After almost 6 years (1 provisional and 4.5 for review) we finally got our embroidery patent: 8,069,091 Its obvious but true to say its been so long I forget some of the details but the basics remain. We invented an ’embroiderers’ way to offer embroidery design online. The reason i say it that way is typically embroidery digitizing and its software is influenced by graphic/print design. In this process they use ‘blocks’ or templates which can be letters or elements that are effectively stretched or shrunk to change sizing. This creates a huge problem with embroidery since we like to digitize an embroidered logo at its actual size so we use the right stitch types and approach. When someone wants to change the sizing of an embroidered logo most old school digitizing systems and thus web-based ones now, they just stretch the design and try to ‘pack’ in more stitches to fill the area. This works on simple squares, circles and basic text as long as you don’t increase it over 10-20%. Problem is, as an embroidery digitizer, you want to attack the design differently if its 20% larger. You may want to add details that couldn’t be added to the smaller version. You may want to digitize a serif (accents on letters) differently. Sufficed to say, there are hundreds of examples I could bore folks with but it comes down to the basic problem is embroidery looks best if it is digitized for the specific size it will be embroidered in…..not stretched or shrunk from a template.
So, what we (chris’s hard technical work and my embroidery background input) did was invent a way where the user could change the size of a logo, element or text size but we’d serve up a different and specific embroidery file for that size. Instead of having 26 files for the alphabet and then stretching them to fit, we have 78 individual files we serve up as three different sizes. Not an advanced concept of course but unique to embroidery and we built our design application around it.
So, quality (especially of lettering) was the first reason for patenting our embroidery design application. Second was customer experience, ease of ordering and making sure producing their order was full-proof. As perfectionists in embroidery, we wanted to make sure a customer was unable to order anything that couldn’t actually be embroidered on a garment, hat or bag. Most print studios allow for tiny lettering, shading, small outlines, etc all of which are not embroiderable. This means they must contact the customer and change the logo to meet their needs in a traditional manner. Might as well go to your local embroidery shop or screenprinter and place this order in a retail setting which would be ten times easier than discussing colors and concepts (all visual) over the phone or my email. Basically, it would be taking a step backward. So, we developed drag-and-drop technology, the ability to put lettering on top of fill stitches (large backgrounds of stitches) but not on top of satin stitches (other lettering or detail), clicking on the design to change colors, etc. All of this assures that customers can design their embroidered logo completely online and the product will be exactly what they see. Pretty simple right? Yes, but as usual, the details and work that goes into creating something that is simple is very difficult.
I can’t imagine anyone will find this interesting but wanted to discuss a few embroidery specific topics every once in awhile. Today’s lesson is on backings and toppings. I took a nice pic below of some embroidered fleece jackets we were running for a ski team today. Of course then i realized that the solvy was still on the logo and someone may wonder why. Solvy is what we call a ‘topping’ for embroidery. It is water soluble and we typically steam or spray water on it to get rid of it before shipping. **that is why you may find some garments a little damp when they arrive** Anyway, the point is to hold the embroidery stitches up on top of the garments. On fleece Jackets and even more so on less dense fleece, the embroidery has a habit of ‘sinking’ into the garment. Solvy prevents this from happening.
Underneath, we put a backing called simply a “cut-away” and a “tear away”. Tear away backing is appropriated for twills and other wovens (like dress shirts, denim shirts, hats, jackets, etc) where the fabric is relatively stable and doesn’t stretch much. “Cut-away” should be used for all knits (polo shirts, sweaters) and fleece jackets or vests. Cut away is more stable than tear-away and gives the garment more structure behind the logo. Knits and fleece tend to stretch and the cut away prevents the logo from stretching as well. This prevents the embroidery from buckling or ultimately coming out. Basically, you NEED a cut-away for fleece and knit shirts. This should be soft and get softer with washings but should always be behind your embroidered logo. So, check your shirts or fleece next time. If there isn’t a piece of fabric behind your logo (on the inside), beware.
Trust is certainly the most important factor in selling/providing any product or service. We have an influx of ads, infomercials, display ads, search ads, mobile ads, etc giving us a desire for a product or service….but when it comes down to actually purchasing it we are all skeptical of the seller. We’ve been burned, don’t want to get duped or look stupid so we try to weed through the sales talk and figure out what we’re missing. Basically, we don’t trust the merchant no matter how well they are conveying the features and benefits of their product.
Selling (or providing products to customers) online is even harder. Creating trust is very difficult. It’s hard to create a relationship online and really that’s the only thing that can overcome distrust. We do a few things to instill trust like real reviews (not solicited or edited), stitch cam to prove the lights are really on and we do this every day all day, no minimum purchase so folks can try us and the ability to download your embroidery design (for use with another embroiderer) if you like…..but are not always successful. We inevitably rely on referrals from repeat customers where trust is a given and it brings us back to our roots as a company. This form of advertising/marketing/exposure is not fancy or new or online specific or with a new offer, its just basic reputation building thats been around for centuries.
My father took up golf late in life and now it’s his passion. He’s getting better but still considered a high handicap (meaning: not that great), which makes the game of golf very punishing mentally. Yet, his favorite saying is there’s always one good shot that keeps him coming back.
What keeps us passionate about our business is the incredible feedback from customers. People are very busy today and it’s arduous to provide unsolicited (or not enticed by deals) feedback. So, when we get an incredible note from the Special Olympics, I can’t help but be proud of our team (sorry, overused term but very much fitting in our case) and POST IT!
As promised, here are some highlights of the Games! Here is the link to our website (http://www.specialolympics.org/press_room.aspx) that has links to pictures, videos, and opening ceremony highlights. The photos on Flickr are my favorite. When Barbara gets back next week, I’ll get pictures of her and the group in their lime shirts for you. Thank you so much for your help on those shirts – they looked fabulous and I hope we have another chance to work with you soon.
By: J. Briggs
Huge compliment from the most selfless organization in the country…..a little victory that means so much more
Our former partner and now keen adversary has made us famous on their site. Their facts are off a little bit but as they say at award shows, “We’re just honored to be nominated!”
We do offer free designs and have no set-up charge for these. We do charge for custom digitizing which VistaPrint does not offer. On top of offering free online design, we give users the ability to change design colors and add multiple text elements with “drag-and-drop” capabilities.
Wall Street Journal printed a story today on Columbia Sportwear’s antitrust lawsuit against Gore tex for forcing brands to sign an exclusivity agreement in order to license their technology. A dominant force for over 30 years, you can fathom Gore-tex needs some way to keep its dominance. Technology has advanced so much in apparel and still gore-tex owns the “waterproof, breathable” claim. I’m pretty sure it’s legal to make someone sign an exclusivity clause and Gore-tex’s brand is so strong that no outdoor brand dare lose their license trying another product. I agree its not the nicest terms but if antitrust is brand dominance, better start going after Nike!
I have no excuses for not writing more. Its not that anyone is really interested but I enjoy the process of writing about our business, customers, employees, etc. It is helpful to highlight product updates and technology changes but its essential for perspective. I, like anyone, get caught in the day-to-day operational challenges….so I like the opportunity to step back and for a larger view of what we’re trying to accomplish, how we’re growing to be better tomorrow and why. Therefore, I would like to set a goal of writing more often. I know myself well enough to not put a schedule on it right now.
Anyway, enough about me: We’ve had an exciting year launching iTshirt as a way to order tees on your phone for under $5 shipped. We continue to expand our product offering which recently included Red Kap which is a top industrial brand. And, just this week, we added a new dedicated customer rep named Hanwei. All this is made possible by our incredible customers that still range from schools in Atlanta, GA to a beer brand in Dallas, TX to a handyman in San Diego (all customers today). There is nothing more satisfying than a happy customer and we are fortunate to gain them one at a time