STAHLS’ takes pride in honoring our active military and veterans. Heat printing is a great way for military and their families to make extra income. As a thank you for their service, we are now offering a Military Discount to all U.S. military personnel, dependents, and veterans. Learn more about our Military Discount and verification process.
Nikki Reynolds is a military spouse and merchandising consultant with STAHLS’. Read below as Nikki chronicles her journey and realizes the potential of heat printing as a “real” job. Her story provides insightful perspective into the challenges of being a military spouse and entrepreneur.
I have been sitting at the computer for what feels like days. I’m having trouble describing my career path since becoming an Army wife. In fact, I bet if you asked a lot of military spouses what their career path looks like, they would share my pain. Now, I can’t speak for everyone. A lot of spouses work in a field in which job hunting and career building is easy each time they move. I was not one of those people.
I graduated with a fashion merchandising degree. I have always loved all things visual design, and I’m happiest when I have a creative outlet. My husband and I got married right after graduation, and I thought surely it won’t be too hard to find a job related to my field.
Wrong. So wrong. Over the last 11+ years I can’t tell you how many hours I have put into job searching and resume building. After over a year searching at our first location, I landed a wonderful job in an athletic apparel company. I started as the samples manager and soon got lucky enough to be a visual merchandiser for the product development team. But the Army made us move two years later, and after another year of searching I found myself cutting threads in a finishing department of an apparel decorating company that specialized in embroidery. Starting over is never easy, but it’s a sacrifice I made in order to stay in my field.
It’s funny how things work out. After a year of cutting threads and hopping around helping the other departments of this company, management changed. I saw it as an opportunity to get my resume into new hands. I was nervous but hopeful and I approached the new manager in the warehouse, qualifications in hand. It worked.
After seeing my experience in graphic design and product development, I was asked to start something brand new for the company, a department dedicated to heat printing garment decoration. Now, I had some experience with vinyl cutters and heat presses, but this would be the first time on a big scale – production level.
That first year was crazy. I started with one computer and by the end of it I had four heat presses, an amazing digital print CAD cutter, a sublimation printer, and a laser. But once again, the Army had new plans for our family, and we were off to a new location, but this time for less than a year.
What was I supposed to do during this short time? I thought surely it wasn’t worth looking for a job to just have to quit almost immediately. So, I got myself a heat press and a desktop cutter and I started a tiny hobby job using the experience I gained from my previous jobs. But I still always thought, when we move again, I’ll get a “real” job.
Well, I’m sure you can guess what happened. We moved. I job hunted. I went on countless dead-end interviews that either fell through or just wouldn’t be flexible enough for me to prioritize my family. After over a year of this, and a lot of encouragement from my friends, I finally decided to invest in myself. I took all that job hunting energy and put it into building my business. It’s amazing what you can do with just one heat press and a desktop vinyl cutter. My tiny business grew enough in under a year to separate it into two sister businesses. One dedicated to custom designs for graphics and apparel and the other for event planning and designing. They cross over into each other quite often. The best part about it all? I get to make my family priority. If we move, I can take it with me. Having an apparel design business as an Army wife has allowed me to continue my career without putting giant pauses throughout it anymore.
What’s the cherry on top of all this? I’m now a part of the Stahls’ family as an independent contractor. I’m here to utilize all of the skills I’ve gained on my crazy career path and to also give a little insight from a military spouse’s perspective. For once my chopped-up career path and constant moving wasn’t seen as a red-flag but as an asset.
I still have trouble explaining what I do when people ask because the truth is, I wear a lot of hats these days, but I no longer have to search for a “real” job. This is as real as it gets.
Wow! We always love hearing our customer’s stories, but a big thanks to Nikki for sharing hers! Thank you to all of our brave military members and their families for the many sacrifices. Please allow us to support your heat printing business through the STAHLS’ Military Discount.
Are you also a Stahls’ Transfer Express® customer? View more information about the Transfer Express Military Discount. Show your pride and get creative with some patriotic themed patterns or military camo with CAD-CUT Patterns under the Stahls’ Creative Studio section.