More than a year and a half ago, Industrial Design students Zack Hodgin and Brian Besterman, were balancing class schedules, working part-time jobs on campus, spending countless hours in the studio and focusing their free time learning how to operate a small business.
Today, the duo runs The Fine Print Company in downtown Raleigh, a screen printing shop that specializes in eco-friendly screen printing and design.
When the two met in the studio as sophomores, Hodgin and Besterman had little experience in entrepreneurship. Although Hodgin had taken a few entrepreneurship classes during his time as an undergraduate and learned about the screen-printing business from his father, the team was new to the venture they were undertaking.
“I knew that after graduation I didn’t want to be working for a boss,” Besterman says. “We did lots of research and decided we wanted to have a screen printing business that gave clients a better product than other companies.”
With very little in start-up funds, Hodgin and Besterman researched vacant spaces in the Raleigh area. Their first piece of screen printing equipment was used.
“We took a road trip to Oklahoma to pick up the equipment we found on Craigslist and that was our first major purchase,” Hodgin says. “The first year was very hard because we weren’t being paid for our time, and we got by. We learned that even when you don’t think you have resources, you do. You just have to look.”
Their company is one of the only screen printing businesses in the area to offer water-based screen printing, which uses natural pigments and a bleaching agent to remove the color from the shirt and replace it with ink. The process produces a softer and better quality print.
“Water-based screen printing is an older process that actually causes the dye to absorb into the material we use,” Besterman says.
The Fine Print Company also offers special-effects printing, including foil-based printing and metallic inks.
Despite the obstacles Besterman and Hodgin have faced, the two have learned numerous lessons about life, entrepreneurship and friendship. “You have to set goals and go day by day,” Besterman says. “Take advice from elders and educate yourself about your product along the way.”
“Don’t think about it too much. We wouldn’t have done this if we knew what we were in for,” Hodgin says. “We are two young people trying and it has been a struggle to make it happen, but we are making it happen.”