning and put full color image on there, it is quite spectacular.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. And when you’re looking at, you mentioned apparel in the mall, high-end apparel in the mall, close to Del Mar shirts or Guy Harvey shirts, a lot of these brands are popular throughout the whole country and they’re $50 plus T-shirts. Talking about the apparel side of it. The technology to create that $50 mall T-shirt that’s available to these large companies, these global brains, is available for somebody to do in their living room for hundreds of dollars.

Vik Patel:

Totally.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. And that’s amazing to me is that it’s essentially the same exact technology. The output is almost exactly the same or is exactly the same, I don’t even know if these companies are using Sawgrass sublimation printers. They could be. I don’t know if they are or not, but they could be and it’s obvious.

Vik Patel:

And if they’re not, they’re using our rings.

Mark Stephenson:

Let’s just break this down for the people listening. If you’re not familiar with Sawgrass sublimation printers and ink, et cetera, and sublimation in general, what you’re talking about is being able to print on an 8 by 10 full color image, apply that image to a variety of things. T-shirts, mugs, things like that, and the sublimation printer is about 600 bucks.

Vik Patel:

Yep. It’s crazy.

Mark Stephenson:

And then you’re going to go up to the next level, which is a little bit more professional and put 11 by 17.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. 13 by 19.

Vik Patel:

Yeah, 13 by 19.

Mark Stephenson:

You put 13 by 19 inch paper in, now you can do roughly a 13 by 19 inch image and that sublimation printer is what? It’s under 1600 bucks. You add a good quality heat press, man, if you’re doing DTG right now, and you’re saying no to people that want poly, or if you’re using a cutter to do HTV right now, and people keep bringing you photos for you to print on, then you’re $600 away from being able to say yes.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. You’re not only just $600 away from doing that, you’re expanding your opportunities too. So, when you buy DTG, you’re buying it for a specific process, for garment printing, et cetera, right? When you’re buying this piece of sublimation equipment from Sawgrass, you can not only do T-shirts, you can do multiple other substrates. So the beauty is, I love to talk about brand extensions. I love to talk about upselling customers when they come in.

They may come in with a photograph. They may want a T-shirt with a photograph on there, but why not offer a mug? Why not offer a mousepad? Why not offer the thousands, literally, upon thousands of different products that you can actually sublimate onto. So the actual versatility of a $600 machine is ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous. And your return for investment is, I know we’re going to talk a little bit about that too, but your return on investment is crazy too.

Marc Vila:

I love that stuff. It’s what we talk about all the time, especially with our digital heat effects, the white toner systems [crosstalk 00:16:53]. They have specific advantages of the differences between digital heat effects and sublimation. And I don’t think that’s this podcast, but it’s a future podcast probably, but that’s the number one thing we say is that if you’re, selling T-shirts or embroidery or whatever it is, if the upsell opportunity is the easiest way for you to make more money, give them a sample of a mug, give them a sample of a mouse pad, of a T-shirt printed differently, and people are going to buy them. Absolutely.

So if you include a free mug or a free mouse pad in your order as a typical example that we talk about, or just have some available to show when you’re selling, it can also put those images on mugs. It’s only X dollars a piece.

Mark Stephenson:

I’ve got two examples from outside the customization or the customer apparel business anyway, that sublimation, that Sawgrass sublimation printers was a perfect fit for. Two conversations recently. One of the folks that worked for ColDesi, his wife owns a franchise in the dog food and dog grooming business and they run promotions occasionally. Well, they’ll bring in professional photographers and take pictures of the dogs after they’ve been groomed. Basically it’s the photo day for your pet.

And he was struggling to figure out how else he can monetize that other than sell prints. And now he’s $600 away. Basically, he could get the small Sawgrass, and a heat press, or a mug press, or a cap press, and he can triple or quadruple his sales. “Hey, I can put that on a mug for you right now for a million dollars.” And these people, pet owners will do that. And the other one is a sign guy who does work for ColDesi, but his main business, he does a lot of boats and marinas. He does pinstriping and customizing and signage, things like that. He’s actually going to get one to do fishing shirts as well. So he’s just going to add that to his business. Nothing to do with apparel.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. Hey, fishing lures is a brilliant one, too. Fishing lures is another great product, but you’re right. I think one thing that I learned with the phone case business was that before customization was created, people were buying a $29 phone case. It was either black or white. And once customization came in, that same phone case with an image on there was getting sold for $45. Right? Not because the ink was expensive, it’s about 5 cents of ink on there, but the fact that there was a personalized image, that additional margin, I like to call it emotional margin because it’s driven by the heart string. Right? It’s driven by the fact that Billy’s picture is on there and we had a great time at the beach and they’re willing to pay for it. Right? So, that additional margin.

And so it’s really important. The content of that is really important. And where it’s presented is really important. My groomer, we’ve got a little dog and we’ve got a big dog, but we take the little dog to a groomer, and they had these photographs of dogs on the wall. Right? And I looked at it and they’re just taking little pictures and stuck them on the wall. So I actually got a whole bunch of photographs of dogs and sublimated them onto photo panels and just gave it to them. Right? Because I could. I have the equipment, I have everything at home. I can make it and I could give it to them and their little storefront now looks absolutely amazing. Right? And there was nothing stopping me from putting a little plaque on the side saying, “Hey, if you want a photograph of your dog on there, email me with a photograph and it’s going to cost you $20.” Done.

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah. Cool. That’s great. That’s a great idea.

Vik Patel:

Really simple business idea, but people who have pets are crazy about pets.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. You know what it makes me think of too? You mentioned how putting a picture on something increases the value of it, which can be so true. But on the other side of things, the retail value that our customers can present of a personalized item, especially when it’s sublimated, can be equal to them just going to the store and buying a not personalized version. Right? So this shirt that I’m wearing right here, a hundred percent poly shirt, ColDesi logo on it, was very inexpensive to produce on a wholesale level, but a moisture wick style, hundred percent poly shirt like this from a retail store is easily going to be 25 bucks, right? On the low end. Up to 50, if it’s a Nike or something like that.

So you can create customized apparel, right? As an example, which is just something we know about sublimized, customized apparel and your customers who might not be buying apparel from you now, or buying other things from you, can actually buy the shirt for the same price they would have paid for it not customized. And you’re making a 50 to 60% margin on creating it. And that’s wonderful too, is that there’s the opportunity to take something that has a certain value and increase the value by putting an image on it. And then there’s this other opportunity out there of you just selling something because you can create it, at a margin that’s good enough for your business, as much as they would just go and buy a Nike shirt at the store.

Vik Patel:

That’s exactly right. And the poly shirts today, they’re not like the old poly shirts from the good old days, five years ago. Right? The shirts today can actually feel just like cotton. They feel real good. Right? And you’ve got tons of options in the marketplace and so many things that you can do with it. It’s incredible.

Mark Stephenson:

And I know that the conversation that Marc is alluding to here is because we’ll soon be announcing and it’ll probably be out by the time this podcast airs that we’re partnering with Vapor Apparel.

Vik Patel:

Nice.

Mark Stephenson:

And Vapor is just like this premium quality, beautiful polyester, made to be sublimated line of clothing that, it’s just a perfect product for Florida. I know. Because it’s got the sun protection and things like that. Taking a high value product like that, and an inexpensive process to apply an image to it to differentiate yourself from other people that sell the same thing. The margin opportunities are incredible.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. And Vapor shirts are great. Right? They’re a Charleston company. I know the team at Vapor very well. They make a quality product. And Marc, you mentioned Guy Harvey a few minutes ago. That’s a level of quality that you can get out of the Vapor shirts, right? At the end of the day. You’re right. Florida is the perfect place to wear those, for sure.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. It is. When I had made a sample shirt, a Vapor shirt, and I had shown it to just a couple of friends and we’re just talking business. I said, “All right, yeah, we’re carrying this T-shirt line.” They’re not in the industry. Right? They’re just folks, and the one guy grabs me, he’s like, “Oh,” he’s like, “This is a really nice shirt.” He said, “You’re selling these?” “Yeah. We sell them wholesale,” et cetera. And he said, “I have a shirt at home I spent 50 bucks on, that’s not as nice as this shirt with a similar print on it.” Right? It had a Napa Florida on it. And he says, “50 bucks, t’s not even as nice as this.” And we got into talking about it.

And the shirt that he has is the same style of shirt but another brand that we know that’s the lowest end cost. So somebody took a $2 shirt, put a buck worth of sublimation on its supplies, and sold it for 50 bucks to him because he liked the brand. But he’s not happy with it. Right? Because the quality was really low. He said, “If that shirt that I bought for 50 bucks was on this, I’d buy two more right now.” And it’s an amazing opportunity for folks who want to get into this, that we’ve got the apparel, the top quality way to decorate it, and top quality of apparel available at a price where you can sell it very very affordable to anybody.

Vik Patel:

Agreed.

Marc Vila:

Or go high-end and sell it in the high-end 50 plus dollar T-shirt market.

Vik Patel:

Exactly. And the other thing about Vapor, which I love is they used to have, they still do I think, have a tearaway tag on the back of the shirt. Right? And it’s very important because if you do want to get into that $50 range, you can develop your own brand of clothing. There’s nothing stopping you putting your mark on the back of the shirt or on the collar to say where it came from and now, all of a sudden, you’ve got your own brand. Right? And that says a lot.

Mark Stephenson:

There’s a lot of flexibility in the market too, because you’ve got that potential for going high-end.

Vik Patel:

Absolutely.

Mark Stephenson:

Basically this business model is a then shirts, then it’s equally viable or- [crosstalk 00:27:12].

Vik Patel:

Exactly.

Mark Stephenson:

They’re getting a Sport-Tek or a partner company, they’re getting a good quality, a solid quality, hundred percent poly shirt and light color. To put the Sawgrass transfer on that, and to turn around and 15 to 25 bucks, depending on the topic, knock those out all day.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. And guess what? A shirt is on, just for the audience, the shirts on there for 45 seconds at 380 degrees, right? So if you’re talking about trying to understand efficiencies in the workflow process, especially for event type of workflow processes, it does not take long. It doesn’t take long at all. And once it comes off the heat press, there’s no other treatment required. It’s off, fold it, put it into whatever packaging you want to, and then send it off.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. And I love it so much that if you already have a heat press and some other equipment out there, whether you’re doing heat transfer vinyl, or you have an embroidery machine, and maybe you have a heat press to just do transfers on that you buy separately or patches or something like that. 600 bucks, essentially, in so many words, 600 bucks lets you make T-shirts in-house, mugs in-house, and then we have financing available too. So if you get yourself like a knock down set up, you get a bunch of papering, some extra ink, a sublimation printer, either printer option, for less than a hundred bucks a month financed, because we all know how financing works, right? And you can buy your house worth of furniture for like $9 a month according to commercials on TV.

But you can finance all this equipment and all the supplies to make thousands of items for under a hundred bucks a month and you don’t have to sell that many T-shirts or that many mugs or anything like that to make that back. And we always talk about business ideas and growing the business. And of course, we sell equipment and supplies, right? So, we have to be transparent about that. Right? But this is one of those situations where a small investment in equipment and supplies takes your business to a whole nother level of saying yes and upselling and ease of use-

Mark Stephenson:

Honestly, it’s almost too inexpensive for ColDesi to sell. It’s almost just like, I really envision we’re selling so many of them in the next six months that we won’t be able to keep up.

Vik Patel:

I hope so. And I think it’s completely possible too, right? I’m a bit of an Excel geek and what I like to do is I like to print. And when I say that is, I like to get one of our printers, put some ink in there and just print the same image out over and over and over again and see how much mileage we can get out of this thing. Right? Now, it all depends on, everyone you talk to, it all depends on what photograph or image you’re printing, what quality of resolution, all that good stuff. Right? But I like to give people an idea of what you can get out of this. And one of the things I did is I did a long test on a T-shirt, printing out an 8 and a half by 11 sheet. Right? Put a little bit of margin in there, some white space. And we could comfortably say, we can get about 5 or 600 T-shirts out of one long cartridge, if not more, right? Quite easily. Right?

And it does not take much. Then you start doing the math and saying, “How much is a shirt?” Average Vapor sure is about 5 bucks, 5.50 depending on what type of shirt you get, you sell it for 20, which is relatively low end. If your friend of yours bought it for 50, 20 bucks is low end, but you’re making something for 6 bucks with ink in there and you’re selling it for 20, that’s 45 seconds worth of work. Remember I said, about how long it’s on the heat press? Right? It takes you maybe about 30 seconds to print it. All in all, not much work. Right? And so you can get a really good return out of these sublimation printers and a good mileage out of them too.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. That’s great. And if you are listening to this and you’re ready to do sublimation or you have some struggles with doing it, right? Because every technology has its own issues. And meaning just, “I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to stick it to this.” Whatever, different things like that. ColDesi, we’re working on really stepping up that education. And for within our customers, with the different types of apparel we sell, we sell the Vapor. We also have the Sport-Tek, like you mentioned, things like that.

So we’re going to be working on a lot of this information to really help educate people, to create apparel and other substrates as well that look top-notch. So that stuff’s already in the works. So hopefully if you do sublimate, you’re taking some business ideas out of this, but also be sure to keep an eye on ColDesi and Coleman and Company’s website because we’re going to continue to work with Sawgrass and Vapor Apparel and the other brands that are mentioned out there, like Sport-Tek and such to really help you guys create the best sublimation business you can because the opportunity out there is significantly greater than I expected when you look at how many people don’t know how to do it, how many people don’t do it right, aren’t selling premium quality apparel, aren’t using a good quality sublimation printer. And when you combine all that together, the opportunity is for the listener out there to really just make good money and expand their business. What the dream is, right?

Vik Patel:

We’ve got folks, there’s a case study on our site of the young lady that her mom bought a sublimation printer, didn’t really use it, so she decided to make phone cases out of it. And she then went on Tik Tok, 17 years old, and ended up with a six figure business in the first year, at the age of 17. She now employs her whole family, her mom, brother, sister, they all participate in the business. She’s a freshman at college, now she has eight sublimation printers and she has expanded to garment. Right?

Mark Stephenson:

That’s great.

Vik Patel:

So whatever you put on your phone case, you’re also wearing as a shirt. And so, she’s expanded her business. She’s 18 years old and she has a six-figure business.

Marc Vila:

Yeah, and [crosstalk 00:34:40]. Go ahead, Mark.

Mark Stephenson:

I was just going to say, I do want to take a moment to differentiate because, Marc, you mentioned people that are… They don’t quite know what to do or they’re having trouble or difficulties with things. And I want to differentiate Sawgrass for a second because sublimation is very common and it’s not difficult to cobble something together using off the shelf, Inkjet printers, buying ink, and trying to work that through, even though what Sawgrass did is they created a system with the hardware and the ink set and even the software to maximize your opportunity for success in a reliable and repeatable way.

So, if you go onto YouTube and you’re looking at sublimators or things like that, they’re using an Epson printer or a variety of other kinds of Inkjet printers that they’re adapting, there are problems that are inherent in that like the early days of DTG, when people were still trying to turn one printer into a T-shirt sublimation printer, that you don’t have to take the time trying to figure out. One of the reasons that we were super excited about partnering with Sawgrass is they know what the flock they’re doing. You can go to their website and they’ve got great training and they’ve got videos and they’ve got the Sawgrass network where creators get together and talk about what they do and how they do it and put up things for sale. They have great training.

They’re a complete package of a professional company that is going like, “Here.” it’s kind of like dealing with ColDesi you can get a white toner printer or DTG printer in a hundred different places but people come to ColDesi because you’re like, “Here, these are the things you need. Here is the video training on how to use it. And here’s the podcast and the courses on how to run your business.” What else can we do? And Sawgrass has the same approach.

Vik Patel:

Look, I think you’re a hundred percent on. And we have been in this business for 30 years, 32 years to be precise. We started off chasing ink cartridges to put into aftermarket printers. Right? Much like what people are doing, trying to cobble systems together. Six years ago, we went to a small company about $7 billion in size called Rico in Japan. And we had an honest conversation with them. We said, “Look, these two printers that you have in the marketplace that are design for the office market, we’ve been using them. 93, 95% of these printers that you’re making are coming into our sublimation business and we’re chasing cartridges to put into them.

And we said, “Make these prototypes for us exclusively. Rejigger them on the inside. So they work with our inks and in an optimal fashion.” And they did that. And we said, “You know what? Maybe in five years we’ll sell 45,000 units,” right? Which is a big number, 45,000 units. We ended up with about 90,000 units sold in five years, in the first five years. And those units were distributed in over 200 countries and territories around the world and for the viewers or the audience who are familiar with the coast of Africa off the coast of Africa, a small place called Reunion Island, you could probably throw a rock from one end to the other. Well, a good baseball player probably could. We’ve got 25 units there, probably more per capita than any other country in the world.

Mark Stephenson:

That’s crazy.

Vik Patel:

And they’re active. They’re printing away. They’re buying ink. And with our systems, we also built, so now we have the ink cartridges coming from them. We make the inks here in Charleston and fill the inks in there, right? Using our proprietary systems. We have reliable sublimation printers. We have a design tool. So if you’re new to sublimation, you’re new to design, which most of the audience here probably is not, they’re mostly into the design tools, which is fine. But for those folks who are new, they can get into Chris’ studio for free. It’s got all the templates.

How frustrating is it that you buy a brand new system, heat press and sublimation printer, and then all of a sudden you’ve got to figure out how to use Photoshop or Illustrator, create a template? Forget graphics and all that good stuff, which is hard enough. It’s all built in. We’ve got it. Get it started. Get printing. We have a program here, that allows you to get a schedule appointment and get onboarded. So they’ll walk you through the whole installation process. And we have a 98% satisfaction rate on that program. We onboard no less than about 500, one hour sessions a month using this program all over the world. Right? So we do have the full package, not just a sublimation printer.

Mark Stephenson:

I just want to clear something up. He’s talking about training. He’s talking about training you.

Vik Patel:

Training, yeah. That’s exactly it.

Mark Stephenson:

So, you get your printed in a box from ColDesi and then you set it on your table and you set up an appointment with these guys and they will tell you how to cut the tape.

Vik Patel:

Yeah, that’s right.

Mark Stephenson:

How to remove printer from the box. They’ll do the whole thing. You’ll get a solid hour with a pro.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. And that solid hour is important, right? Because you know what? It takes about 30 minutes to set it up. The other 30 minutes or the time that the ink is charging or you’re plugging something in, they’re not just silent on the phone, they’re answering questions. They’re saying, “What do you want to do with this? How can we help you?” And the team is guiding you through the process. And now you have a friend. Right? Now you have a friend to call or to contact. And from there, we’ll announce this right now.

We’re launching Talk Shop, which anyone that goes through the onboarding process gets invited to talk shop where every week we’ll have a live session, a webinar session where people can come in and talk about the challenges they may be having, or the successes they may have had, to teach their peers and to motivate their peers to do more. That goes beyond the academy that we have. And so, yeah, at the end of the day, we’re not going to just make sure you get a system we’re not going to leave you hanging. We have the resources to keep you going too.

Mark Stephenson:

Cool.

Marc Vila:

You said a lot there that’s awesome. But the one thing that I would say that you could really take from it, well, there’s two things, right? You’ve got a training and support system, which is nice, right? And we know how important that is with all the equipment that we sell. But when you talk about 500 trainings a month worldwide, is showing that this technology is being adopted by apparel shops, promotion shops, small businesses, large businesses, there’s businesses that bring this type of production in-house, like a tattoo shop who wants to sell T-shirts and they decide to bring a sublimation shop in to print a shirt, or a cap, or a mug with a tattoo on it, right? Up to corporations bring these in, in their marketing department to create things for their internal team, to apparel shops.

The reason why this technology is adopted by, just using that number 500 people a month globally, is because it’s good. It works. It’s easy. When you see the numbers move behind it that’s when you know something is successful and good. So, it’s right. It is scary in the beginning. Folks didn’t want to get into say, the white toner printing with digital effects, right? Eight, nine years ago, whenever it started, people didn’t want to get into it in the beginning, because there was only dozens of people a month getting started with this. It’s scary, right? To be an early adopter. Well, now, that white toner printing world is full steam. We’re talking just there’s, hundreds of people that are getting this every month globally. And you’re looking at the same thing with the sublimation systems. You see the same thing with embroidery. I’m sure screen print systems globally are similar too.

So, it’s proven, a lot of folks are doing it. And I would question why you’re not, if you’re in some sort of customization business, right? Especially for the cost. It’s so inexpensive.

Mark Stephenson:

And if you’re in business and you have a heat press, I’m already confused if you don’t have a sublimation.

Vik Patel:

It’s a no brainer. And you’d be surprised at the folks that do have these large printers, huge sublimation printers or large format printing facilities. How many of them have a small Sawgrass sublimation printer machine? And as Mark said earlier, just to throw in a free sample. It’s a print shop. Somebody comes into print a whole bunch of brochures, right? They’re starting a business. How cool is that if you just gave them a free coaster, right? Because come on, they’re going to have a little coffee station and some mugs out there, they’re going to spend $15 for a mug anyway, sell them a mug with that brand on there because there’s nothing that a new entrepreneur wants to do than to actually show off their brand. What they don’t want to do is pay for a hundred mugs from these large fulfillment companies. Right? They just want to get five or six months. Short runs, big profit.

Marc Vila:

Yeah, local is still, local is growing. Right? So, because you made me think about that, where you’re talking about somebody who was there, right? Who we’re picking up delivery and now you’ve got a mug in front of them. And we’ve done a lot of research, a couple pieces of research that I wanted to mention. And one was about this near me. I call it just a near me thing, because adding near me to a Google search or a Siri search or something like that, is continuously growing. Right?

Many people thought that the world was going to be, you buy everything online and it just comes from where it comes from. Right? And then we found out that moving things across the world is pretty expensive to do, and it takes time, and folks like instant gratification. So, what did the online world do? Amazon just started putting a warehouse every single place they could, right? There’s literally one a mile from here. Right? Or pick stuff up or get it delivered to me.

Mark Stephenson:

That’s just to deliver stuff to your house. [crosstalk 00:46:17].

Marc Vila:

Right? And so the near me thing is huge. Customization is definitely not maxed out near me. Right? If you are trying to get something specific decorated near me, a lot of folks can’t do it, or it’s unreasonable, or they did find a place and that place has a good amount of near me business going on that the supply and demand increases it, the cost. So what do they do? They ended up buying it online, waiting, and then not knowing the quality that they’re going to get. Right?

Because a lot of folks buy something online. They don’t know what they’re going to get. So you’ve got a lot of this near me business for your business, the listener, for mugs, mouse pads, tumblers, T-shirts, all these sublimatable items that you can create in minutes, you can do it while somebody waits, you could do it, “Hey, drive to my shop, I’ll start working on it now. It’ll be done by the time you get here, or just wait.”

Mark Stephenson:

I just want to insert a commercial here, because I know that Marc, you’ve been working on this quite a bit lately is in the spirit of those near me searches, Coleman and Company is pretty well committed to having stuff in stock and ready to ship. Flanks in stock, we’re going to have Vapor apparel in stock, we’ve got mugs in stock. We’ve got tiles, we’ve got all kinds of sublimation blanks that are readily available and honestly, we get people stop in our warehouse in Clearwater, Florida all the time.

We’re a national and to some extent in international business, but we still get walk-in traffic. Because people come in and they want to pick up 10 mugs. They’ve got a small job to do, so we’ll do that. And if you’re looking especially, for things like mugs that are having in Florida, then you should definitely check out Colemanandcompany.com because the closer you are, the easier it is to order to pick up, to get shipped, et cetera.

Marc Vila:

Yeah. We ship mugs. We have a dozen plus different kinds of mugs available, all in stock everywhere in Florida. You order 200 bucks, you ship for free. And we don’t realize how expensive a mug is to move.

Vik Patel:

Is to ship, yeah, absolutely.

Marc Vila:

Yes. Right. Because you figure an 11 ounce mug, the reason why it’s called an 11 ounce mug, is because-

Vik Patel:

It’s 11 ounces?

Marc Vila:

It weighs 11 ounces. Which, actually, did not know that.

Mark Stephenson:

I did not know that.

Marc Vila:

I was assuming it held 11 ounces and maybe it does, maybe it does. I have not measured.

Vik Patel:

It does hold 11 ounces.

Marc Vila:

So it holds 11 ounces and it weighs 11 ounces.

Vik Patel:

That’s right.

Marc Vila:

What witchcraft.

Vik Patel:

11 fluid ounces in there is actually 11 ounces in weight too.

Marc Vila:

Yeah, it’s witchcraft. So, but the reason was, is because I was trying to figure out how much it costs. I said, “I wonder how much has 11 ounce mug weighs?” And I put it on the scale and it said 11 ounces. And I said, “Okay.” I reset the scale and I did it again.

Vik Patel:

Don’t forget, the 11 ounce mug might weigh 11 ounces, but there’s probably 11 ounces of blooming packaging padding that goes around it.

Marc Vila:

Yes, because they break. So, if you have 10, 11 ounce mugs, when you start doing this, it amounts, 11 ounces is three quarters of a pound ish, or two thirds of a pound dish, and you get 10, 20 of these, you’ve got pounds of packages that are this big and it gets expensive to order these from afar. So we can ship them inexpensively, especially to Florida, they can get delivered next day. So a lot of folks in Florida are really happy to have a good source of a lot of different variety.

And speaking of mugs, circles back to the second piece of research that we’ve been doing. So we’ve been going on to Facebook and this is research that we do for us, but also for our customers too, we’ve been going on to Facebook and pumping out different videos of decorating different things, doing different things, using different things. And the number of people who click through on mugs and mouse pads beats out almost everything else. T-shirts too, for sure. T-shirts are really close. Just barely beaten out, might not be statistic statistically significant, but these three things interest folks. They see it, they want to see more of it, they’re interested in it. And when we look at Google search trends and Facebook interactions and things like that, there is still a huge amount of interest in these. In just simple drink ware and simple T-shirts.

Your business does not have to go crazy with marketing and have this amazing idea to have success in this market. If you can get into the near me market, figure out how to let people know that you’re there, that you make these custom things and you just make sure people know that you’re there, however it is, we have plenty of podcasts to let-

Mark Stephenson:

149 podcasts.

Marc Vila:

149 to let people know you’re there through Google, through joining Chamber of Commerce, through meeting people, all these things, right? If you’ve got a huge opportunity for just these mugs and mouse pads, and T-shirts. You can do those three things with a sublimation printer and have a successful business, whatever that definition of success is, it can be different to everybody. But, absolutely.

Mark Stephenson:

All right. I think we’re coming down to the end of our 120 minute podcast here. If you miss that hour in the middle, I apologize. Marc, what else do we want to squeeze out of Vik while he’s here?

Marc Vila:

Well, you know what? I figure it’s early enough that I have that we haven’t been complimented enough. So I was wondering if you could-

Mark Stephenson:

Why does Sawgrass getting rid of all their other sublimation printer dealers and just focusing on ColDesi?

Vik Patel:

Yeah. So we’re about to announce that we’re going to fire everyone globally, and we’re going to go directly to ColDesi to sell all of our sublimation printers.

Mark Stephenson:

Wait, wait, there are three companies that as soon as we’re done, I’m clipping that video clip. Let me send it right to you.

Marc Vila:

Yes. First of all, we are joking. We are joking.

Vik Patel:

Effective immediately.

Marc Vila:

But yeah, but joking aside, when we started to work together, you had said, “Oh, we’re glad to have this partnership with ColDesi.” And I was wondering if you could maybe talk a little bit about your impression of ColDesi when you started to open up this business relationship.

Vik Patel:

Yeah. So look, I’ll tell you why it’s so important and why I enjoy it. And I think this podcast is a brilliant example of that. It’s this banter and this partnership that allows us to have a really solid… I love it. I love the fact that we can pick up the phone, have a conversation and move business forward. And not only that, have some fun in the process. So, look, ColDesi is geographically for us placed perfectly right? That Florida market, the Southeast market. Yeah, there were some other dealers that play in that market too, which is great. And as you said, I can’t get either of your names wrong, which is brilliant. As Mark said, we’re not even scratching the surface of this technology going out there. Right?

And I love the fact that we can just get on a podcast, get on a phone call, and walk through, “What should we do?” And you guys listen, right? Hopefully we’re listening too, right? We’re both open to ideas, both open to new strategies and new markets and that’s what I love about this. You’re not going after the existing market. You’re taking this technology and saying, “Look, this could be an add-on to your existing customer base and then you’re also looking for new customers. So that’s why it’s refreshing for me. You’re not a me too.

Marc Vila:

That’s great. And something popped in my head when we thought about that too, and talking about new customers and the different markets and stuff like that, that we’re always trying to educate folks who are in the business and growing and folks who want to start new businesses, right? Whatever their dream may be. And this all came together when I was thinking about what people do and how people get started, and then the Sawgrass sublimation printer. So I don’t want anybody to take offense to this, but you spent 3 to $500 on a stupid cricket setup, and you don’t go and-

Mark Stephenson:

Oh, yeah, be offended. Be offended. They’re $900.

Marc Vila:

If you don’t go and make your next investment, if you’re small, right? Because you already spent 500 bucks plus on a hobby machine, and you might be making money with it and it’s very slow, but it’s easy to use, right? So, don’t be too offended, but your next investment can be significantly faster to make things, significantly easier to make things and basically the same amount of money you spent before. And you probably own a heat press because you’re doing heat transfer vinyl. So, to me that’s amazing is that the opportunity to get started versus other investments you’ve made, it’s going to be small or equal to any other investment you made and you’ve got something that is the same technology of the same quality to make that Guy Harvey or Costa Del Mar shirt that we talked about before. A Sawgrass sublimation printer. That’s remarkable.

Vik Patel:

I won’t say anything about cricket, but I will drop an Easter egg right here and look out for future sort of things between Sawgrass sublimation printers and Silhouette. Because we know that there’s a lot of Silhouette users out there who have a Sawgrass system, who are looking to get into sublimation, but they just want it to be a lot easier to integrate the two. So that’s your Easter egg for this podcast.

Mark Stephenson:

Yeah, I like it.

Marc Vila:

Yeah, very cool. Yeah, there’s a lot out there. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. So I hope you listening to this, you learned a bit about sublimation and we really try to make podcasts, if this is the first one you’ve listened to, we try to not make them commercials about products, but this particular-

Vik Patel:

About us, yes.

Marc Vila:

About us, but we try to make it all only educational, but this product really is and truly as honestly, just an exciting product to be able to offer, especially when you’re talking about the price point of 500 ish to less than 2,000 for everything you would need – including the sublimation printer. The price point is really exciting. The ease of use is exciting. And at ColDesi, we’ve got apparel and hard surface items and mugs and different things like that. All together that we’re testing the blanks, we’re testing the printers, the papers, ink, everything, and putting it together so we can just give you a formula that we know that works, and then you go out there and sell it to folks near you or on the internet or whatever it might be. And it’s a great opportunity.

Mark Stephenson:

Cool. Yeah. Thanks very much for participating with us today.

Marc Vila:

Thank you.

Vik Patel:

Yeah, thank you for the partnership. Looking forward to doing more.

Mark Stephenson:

Okay. Hey, everybody, thanks for listening out there. This has been Mark Stephenson from ColDesi.

Marc Vila:

And Marc Vila.

Mark Stephenson:

You guys have a fantastic business.

Vik Patel:

Bye.

Marc Vila:

Bye.

 

 

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