From Garage to Storefront in 13 Months

Tracey Benson of MT Needles in El Paso, Texas was one of the winners of an iPad Mini at the launch at the recent ISS Show.

Josh and Zach Ellsworth congratulate Tracey Benson of MT Needles in El Paso, Texas. Tracey was one of the winners of an iPad Mini at the launch at the recent ISS Show.

At the recent Long Beach Imprinted Sportswear Show we had the opportunity to chat with custom garment business owner Tracey Benson. Tracey has been a Stahls’ customer since the 2014 ISS Show, when she purchased a Roland VersaCAMM in order to expand her existing embroidery business. Along with her brother Mike, Tracey started MT Needles Embroidery out of her garage in October 2013. Since then, the business has been booming and they are looking forward to opening their first storefront in February 2015. Along with two embroidery machines, and the VersaCAMM, they also own a Roland GX-24 cutter, two Hotronix heat presses and one cap press.

How They Built Their Business

According to Tracey, “We started the business primarily  to provide small business owners and individuals with small quantity custom orders, orders as little as one piece.”  She explained that in El Paso, Texas, where the shop is located, there are very few decorators willing to print one-offs. “We started out doing “one-offs”, and the business grew through word of mouth advertising.” Now, in addition to serving small businesses, MT Needles also has clients that include the military, school districts, construction companies and local municipalities.

How did they find customers?  Tracey says that they have not done any advertising other than on social media and Facebook. Of course combined with good-old fashioned networking and handing out business cards.  “We found that in our community there are some great associations for “Buying Local,” such as Homegrown El Paso and other alliances for small businesses. We basically go out and sell to small businesses.” Their strategy seems to be working. When I inquired as to how she and her brother decided to start a custom garment business, she said it was in response to an ad in the paper. “It was an ad from Brother, that said ‘Start Your Own Business’.  Two embroidery machines later, they were ready to expand to other decorating methods. That is what brought them to the Long Beach back in 2014.

“We got started with embroidery, but we knew we had to offer other choices, and we didn’t want to get into screen printing. We looked at DTG and sublimation but thought the best choice with the most versatility was the RolandVersaCamm. We bought the floor model. Actually our only regret is that we didn’t get the 54″ model!”

In addition to now being able to provide full color logos to garment customers, MT Needles Embroidery also does subcontract work for some local sign companies. But when we asked Tracey where her true passion in decorating lies, she is quick to answer–GLITTER! MT Needles Embroidery is well known in the El Paso area for their designs created with CAD-CUT GlitterFlake.

The hardest part about the business? Tracey explains that it’s an educational thing–educating their customers on the types of services they offer. “When customers call in and ask how much we charge for a 2-color screen print, we have to educate them that we don’t do screen printing but that we have many other options. Once we get them to come in and see what we have to offer, we usually get their business.” We wish Tracey and Mike all the best when their new store opens in February. Let me know how it goes and if we can help you in any way.



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