Today we share an interview with The Soul Sisters Community. Autumn and Brittany are a duo screen printing team that began printing in 2020 and then launched a business in 2021. Both Autumn & Brittany also print for their own clothing lines. This team is a testament that hard work and persistent learning can achieve early success. They are passionate about teaching others the screen-printing process and continuously learning themselves.
“You CAN do it. You do not need all of the big equipment to be successful. We felt so discouraged by other printers because they told us we weren’t doing anything right without the right equipment. But when you are first starting out, not many people have the money to buy everything right away.” – Autumn
A little snippet of inspiration from the interview. Now let’s dive into the rest of their expertise and journey.
When you first started printing, what was your biggest struggle while learning the trade?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: One of the hardest parts of starting screen printing was finding resources to help us learn. We both struggled on finding people who would share how to screen print in detail. We had to do a lot of learning and testing different things out because we had no idea what we were doing and couldn’t find the right people to help.
What is your favorite part about owning a screen-printing business?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: I think that our favorite part of this business is being able to help other people learn the trade. As we learned how to print on our own, we found the need for more videos to help new printers with the tips and tricks that have made us successful.
Scaling a business is difficult. What were your biggest obstacles while trying to grow your business? How did you overcome these obstacles?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: The biggest obstacle is finding new customers without spending a lot of money on advertising. I think word of mouth is huge, so having people spread the word to all of their friends goes a long way. We have found that making connections with people has led to our success.
How did you market yourself when you first opened the shop? How do you market yourself now?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: We are still somewhat new, but I would say we have updated all of our branding to look more professional and are learning what works and what doesn’t. Adding YouTube has been a huge asset to us, and we will be continuing to grow there.
Can you tell us about a big mistake or large lesson learned in either screen printing or owning a business?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: I think the biggest lesson we have learned is having grace for ourselves. This is not an easy thing to master, and honestly, we still have so much we want to learn. We have spent so much time and money on what works and what doesn’t work. It is all part of growing a business, there is a lot of trial and error on how to actually scale from starting with nothing. It’s okay if your first year of printing is slow, you will learn and get better. The biggest lesson is DON’T give up. The time spent learning and perfecting your skills will be so worth it. The screen-printing world gives you so much potential to keep growing and it’s worth every penny and minute spent on getting to that point. The biggest mistake I made was trying to make a two-color print with no practice for a customer. I only had a one-color press, but I made it work and they looked great, so I sent them out. But it turned out that I cured the under base wrong and the top color all came off when they washed their sweatshirts. TEST WASH YOUR SHIRTS. I will never send something off that I haven’t ever printed before I wash it 3-4 times to make sure it is cured correctly.
Have you been able to maintain a work life balance? If yes, how? If not, where do you feel you are struggling?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: We are both moms of three and so the work life balance feels extra hard some days. I think creating a schedule and routine where it’s work time or family time is huge. I bring the kids to the shop with me three mornings a week, and they know that is the time where mom has to work, and they have to play with each other.
Another thing that has been super helpful is putting the phone down for an hour here and there and giving the kids my full attention where I’m not distracted with work. There are busy weeks where I struggle a lot with finding time for everything that needs to get done. But I think that there are busy seasons and there are slow seasons and that’s ok. As long as I am aware of my needs and my families, I feel good about my schedule.
There is no such thing as a perfect work/life balance.
If you were given $10,000 dollars to grow your business, what would you do first?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: I would probably use it towards a conveyor dryer. We have a wonderful set up that cures our ink great, but now that I’m getting bigger orders it would be so helpful to speed up the process and that would definitely be my next big purchase.
Any books or podcasts you would recommend to others just starting in the screen-printing business? Or just general business advice
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: Follow @thesoulsisterscommunity for encouragement, tips, eBooks, and soon to be online courses on starting in the screen-printing business. We are here to help you every step of the way. Our advice is to just start, you will learn as you go. The longer you wait to try something, the less likely you are to do it. If you have a dream, run with it and you will do great!
What is your favorite part of running a business? What is your least favorite part?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: Our favorite part of running a business is being able to create our own schedule that works for our family. It’s such a blessing. Least favorite part would be keeping track of the monthly expenses and doing the bookkeeping. But I hope to pawn that off on someone eventually.
Is there any part of your business that you feel you have mastered? Even if it’s not something you particularly enjoy doing
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: As far as screen printing goes, I can say I am very confident in doing the emulsion process. It’s something that felt so hard at first but now it’s the biggest time saver. Not having to use vinyl on my screens is huge and I want everyone to know that it is possible and something every printer starting out needs to learn.
If you were mentoring someone starting a screen-printing business, where would you tell them to start? What should they focus on to become successful?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: I would say to start small and get very comfortable with a one-color print and one type of ink. Whether you want to use water-based or plastisol, pick one and practice until you know it’s a high-quality product. Once you are confident in that, start selling and getting your name out there. As you grow and earn money to invest in your business, then start adding on more. Try different inks, colors, equipment, and get a 4-color press. Everyone has to start somewhere, so start small and grow from there.
What is your shop management style? Do you run a tight schedule and stick to a pre-organized plan, or do you see where the day will take you?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: When it comes to my work schedule, I try to be consistent with it because it has helped me keep up with orders. There will be some weeks with more orders, and I have to put more time in, and there will be weeks where I can take a day off because things are slower.
Anything else you would like to share with fellow screen printers or people curious to learn?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: You CAN do it. You do not need all of the big equipment to be successful. We felt so discouraged by other printers because they told us we weren’t doing anything right without the right equipment. But when you are first starting out, not many people have the money to buy everything right away. We have our own separate clothing lines, and I can say we have both been very successful and have hundreds of 5-star reviews on our apparel. You CAN start small, and you CAN make high quality clothing and be successful right off the bat.
Besides screen-printing, what do you enjoy doing most in your spare time? Any fun hobbies?
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: When we are not printing, we are spending time with our kiddos. We love to be outside, travel, drink hot coffee every morning, binge watch our favorite shows, and of course get out of the house without the kids and have some alone time.
Three words that describe you:
Autumn from the Soul Sisters Community: Encouraging, Driven, and Kind
If you have any questions for The Soul Sisters Community you can find them using the following links.
or visit their Youtube Channel