T-Shirt Labs Story
How does one go from a cushy Magazine Sales Rep position to the Co-Owner of one of Florida’s fastest-growing and most successful T-Shirt Printing Companies? You might be surprised by the challenges that were overcome in order to bring T-Shirt Labs to fruition.
Unlike most overnight career launches, this certainly wasn’t the case for Aaron Pennamacoor. Instead, the culminating struggles and “lost hope” inertia led to a splash of color transforming his rotten luck into a powerful and victorious display of triumph against all the odds. If you’re facing parallel difficulties with your career, this might just be the spoonful of medicine to regenerate your drive.
Before T-Shirt Labs Was Created
When he first starts his tale, though it’s seemingly no tale and just life planting him a big plate of greasy reality that many Americans have been offered unjustifiably in the last year, it’s not too far off from his current lifestyle.
If you think about success, you picture exotic sports cars, a nice home, designer threads, a 401K, and a career that everyone envies. The stigmatism was an actuality for Aaron Pennamacoor, who was sitting securely in a Sales & Advertising job for 10 years. His life was a modern-day fantasy, with financial security and a position that was ironclad…or so he thought. Until one day right before the Holidays in 2014, he was refused entrance into the office and brought into a side room where he would be superfluously let go, stating “changes” that he was not part of.
Just like that, in a blink of an eye, his world lost its luster and any cushy facet of life was reduced to cinders. Instead of a beautiful and lavish Thanksgiving and Christmas with his wife and two children, the holidays were tarnished with nail-biting stress. “In a matter of months, any money was drained, credit card debt was climbing, and whatever home items that weren’t nailed down were used to pay bills and to buy groceries,” he revealed, sparking a not-so-unfamiliar predicament that millions of Americans are facing from COVID.
Hardship Before Success
Aaron swallowed the hardest bite of humility when even Publix and Walmart wouldn’t hire him because he was “overqualified and considered a flight risk”. A no bleaker outlook hung over him like a perpetual rain cloud personally trailing his every step. What was a post-executive to do?
Having had an artistic background since he was a child, Aaron decided to try a 180 and give clothing design a shot while also tackling creating his own company called the Hyper Labs. However, it wasn’t without its trials and tribulations. A double-edged sword was the means of this new venture given that he had to outsource the prints and rely on vendors to fulfill orders.
This is where the first seed of T-Shirt Labs was planted as the many obstacles for many occurred with print shops in the form of “missed deadlines, subpar printing with errors, incorrect colors, crafted without care…” Aaron explains with a haunted tinge to his voice at the recollection of that time.
As the steam dwindled rather than picked up because of the aforementioned barriers, in enters Chris Gruskin, a local entrepreneur and friend. Never one to deny a helping hand, he hired Aaron at one of his bars. Luck was certainly a lady for Aaron at last for fortuitous timing aligned the two of them right as Chris was launching his next project: an E-Juice vape company.
A lightbulb went off in Chris’ head, recalling how Aaron had done advertising sales and offered him the same position at his new business. At last, it all seemed to be heading in the right direction, with the E-Juice brand taking off…until regulations caused an unexpected speed bump.
With Hyper Labs hitting a similar pitfall, Aaron couldn’t give up his passion for design. He still dreamed of expanding on his childhood passion for art and that little voice in the back of his head that clung to it roared through a megaphone when fate, at long last, revealed the next path for them.
Entering the Laboratory
Together, Chris backed Aaron financially and Heavy Ballistics arose from the embers, a 2nd Amendment salute supporting police, first responders, and proudly American in all its star-bangled banner glory. The line was a smash hit, entering retail locations and gun stores alike, including an unexpected stroke of luck when “other companies kept reaching out to us for designing their shirts and fulfilling their orders for them.”
Victory seemed to be in sight!
And yet, everything was still being outsourced and the same issues haunted Heavy Ballistics as the Hyper Labs. The question hung in the air like a heavy fog: “Where can we get all our prints made? The inconsistency and printing world and missing deadlines were just not what I wanted our standards to be because no one wants shitty quality stuff.”
The final venture popped up, just like a perfectly golden piece of toast fresh from the toaster: T-Shirt Labs. The decision was agreed to do their own printing themselves and invest in the equipment and space to make it happen. When their own press arrived, instead of high-fives, there was a lot of head-scratching. “We didn’t know how to screen print!” Aaron exclaimed with a laugh that spoke volumes of the foolhardy jump they had just made back then.
Fast forward to taking classes on how to screen print, middle of the night hours learning, trial and error attempts, watching YouTube after YouTube tutorials. “I remember FaceTiming Ryonet, Screen Process, and ink suppliers and them teaching us about the press and the dryer.” Aaron chuckled.
The Result of Non-Stop Experiments: Success
The first year of T-Shirt Labs was a start-up’s dream, with more customers than they could have ever hoped for. YouTubers were their largest clientele, endless inquiries to design clothing lines’ spring and fall collections, and large companies reaching out to them to where they knew they had finally made it. Chris and Aaron crafted the ultimate experiment and their “lab” resulted in what is now a thriving business.
Celebrating the small milestone of 4 years, T-Shirt Labs is one of the highest-rated in the state of Florida. They have recently added a fourth automatic press to their 13,000 sq ft facility. They are proud to be brimming with expert staff, a full embroidery floor, and an expert design studio. The inspiration of such success has flocked other start-ups launching clothing lines to bring their vision from design to fabric with T-Shirt Labs.
Aaron is quick to elucidate that “it’s a good lesson for people who want to do something in life. It doesn’t matter that all they have is an idea, I’m all about helping them aspire to make it. If they want their own line, I’m more than happy to take their concepts and create the designs they’re looking for.”
How T-Shirt Labs Inspires Other Companies
The story of T-Shirt Labs is not only a slice of humble pie, it’s a series of unfortunate events that kindled a childhood passion into Florida’s premier custom apparel manufacturer. Aaron’s valuable lesson was learned and “people go by their regular job, take it for granted and one day it’s gone” can inevitably lead to starting from the very bottom when you least expect it. It was nothing short of a modern-day Cinderella, where something you loved as a kid can transform from a pumpkin into your dream job.
If you thought T-Shirt Labs was just another print shop churning out shirts, think again after reading this. The struggle and hardships are as true as you would imagine it is to find success in the tooth-and-nail business world, and that’s before considering the economy. But, if Aaron’s triumph shows us one thing, it’s from this impinging quote during our sit down and though it’s too long to make into a wooden sign to hang in your entry, it’s certainly inspiration all the same:
“You have to start somewhere and T-Shirt Labs is the perfect example of that. It takes one thing to get started – an idea. Hard work STILL pays off!.”
The Next Venture for T-Shirt Labs
T-Shirt Labs is becoming a YouTuber Merch company in a larger breadth. Shirt subscriptions and drop shipping are currently available for anyone looking to begin a clothing company and are unable to find the capital for producing and fulfilling orders in-house. After meeting with these cool guys, I have to ask “Why bother?”
Save on overhead and “Let’s Get Shirt Done” in lieu with Aaron and Chris. Your involvement is as much as you want it to be and I can’t say that there’s another print shop that offers the same collaboration in the fun, music-blasting, and familial workspace that is T-Shirt Labs.