For Luis Rodriguez of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a small business customizing t-shirts made sense. A student of photography and graphic arts, Rodriguez’s experience creating and designing led to him customizing t-shirts as a hobby, and from that hobby came T-Shirts and Things, LLC.
“If you can think it, we can design it for you,” Rodriguez insists.
Although Rodriguez established his small business twenty years ago, he and his business partner, Kristin Giuliano, have been operating out of their home office in New Mexico for ten. Unlike other small businesses that specialize in printing custom t-shirt designs, or sell t-shirts with clever sayings or graphics already on them, what sets T-Shirts and Things apart is the collaborative process.
“We give people exactly what they want and are grateful for our customers,” he says. Because not every customer with an idea has a background in graphic arts, Rodriguez uses his education and experience to execute his customers’ ideas.
Rodriguez admits there is a lot of competition in the t-shirt industry, but his willingness to collaborate with his customers and make suggestions and improvements for no extra cost is what sets him apart from his competitors.
“We like talking to people. We take the time to walk them through what they want from start to finish. We give them the freedom to express themselves and their ideas.”
Since T-Shirts and Things specializes in customization, there really is no target demographic for the small business.
“Everybody at some point or another will want something customized,” he says.
Although the small business’ demographic is unlimited, the passion for each project is not only consistent, but necessary.
“Passion will determine if you succeed or fail. People see the difference between someone who is passionate and someone who is in it for the one-time deal.”
Challenges of Small Business Ownership
Some of the challenges Rodriguez faced when getting T-Shirts and Things off the ground were “getting our name out there, letting people know what we did and how we accomplish it. The way we overcame that is being personable with people. We listen to what customers are looking for. Letting people know who we are and allowing them to understand our vision. Over the years it has grown, and we are happy to help people. We’re in it to build relationships, we enjoy working with people and want to make sure they are happy. We enjoy the one-on-one meetings.”
Not knowing what to expect on a daily basis is one of Rodriguez’s main roadblocks as a small business owner.
“Every day is a challenge. Every day you have to go out there and look for business. It’s not easy to be motivated every single day, but if you believe in what you’re doing, you can go out there and achieve great things.”
Despite officially being considered his own employer, Rodriguez says his customers are his real bosses.
Tips for Startup Success
For entrepreneurs who are planning to start a small business of their own, Rodriguez offers up some advice.
“Be persistent. Believe in yourself and what you do, and have a passion,” he advises. “We have a passion for what we do, and if we didn’t have a passion for what we do we wouldn’t be doing it”
Experience as a 1-800Accountant Client
Of the services he has received from 1-800Accountant, Rodriguez maintains a positive stance.
“The tax advice is the hardest part in any specific business, understanding the laws and what to do and what not to do,” he says. “You guys have been good to us.”
Photo credit: www.tshirtsandthings.com