The Rise of NTZ
by Deanna Smith
What a ride this has been. We both can honestly say we never imagined we’d be running a Screen Printing & Embroidery Shop…making T-shirts, what are you talking about? I know both of us always knew we would some day own our own Business – running things how we wanted them to be ran…putting our passion and drive in to something of our own. Didn’t know how, what or when but knew one day it would happen.
Little did we know that one early Fall in 2009 that that is where it would all begin. The Economy was on the fritz, our friends, family and neighbors and even ourselves were starting to worry that we would be the next to lose our jobs and even our homes. Local Business owners didn’t know what was in store for them or their employees. Frankly it was all a bit scary.
The phone rang – it was Mamasita (my nickname for Josh’s Mom). She was working a local auction and noticed some old Screen Printing Equipment was up for bid….just so happened Josh worked on this same equipment when he was still in High School, I’m tellin’ ya it was old. Ha! She always knew Josh would own his own business one day as well…why she thought it would be screen printing is beyond either of us but she continued to call and call and call until I told Josh I would gift him the money to buy the equipment if he decided he wanted to go for it. I had a little nest egg and I believed he could make it work. We both were still working at this time so it would have been a side gig – for Josh that is. This started out a One Man Band in the beginning. I was just the supporting sweet Girlfriend.
So off to the Auction he went….and OMG when he came home I might have died a little inside! What is this old crazy pile of crud on a flat bed trailer you spent 2G’s on! Ha! I was a bid learry but Josh’s enthusiasm was thru the roof. So we crammed it all in our double car garage, cleaned up the 20 some years of barn dust and I watched him tinker away at it piece by piece understanding each mechanism. Finally it was time to print something…ran to the local craft store and grabbed some tees and a couple hoodies. The whole family (a blended 7 by the way) watched in awe as that little 6 station 4 color manual Riley Hopkins Press went around. I can remember it quit vividly as that press was rocking so hard as Josh tried to force that ink through the screen. Really quite funny when we look back. And there it was – the first shirt. Wow! Then the first Hoody – I still have it hanging in my closet. And that day N the Zone Ink was born.
A few weeks later…sure enough…I got called into the Boss’s office and was given my notice. Things were bad….the company was struggling and I was next. A Single Mom of 1 living with my new Boyfriend, what the heck was I going to do.? I was devastated and scared to death. Josh quickly called me to see how I was and within the next 30 minutes he convinced me my life would change for the better and that this had all happened for a reason. Somehow I knew he was right.
The next morning I should have headed to my old job – but instead I headed downstairs to the home desk and setup shop. I decided I might as well make myself useful and help Josh get his screen printing business going…I needed a job and he needed the help – he just didn’t know it at the time. I watched training videos on graphic design and began creating a list of contacts, sending emails and creating fliers. And that day the Graphic Design and Customer Service of N the Zone Ink was born. I showed my new handsome Boss all of my progress, I think he was impressed and equally excited. I had some orders for him to print after work and on the weekends. The routine continued Monday thru Friday until February of 2010. We started losing business because we were in our garage – some people thought that was a bit sketchy. Can’t say that I blamed them. Josh found a great little building not far away near our local Burger King. It was rather “shack” like but to us it was amazing! It was scary to think about having overhead but with our savings we knew we could get by for a while if we had to.
N the Zone Ink got it’s first commercial building. It wasn’t much but it was official with a 1 year lease. Holy Crap what have we done! I continued to man the office Monday thru Friday and Josh would meet up with me after work and print orders. It was a crazy amount of hours but we had so much enthusiasm we didn’t care. I should also mention this lil’ shack had no running water or sewer. Good thing my man is really innovative and handy, he quickly figured out a water storage system. What a pain – we’ll never miss that thing! Somewhere around this time Josh realized that this was not a “One Man Band” journey and made me officially on board now as Co-Owners. I finally made my goal and got my new job. A low to no paying gig, but a gig non the least….a gig that was all ours.
As our routine continued sales increased and so did the demand. We went to a Screen Printing Class in Vancouver Washington at this other amazing freshly new company called Ryonet. They had it together and their enthusiasm about Screen Printing was huge and incredibly inspiring. We improved our processes and learned new tricks and tips, but also learned just where we were headed with this new adventure of ours. It was evident that Josh needed to quit his job and get on board full time. Seriously the scariest part of our entire adventure was biting the bullet and losing his income. We were already starting to lose his house… like everyone else at that time…so we had nothing to lose. Somehow we just always knew that it would work out.
February 2013 to Now
And it did. Everything worked out. We advanced, we failed, we learned, and we advanced some more. And so continued that cycle. Our growth was incredible and through a tremendously tough economy. We always knew if we could survive the economy at it’s worst we would having nothing to worry about. Another year was extended on our lease. Another four years after that on a newer and larger building. A bit less “Shack” like, one with water and sewer – halalooya!
N the Zone Ink has grown leaps and bounds. We’ve upgraded our equipment one piece at a time over the years which now holds a new State of the Art Automatic 10 Station 8 Color S-Roque Screen Printing Press. Everyone that sees it loves it including us. We take Pride in our Quality and Customer Service and stand behind our product. Because of this our Community has continued to stand behind us. N the Zone Ink is now looking to have more amazing news to add to it’s Journey in the very near future ~ it’s gonna be big so stick around!
Thank you everyone that has supported us over the years – we couldn’t have done it or continue to do it without you.
Your Fearless Screen Printers
~ Josh Love & Deanna Smith