Q + A With Brand Ambassador Brandi Franken

Whether you’re just starting your business or looking for new ways to grow, having a community to learn from is important. To help share our mission of fostering a community of apparel decorators, we established the STAHLS’ Brand Ambassador program, by heat printers for heat printers. Our ambassadors come from different backgrounds, decorating niches, and target markets, but they’re all here to share their insight and inspire others.

We are so excited to introduce one of our brand ambassadors, Brandi Franken of Innovative Threads! We got to interview Brandi and hear her story, how she got into the apparel decoration industry, and how she has grown her business since starting. Get to know Brandi below!

How did you get started?

In order to truly understand someone’s success, growing pains and background you need to dive into their past and what brought them to this chapter they’re in, right? I had a rough childhood, and I was constantly surrounded by chaos and domestic violence. By the time I was 28 years old I was a single mom to two amazing and beautiful baby girls and going through a highly contentious divorce. At this point I had hit “rock bottom”. My marriage had been so toxic, and I was miserably unhappy.

Fast forward to November 24, 2018, the day my life turned around. It was that day where I made a promise to myself that I would start living my best life and stop making someone else’s dream come true. I now have three daughters ages 6, 11, and 12 years old and I’m married. It’s wild, this is my life now. I struggle with anxiety and being vulnerable isn’t easy.

Realizing I can start a business at the age of 33 or any age is an obtainable goal.  I’m grateful I have someone who supports me and is my biggest cheerleader. Especially on those days I fail. Remember there’s no looking back but most importantly believe in yourself.

How did you decide to use STAHLS’?

I started my business in August 2019 which was the easiest decision I ever made. I knew before starting there was no elevator to success, just lots of hard work. From such an early age I have always been crafty and creative especially with scrapbooking and I knew starting an apparel business was the direction I was most interested and felt I would thrive best in. I wanted to start a business and be my own boss.

Besides a heat press, do you own any other equipment? What heat press did you start with?

sthals' ambassador brandi franken with MAXX Clam heat press

I bought my first embroidery machine in August 2019 and for the first 12 months I taught myself everything there was about embroidery. Once I became pretty confident, I started teaching other owners how to run and operate their machines. That’s when I realized I had a hankering for teaching and helping others. I wanted to take my business a step further and I bought a STAHLS’ MAXX Clam heat press and the Roland GS-24 vinyl cutter and probably 30 rolls of Heat Transfer Vinyl.

What services do you offer your customers?

I’m so proud to now offer so many new branding opportunities for my customers such as die-cut labels, decals, heat transfer graphics, window graphics, commercial graphics for vehicles, banners, six patch options, embroidery, screen printing, and anything else that STAHLS’ offers I can add. As I continue to grow, I’m able to add more available branding options. I have the best job!

Tell us about some of the things you did to help your business grow.

The biggest gamer changer for my business has been purchasing my SG2-300 Roland printer. Being able to offer an endless option of branding to my customers and offering a same day sample has been huge. There isn’t much I can’t do now, and this printer has been the “cats meow” for my growth. Just remember dreams without goals are just dreams.

Watch Brandi discuss the pros and cons of owning a print/cut system in this video!

Would you have done anything differently?

I can’t tell you enough to celebrate your milestones whether small or big. I first started my business in a room in my basement with no insulation, on concrete with no natural lighting with just an embroidery machine and 120 spools of thread. I’ve moved since then and now I’m in a smaller room, however I have beautiful flooring and I have drywall with more room for organizing and it’s the greatest upgrade I could have asked for.

Tell us about your first order.

I love sharing how I got my first screen printing and HTV order with people and how completely and utterly scared I was once I got it. In August 2021 I bought my first heat press, and once I received it in September it was full blown basketball season for my daughters. I offered my services to the coach and to my surprise I got the job. I had never actually done this before, but I was up for the challenge and decorated hoodies and jerseys.

The jerseys turned out BEAUTIFUL and flawless! The hoodies I had were two placements: front chest and pocket. I used the screen print for the chest and orange HTV for the pocket. At the time, I didn’t know what a heat press pillow was intended for and unfortunately the hoodies didn’t uphold their value since I didn’t properly distribute the correct amount of pressure since there were seams. I felt pretty defeated at the time, but I always remind myself every failed experiment is one step closer to achieving my success.

What has been your biggest order? 

My favorite order to date has been a 200-cap order using the STAHLS’ Embroidered Patches. They turned out beautiful and nearly flawless. Being able to pay off my 360IQ® hat press from one order has always blown my mind. It was a huge accomplishment for my business.

What advice do you have for fellow apparel decorators?

I would highly recommend finding business owners who want to share their knowledge with you. Find a few businesses, get mentorship from them, and ask questions! Don’t give up after you’ve failed 15 times on the same relentless project. Keep in mind Edison had a thousand failed experiments before he was successful with the lightbulb. Practice makes consistency!

Be the business owner you want to be and own up to your mistakes. You’re going to make them, trust me, and it’s going to be embarrassing, however make it better, always! Most importantly, don’t measure your success to someone else’s because you don’t know their struggles and how far they’ve come. Onwards and upwards no looking back!

What are your future goals?

In five years, I’d like to see myself being a top apparel decorator in Colorado. I’m not sure if there’s an actual title for that, but I’d take it. I see myself owning a store front and having a giant neon sign flashing with my business name out front. Also, I see myself offering some of the best products on the market for customers and other business owners. I can’t wait to show you how I’ve built my dream and accomplished this goal!

We’re so excited to have Brandi as part of Team STAHLS’! Check out her latest video on our all-new Faux Suede Patches below!

There’s so many ways to learn with STAHLS’! Join a community of apparel decorators in our Facebook group and stay up to date on our events and webinars. Also be sure to check out our Q + A with another brand ambassador, Erik Batewell, here

Stahls ambassador Erik Batewell

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