Minuteman Press Franchise Review: Jim Sweeney Talks Growing Apparel Sales in Houston

Left to right: Owners Jim & Jane Sweeney along with their daughter Allison Everett (Production Manager) at their Minuteman Press franchise in Houston, Texas. Jane notes that Allison “is a vital part of our DTF program.”

HOUSTON, Texas – Jim and Jane Sweeney are the owners of the Minuteman Press franchise in Houston, Texas for the last 29 years; they first joined Minuteman Press in June of 1994. Jim and Jane Sweeney have built their business in a very successful way over the years. They have excelled at growing their apparel sales in recent years.

Jim summarizes: “The past 2 years have certainly been interesting. As of July 2023, we are 30.5% in front of our 2022 sales. This is a 35% increase over 2021. It seems like the world (or our world anyway) came out of its 2-year long malaise in 2022.”

Jim shares more specific details about his center’s booming apparel business and how he and Jane’s Minuteman Press franchise in Houston have accomplished such strong growth in their apparel sales. Their center is located in Houston, Clear Lake City at 1040 Hercules Ave.

Grow Your Business

On growing the business over the past two years, Jim says, “During the early pandemic we pivoted to personal protection products, which naturally led to custom face masks. Jane was busy sewing 1000 masks while I provided custom logo cloth face masks to schools, hospitals, medical offices and service providers. We sold 40,000 custom-made masks in that period, which we then either heat-pressed or sent to a screen printing vendor. We also donated a lot of masks to schools, non-profits, etc.”

He continues, “Finally, in 2022, our traditional printing was finally starting to climb back to pre-pandemic levels. As trade shows and marketing calls increased, promotional products also grew. After the initial surge, large format work actually slowed. EDDM printing is also a bigger part of our sales. We definitely noticed a large increase in our direct mail once we registered with the USPS as EDDM suppliers. The Graphic Whizard’s slitter cutter and creaser have made business card printing even more profitable. Our marketing efforts consists of: heavy community involvement; direct mail postcards, especially this year with the Deal of the Month art provided by MMP corporate; SEO/SEM on the Minuteman.com website, and social media, specifically as it relates to Direct to Film Transfer sales.”

How to build a successful apparel business

Minuteman Press can help you build your brand by creating custom-branded apparel. Jim explains:

“We really started getting serious about apparel about 8 years ago when we purchased a commercial embroidery machine. Jane then put together an impressive lobby presentation around 5 years ago. This section features clothing, large format and promotional items.

We first added dye sublimation with the Epson F570 and then DTG printing (we ultimately sold the DTG Printer). We used a lot screen-printed transfers during this period, mainly from 613 Originals or FM Expressions. Turnaround time became an issue. The turnaround time was the issue.

We purchased a second, and then a third Stahls’ heat press during this time. Then we decided to enter the Direct to Film printing business. We purchased our first DTF printer with dual printheads and large format about 2.5 years back after trying several desktop converters to print our own transfer. We have the capacity to produce transfers not only for our own use but also to sell to other printers and screen printers as well as sign shops, Facebook Group/Etsy users. We added additional capacity with a 4 head DTF printer in January of this year (we will most likely be adding a third printer in the third quarter this year).”

Jim continues: “Wholesale Transfer printing is now approximately 20% of our monthly sales; we ship all over the country, with a daily capacity for printing thousands of transfers. Adding embroidery and our in-house t-shirt sales makes apparel approximately 30% of our monthly revenue.”

He adds, “Concurrently with this growth in transfer sales, the embroidery business was taking off. We get regular orders of 10-50 polos and button-down shirts. The orders were 150-200 shirts each. We had a grocery chain, 2 local hospitals and a large hospital. In the past, we have completed a $24,000 jacket embroidering order and delivered a $32,000 jacket order. Both clients are hospitals. Of course, we use a trusted local vendor for larger quantities of jackets.”

“Our apparel business continues to grow weekly with more, and larger, in-house turn-key t-shirt sales really ramping up.” -Jim Sweeney, owner, Minuteman Press, Houston/Clear Lake, Texas

Three tips for growing your apparel business

Jim shares 3 tips to help you grow your apparel business.

“1. Our lobby display, along with wholesale transfers, we feel, continues to be the main thing driving our apparel sales. We put up this display of clothing samples, promotional products, and some large format samples several years ago in our shop. This display is always the first thing that a customer notices when they enter our shop. Around 1 out of 5 customers who enter the store ask about something they see displayed. We convert about 85% inquiries into sales.

2. Our CSR also knows a lot about our products and services, including apparel. Allison, who is our CSR/production manger, was our store manager at the Galveston location, which we sold in 2022. She has worked on every aspect of the business. It’s true that not everyone has this kind of luck, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train your employees and give them the tools to succeed. SanMar’s apparel catalogs include swatches and marketing tools that can be used to build a simple apparel site. All your employees should also wear logo shirts in order to show off your company’s capabilities.

3. If you are able to, visit a local industry show for the apparel sector, ASI and, most importantly, the MMP International World Expo. You can educate yourself, ask for samples, buy a good press and start with your shirts. Then, visit your clients to demonstrate your new abilities. Apparel is the perfect complement to all other services we offer to our customers. Apparel sales spur printing sales, just like printing sales should spur apparel sales.”

Client Example

Jim shares how he met the needs of one of his local clients, a hospital. He shares: “One of our regular ordering apparel clients is a local specialty hospital. They also have 15 physical therapy centers around Houston that they own or are partners with. We began by providing them with printing and large-format products. Then, we contracted with them for new building signage in each of their outlying offices. Finally, we grew to include apparel. We have them set up on 2 Stahl’s Spirit Sale websites. The hospital can purchase clothing for its new employees and employees of the hospital. In addition to standard corporate apparel, each department has their own branded t-shirt.”

Jim continues, “At least once or twice per year, this hospital does a bulk purchase of 430 t-shirts for all the staff members. The bulk purchase could be jackets (rain jackets), backpacks, specialty items or tee-shirts. We’ve provided $200,000 or more in just apparel and high-end promo items to the hospital in the last 3 years. This hospital then referred us to the hospital that I mentioned earlier in the article, who has just taken delivery of their second large jacket embroidery order.”

Clothing Advice for Others

When asked what advice he would give to others businesses about utilizing custom apparel, Jim answers, “Apparel is an easy sell. Wear your logo. Wear your logo. Ask for recommendations. Don’t be afraid of it just because you haven’t done it before.”

For more information on Jim and Jane Sweeney’s Minuteman Press franchise in Houston/Clear Lake, visit https://minuteman.com/us/locations/tx/houston27/ 

Learn more about #1 rated Minuteman Press franchise opportunities and read Minuteman Press franchise reviews at https://minutemanpressfranchise.com