Custom Screen Printing Company Celebrates 25 Years In Business; Reflects On Major Industry Changes

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Rainbow Sports, the Kentucky-based custom tshirt printing company, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Owner Phillip Carr shares insight about the changing economy of the US garment market from an insider's perspective.

Phillip Carr, founder and President of custom screen printing company Rainbow Sports (http://www.rainbowsports.com), has witnessed the garment printing industry undergo massive changes during his company's 25 years in business. Though the industry has changed radically, Rainbow Sports, a people-driven, down-home custom screen printing business headquartered in Bowling Green Kentucky, has thrived for a quarter of a century.

"When I opened my doors in 1982, the printing industry catered mainly to high volume printing for brand name garment manufacturers. Since those days, most of that business has moved overseas. Today, the printing industry is more of a quick turn around, jump through hoops type of business and because of that, having a strong online presence is critical," says Carr.

Before the majority of US companies moved their garment production and printing overseas, Rainbow Sports was a primary silk screener and embroiderer for major brands such as Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Old Navy, and Tommy Hilfiger. "I've done thousands of that little Hilfiger flag," says Carr in reflection.

Today, big brands like Ralph Lauren still send loads of embroidery orders to Rainbow to be 'ponied up' with the famous Polo brand logo as well as several hundred garments per day for custom monogramming. "We receive between 300 and 1200 garments per day from Ralph Lauren to be custom monogrammed. They take the orders online and then we sew, steam, fold, and deliver them back to Ralph Lauren daily. The US custom screen printing and embroidery market today mainly caters to customized requests generated from the internet," says Carr.

Reflecting on the company's 20 year history and its beginnings with a home-made silkscreen press, Carr points out that the success they enjoy today can be traced back to a then 'cutting-edge' Mac Plus with an 8 inch screen. "We were the only place in town with a Mac. Fruit of the Loom was here locally then and when their business surged in the 80's, they contracted us to create and print their designs on [silkscreen] film. Later when Fruit of the Loom went through a slump, a lot of the employees dispersed and went to work at other name brand manufactures and our reputation went with them," says Carr.

Carr says they still use a Mac for their design work, along scores of various types of printing equipment. However, he notes that a newcomer to today's custom screen printing industry could get away with a single digital printer because of its ability to handle the smaller quantity internet orders that have become the bread and butter of the US printing market.

Many companies have followed the highly successful business models of online piece-order custom printing companies like Café Press and Spreadshirt. Carr notes that many of these companies are experts in marketing, but actually outsource their printing orders to custom screen printing shops like his. "We recently launched a new online ordering system that has really taken off. The difference is that every order we take is done right here in our facility. When customers have questions, they can call and talk to the person who will be running the job," he says.

"We're proud to have grown so successfully without ever compromising our high customer service and quality standards. I'm looking forward to what the next 25 years will bring."

About Rainbow Sports: Rainbow Sports (http://www.rainbowsports.com), winners the 2003 International Contest in the category of true process, is a Kentucky-based printing, embroidery, and design company. The team prides itself on its highly personalized customer service, creative design process, and commitment to outstanding quality.

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