By Lucy Ren
Within three years of operation, Lucky Prints LLC, a custom apparel printing shop located in the industrial district in Nearwest Chicago, has expanded its production line to twice as large, and increased its revenue by 25 percent last year.
“It’s a pretty competitive industry, surprisingly,” said Adam Smith, co-founder of Lucky Prints. The company is currently run by Smith, an operations manager and a production manager. The other co-founder left the company last year for graduate school.
The revenue of Lucky Prints grew to $250,000 in 2014 from $200,000 a year ago.
“We started with minimum findings, and built it from the ground up.” The start-up capital and initial purchase of Lucky Prints added up to $65,000. Expenses for the company include costs of raw materials, inventories, rents and salaries for its four employees.
Building a customer-friendly business has always been Lucky Prints’ main focus. “We took our pricing, we figured out what it costs us to operate and what it costs us to be successful and to be profitable, and simplified it down to a way that our customers can understand, instead of seeing a bunch of hidden fees.”
Being located in Chicago has brought great advantage to Lucky Prints. Smith said although suburban manufacturers pay much lower rents, taxes and wages, the city location has exposed Lucky Prints to a lot more opportunities. “We can say that we are a Chicago company, and we are manufacturing here in Chicago,” he added. “Customers care a lot about who is the closest to them that they can do business with.”
The apparel printing business has a dramatic seasonal fluctuation. For Lucky Prints, sales are about three times greater in summer months than in the winter, largely due to the wide range of outdoor events including concerts and festivals that need custom t-shirts.
“The winter time became a very good tool for us to internally develop our economy, “ Smith added, “because we can schedule out what products to promote in the summer, and what capability we can expand into in order to keep ourselves competitive.”
A “big landmark moment” for Lucky Prints was “a run of 15,000 pieces that we have done on manual printing press,” Smith said. The project took a week of “full eight to 10 hours of straight production time,” but it was a threshold for the company. “When we crossed it, we realized that we are getting the type of repeat business and we are getting the type of customers that we really want and need as a foundation to allow us to take the leap to the next level.”
“This year we are working on expanding our impact on the city,” Smith declared. “We’ve found the niche in the type of companies and organizations that we work well with, and we will continue seeking them out and expand our business.”