For our Father’s Day feature this year we chatted with Matt Reid, screen printer and super dad. Like most screen printers, no two paths to success in the industry are the same. Let’s dive into the challenges and opportunities that lead Matt to operate his own printing company, Triumph Printing Co, nestled in Wilbraham, MA.
His screen-printing adventure started as a teenager. Matt made music for a local record label and then began to design for the bands. His design work led him to Michaels Arts & Crafts store in pursuit of iron-on transfers and blank tees to make band merch. Matt was successful in his DIY efforts and from then on out assumed the responsibility for t-shirt making. “I make shirts now”, said Matt recalling his teenage days with the record label.
Matt went on to work at retailer Pac Sun and Hot Topic, where he found an even greater appreciation for graphic art tees. This admiration sparked a curiosity to learn more about the screen-printing process. He quit retail and found a job with a uniform supply company that offered customization such as screen printing and embroidery.
Matt worked his way up from warehouse work, unpacking boxes and stocking, to running an automatic press. He soaked up everything he could while he was at the uniform supply company. It was during this work that the dream of starting his own print operation was ignited. One day while Matt was brainstorming names for his future business, he took notice of his co-worker’s t-shirt. It read Triumph Liquors, Matt liked it and asked someone in the graphics department if they could tweak the logo and text around a bit… Triumph Printing Co was born.
Matt set out to make Triumph Printing Co a thriving company. In 2005 Matt purchased his first screen printing set-up. He bought a 4-color 1 station press, screen printing screens, a screen printing squeegee, and PVC pipe with a light to make a DIY exposure unit. Matt was fortunate enough to grab anything else he needed to print with from work.
Matt wanted to make a clothing brand for straight-edge kids, as he was a straight-edge dude himself. It was a great, targeted, and niche concept but like many printers beginning a clothing brand, cash flow is necessary and not yet available. He made the decision to start printing for local businesses and bands to pay the bills.
Once Matt was settled in and ready to print, he was struck with a problem. Matt had been printing on an automatic all this time with no experience on a manual press. He quickly realized the basics of printing on a manual press were more of a pain than he had considered, and prints weren’t as exact or precise as an automatic screen-printing press. Things like coating screen printing emulsion on a screen, exposing emulsion, and curing ink were a nightmare. In his shop, he was using a heat gun to flash and cure which lead to either under-cured ink washing off in the washer or burnt shirts. These problems were a bit of a shock, especially when you are used to a conveyor dryer. It took years of troubleshooting and re-learning the process to become as confident as he was printing on an automatic.
But as he got better on the screen printing press, his side hustle grew. Triumph Printing Co remained a side hustle for 16 years. Matt had a family to consider and going full-time printing wasn’t yet in the cards. The scariest part for most side hustle screen printers is taking the leap of faith from side hustle to a full-time job. In June 2021 Matt made the leap. A few factors prompted this life change. His family sold their home, Matt quit his job, and they moved away to his current hometown. It was then he decided to pursue his printing business dream full-time.
Being a dad, husband, and the sole breadwinner for the family comes with some major time commitment, however, Matt is now able to spend more time with his kids during the day and help his wife around the house. When the kiddos are asleep, he tackles a lot of his emails, artwork, supply reorders, etc.
What we love about Matt is that he is a creator at heart. If he isn’t printing, he is getting into some other creative work, from projects at home to smoking overpriced pieces of meat. Matt pursued his printing passion relentlessly. Not every side hustle quickly turns into an overnight success that allows you to quit your job. Good things take time, Matt was patient in relearning the screen-printing process and diligent in his work time and time again. Matt estimates he has now printed over 10,000 jobs as a one-man operation. Impressed? Yes, us too!
Matt wanted to leave fellow printers with some words of encouragement. “Don’t give up. If you love screen-printing and designing and want to do it professionally, put in the work. Make mistakes. Get better. Live your dream. You only get one chance.”
You can check out Matt's Instagram account @triumphprintingco
We hope this story will inspire any fellow printers regardless of where they are in their printing journey. The path isn't clear cut and good things take time.
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Screen Print Direct Crew