Anthony and Pam Powell: Powell Shirts

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
April 16, 2020

"We took a leap of faith and began our custom shirt printing business in 2006 in our dining room.

"We purchased a digital garment printer, and my husband Anthony quit his job. A digital garment printer works on the same principle as a deskjet printer. A design can be sent directly from the computer program to the printer, thus just one shirt can be printed without doing lengthy set up as required in screen printing. Also, photos and designs with multiple colors can easily be printed with a digital garment printer. However, with digital print, there is no white ink, so when that was our only printer, we would not print on dark colored shirts at all, and the print colors are affected by the shirt color. However, our photo shirts were very popular, and people loved the fact that, with this process, while the shirt colors are limited, the print colors are not. Photo shirts seemed to really catch on in the community around here, with people buying them for everything from children's birthday parties to birthday parties for the elderly (We did shirts for a 102-year-old lady last year!) to in memory shirts to be worn at the repast after a funeral. Also, the photo shirts are extremely popular for family reunions.

"Since 2006, we've had our ups and downs financially, which I think any small business could say. We sold shirts both locally (customers came to our dining room!) and online. In 2012 we moved to a rental location in Waynesboro, Mississippi, just five minutes from our home. We thought this move would gain us more customers, and also, we needed our dining room back to convert into a bedroom for our ever growing family.

"Business prospered, and we were able to purchase that location which was actually an old house beside a busy street with a huge warehouse behind it.

"In 2015 we took yet another leap of faith and made some renovations to the huge warehouse behind our store and bought screen printing to go there. It was the ideal place for it! Now we could offer a wider variety of shirts to include all shirt colors.

"That same year we also purchased a second location in nearby Laurel. We were extremely busy in those days, so much so that we eventually (in 2018) had to close the Laurel location due to the fact that it was pretty much too much for just Anthony and I to handle. He did most of the printing, and I did all of the design work, bookkeeping, and all the other behind-the-scenes work.

"Our goals in the business were to 'make a living,' of course, flexibility, and also to provide job opportunities for our children (of which we have seven). We have been able do that, with our older daughters, Rosalie and Rebekah, doing a good bit of the printing before they moved on. Our son, Ben, managed our Laurel store for a year or two before he moved on. Our younger children enjoyed “going to work with us” to earn a treat – our business has definitely been a family effort!! We had planned for our 16-year-old Elon to move up to working as sales clerk this spring.

"And then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and officials began shutting down all 'non-essential' businesses and canceling events. Could our business be considered essential? It is definitely essential to our well-being. How could some bureaucrat or politician demand that we close our business?

"During what is usually our extremely busy time of the year with events, promotions, etc., our business was busted. While we have not been open to the public, we have been able to provide shirts for a couple of essential businesses (a small order for our local hospital and a small order for a logging crew), those are the only two orders we have had (other than a handful of online orders) in the past month. We were working on an order for Relay for Life, but that event got postponed indefinitely. Our income for March of this year was half of what it was in 2019, and our income for April has dwindled to around only 10 percent of what it was this time last year.

"If something is not done, we will have to permanently close our doors. Although the doors are closed, many of our expenses continue (property note, equipment leases, utilities, insurance, property taxes....). And if this 'shut down' continues, it will eventually have a very negative affect on everyone's income."

Pam Powell
Powell Shirts
Waynesboro, Mississippi


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