Created: September 11, 2019 07:07 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Everywhere you look there are t-shirts. You can find them in boxes, on shelves, and on the presses. Hundreds of thousands of them. Some are waiting for a funny or clever design to be printed on them. Others are already finished and ready to be shipped.
This is Crazy Dog T-Shirts. For founder and President Bill Kingston, it's been a crazy ride.
"The vast majority of our customers are just individuals online, whether on Amazon or Walmart, looking for a funny t-shirt," Kingston said during a recent tour of the facility.
Like all successful businesses, it started with an idea. For Kingston, it came about as a college project.
“The idea was, come up with selling a product or service. So essentially I came up with, ‘I'm going to sell funny t-shirts.’ I had seen them and thought there was a lot of improvement that could be made," Kingston said.
Kingston learned how to print shirts from a VHS tape he bought off eBay. He then started a website, and Crazy Dog T-Shirts was born. Kingston started in a 600 square foot space, with family members working for him. Now, he's in a 36,000 square foot facility on Humboldt Street with almost 50 employees. It is already busting at the seams.
In the production facility, they have eight manual printers for smaller custom orders, and 8 automated printers that can handle up to 1000 shirts per hour.
"What's nice about these machines is it's kind of broken down to a science" he said. "You used to have to tighten things by hand, waste all that time. Now it's all air clamps. You click it, it's locked in, you're ready to print."
The shirts come off the press, get run through a dryer, and then get folded by a machine.
"It used to be all by hand. [It was] one of the worst jobs here. Now you just have the machine doing the whole thing," he said.
Kingston says making the process simpler and faster has allowed them to jump on trends more quickly.
"It's just getting our product in front of people. We have a really good sense of how to do that and what people enjoy and then how to produce it quickly," Kingston said.
Before you can produce a funny t-shirt, though, you need to have something funny to put on it. Kingston has a team that meets to generate ideas, go over concepts and then works with the art department. What you get are shirts that might say something like, "I flexed and my sleeves fell off" or "I like coffee and maybe three people."
Brett Davidsen: "Do you have a favorite?"
Bill Kingston: "I don't know. I'd say one of my favorite designs is the fitness taco design. It does really well. It's pretty funny. I think it's over there. It says, 'I'm into fitness...fit'ness taco in my mouth.' So it's a good one."
Holiday-themed t-shirts are also big sellers. Speaking of Christmas, Kingston says they are already stocking up inventory for the busy holiday season, where he says they will do 15 to 20 times their normal volume.
Crazy Dog also sells printed maternity shirts, onesies, hats and socks. It’s also doing a growing custom t-shirt business for schools, organizations and events.
Brett Davidsen: “What's your favorite part of the job?”
Bill Kingston: "Honestly, I think the people, just coming in every day. My goal is to just provide a place that people want to be and don't dread coming to work."
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