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Marshall Atkinson  
How can screen printing a shirt or running a screen-printing business factor in with the aspect of mental health? What about the concept of running a business with a bigger mission mentally? On today's Success Stories podcast, we're gonna hear the amazing journey of amber Massey, who runs T-shirts for Hope in Fortson, Georgia, which is just 90 minutes south of Atlanta. So sit back, relax and get ready to be inspired. So Amber, welcome to the Success Stories podcast.

Amber Massey  
Thank you for having me. Yeah. And

Marshall Atkinson  
very excited about it. And I met you for the first time I believe at the Shirt Lab Atlanta event. That is correct. Right. And you were sitting there in the front row taking notes.

Amber Massey  
Lots of notes. I am a good note-taker.

Marshall Atkinson  
Yeah, so that's just fantastic. And I love what you've been doing with your whole business and your mission. And we're gonna get into a lot of that now. So are you ready for some questions?

Amber Massey  
Hope so.

Marshall Atkinson  
All right. Well, here we go. So let's talk about the origin story of your shop. So at one point, you were a special ed teacher, and then you got into pharmaceutical sales. So how did you know you wanted to do something different?

Amber Massey  
I always liked designing and printing shirts when I started. I mean, I started like, it's a child with art. And then when I taught school, we printed shirts for like field day and that type of thing. And then I guess the biggest part was we started doing mission trips, and we ordered t-shirts. And I would spend seven $8 on a mission trip shirt, it was just a lot of wasted money. So I figured out how to get t-shirts printed by a third party and use the money to build a house or help the orphans. So I knew there was something missing. And that is something I wanted to look into.

Marshall Atkinson  
So really, it's about you just being dissatisfied. Enough to go. You know what, I can't do that. And here are my famous words. How hard could it be?

Amber Massey  
I agree with you on that. I wouldn't say too sad, well, may be dissatisfied with the fact that I felt like I can give more and serve more. And I always want to give back and I knew there was an opportunity through t-shirts to make the world a better place.

Marshall Atkinson  
So when you got started, like walk us through that, right? Did you buy a little manual press? I mean, what were you doing?

Amber Massey  
Okay, so I went from teaching school, I taught special ed for eight years. And then I didn't like being stuck behind four walls and felt like I could do more. So when into pharmaceutical sales were made a lot more money. But I was stuck in offices. So I decided I was going to do mission work full time. And lots of prayers decided I was going to go by manual press print as a hobby, help the missions overseas, and that type of thing. My dad and I went to Atlanta, and I ended up with an automatic, a lot more than I expected had planned for.

Marshall Atkinson  
So hold on, you went out and were hoping to buy a manual and then he ended up with an auto

Amber Massey  
Yes. Not hoping I had planned like I had the order form paperwork, and check everything to buy a manual. The auto was not even a thought I didn't know much about screen printing anyway. And I thought it'd be a great hobby.

Marshall Atkinson  
Right. And so that's really jumping off the cliff here. And so would you take some classes? How did you get started with that?

Amber Massey  
blindly? I had no experience. I had outsourced some shirts. As a school teacher. That was pretty much it. I watched a little bit of YouTube. Not really, because I will tell you this, I didn't watch. I didn't know who Ryan Moore was with rock. And I think he's all over YouTube. I know he's all over YouTube. But I had just asked people around Georgia what they had. And that's not what I ended up with. But I knew nothing. I knew that I'm talented enough and hustle enough and could do the physical labor to make a t-shirt and save people money.

Marshall Atkinson  
So it's really grit and hustle and trial and error. You taught yourself how to do it.

Amber Massey  
Lots of trial and error. I screw up a lot. I learned a lot by screwing up a lot.

Marshall Atkinson  
That's okay. growth comes from failure. So that's good, right?

Amber Massey  
So have lots of growth.

Marshall Atkinson  
So when was this?

Amber Massey  
Oh my gosh, you're asking me numbers. Marshall. I'm going on my sixth year of having my machine so 2016 Sure. So 2016 We went About the manual that didn't work out. So Valda Otto, about a rock you and then rock you got stuck in Portugal during a storm. And I've already taken on a bunch of orders. So I ordered a Riley Hopkins and got it pretty quick. And I hired people who knew how to screenprint to screenprint. Because I had no idea.

Marshall Atkinson  
Okay, so hold on. So you bought an auto and couldn't get it. And then you ended up with a manual, which is what you wanted to begin with?

Amber Massey  
Yes. And I still didn't know how to do it. I remember my first shirt, and it was just black ink on performance, of course. And I'm like, Oh, no big deal. That stuff came out like marshmallows. Burnt marshmallow. It was so thick. It was awful. Then I don't know what the heck did I just do it? So you hired people who knew what to do? Kind of I called a guy that I knew from church. And I said, Hey, I decided to go into screen printing. Do you have any suggestions? He said, Don't that was it. And I'm like, wait, what do you mean, don't and he goes don't? And he said, What did you buy? And I said I got a manual? He goes, send it back. And I went, but I bought the auto two and he's like, send it back. And I said I can't. So I just said, is there any chance you can just come to my shop and show me where to put the machines? I knew nothing like, Yeah, nothing. And he showed up and kind of taught me where to set it up and then felt sorry for me. Because he kind of started the same way and probably came out for about two weeks. And we would work from I'd say 10 pm till 2 am. I paid him really well. That's all I learned. So all I knew was what he taught me. And then I started doing some YouTube. And everybody does things differently. I did learn that.

Marshall Atkinson  
And so that was 2016. How long did it take you to you felt like you know, I'm pretty confident this I'm good at what I do.

Amber Massey  
April 6, 2022.

Marshall Atkinson  
For those who don't know, that's today's date.

Amber Massey  
I would say I really do not spend tons of time on it. Like full-time in the shop, I'd spent a couple of hours. I mean, I had to learn how to do a motion, I had to learn how to do everything with no help. So it was just me for a long time. And then when COVID hit, I was a good screenprint before that. But when COVID hit is when I spent all my time on water-based and just really fine-tuning the chemistry of screenprint ink. So COVID is really when I figured out what works for me and what I love and all of that. I still don't love white plastisol ink one day, maybe I will but I don't.

Marshall Atkinson  
Right, so you're just doing water-based now?

Amber Massey  
No. Well, my goal was to just do water base that is my passion. That is what I love. After COVID I lost a lot of business during COVID. Because, okay, just to clarify things. I'm not one of those women's lives, whatever things, but I lost a lot of business to male companies. They went around and just kind of said, Hey, Amber does it as a hobby, you know, her husband makes all the money. I need to put food on my table. I lost a lot of customers because I didn't go around and say, hey, they're lying. Let me tell you the truth. So God definitely worked during them because it gave me some downtime. So anyway, recently Marshall, you know, a ramble. Recently, I picked up a lot of contract work. And we've talked about this, it's contract work, as in volume, that I get paid really well. They like plastisol the construction industry likes plastisol ink. So I print plastisol because I get paid well, right.

Marshall Atkinson  
So who are your typical customers now that you know what you're doing. And you're you've got your business going. And so who are you focused on people, who make a difference to groups that make a difference?

Amber Massey  
I do a lot of Mission Bay shirts, where I spend my time is where I don't make physical money. So I do a lot of adoptions, a lot of mission trips. I work with the colleges like the diversity and the kids that are on limited budgets. I give more than I make, which I know is not a good business plan. But that's where I invest my time. The rest is I do a lot with a lot of women's businesses. I would say that 75% of my businesses or my customers are women and I looked up to find a woman contractor who used to be in construction. So I work with her and she likes to support women. So that's worked out well. I don't even know if I answered your question. This week I printed a shirt for adoption, two adoptions, and one for awareness, a lot of health awareness is diabetes and mental health. My number one passion right now is Al-Anon which supports families, friends, and children of alcoholics. I do a lot of counseling and mentoring there. My background in education and psychology. That's where my passion is to help others who don't have a voice to make a statement. without having to say a word that would probably sum it up.

Marshall Atkinson  
So it really is fair to say that you're using the apparel decorating business to augment your mission to help others.

Amber Massey  
Absolutely. That's what it is. It is a powerful statement. I think it empowers people to wear a shirt that screams, this is what I stand for. This is what I believe. But because I'm anxious or whatever the reason it's not coming out of my mouth,

Marshall Atkinson  
in How's business is growing, is it where you want it to be?

Amber Massey  
Business is growing. It is it's growing for the right reasons, just the networking, I realized if you support other people's passions and what they believe in, they're able to share not only what they believe in, but also who they use, and who supports them. That's been huge. I printed some face masks for an abused women's shelter that said love shouldn't hurt. I donated them off of that. I probably picked up five or six steady, big clients. So that's been kind of cool. Like I do things for the right reasons. And then people who are on the board who have money and want to spend money have used me so not use me in a bad way use me to get shirts, I do well-making money off of people that have money. We know what you mean, Amber and everybody remind me nonprofit does not mean not for profit, because I felt like I give a discount to everybody. Which is fine. I have food on my table.

Marshall Atkinson  
Well, it's good.

So one of the things I really like about how you run your shop is the makeup of your employees. So it's not just you doing stuff, you've got people that help you. So why don't you kind of talk about that a little bit and how important that is to you?

Amber Massey  
As I mentioned earlier I taught special ed, since the age of 13. I always worked with the special needs community and just have felt called to do it. To pull that back a little bit. I have always been the chunky kid growing up in school always like, I'm not gonna say bullied, but I was always just made fun up because it was heavy. So at that point, I realized what it felt like to just not really be included. So I kind of just had a passion for kids with special needs that look different and acted differently. So now in the shop, I well I taught school, I told you that I taught special ed for 12 years, I got out of special ed mostly because I taught EBD which is emotional behavior disturbed kids. And on the high school level, you can stay I think in sculptural 22. So my kids would go to jail on weekends for breaking the law. And then they could come to school Monday through Friday. So it was more being like a security person than a teacher. So I didn't like that. But so my shop, I work with special needs. It is the coolest, not always the most productive environment. I have a neighbor Jason, Jason is 47. Physically. He was in a wheelchair until middle school, maybe mentally behind, but loves coming to work. He loves life as I do. And he laughs with me. So our shops pretty much ran by me. And Jason is my sidekick. As for the other special needs environment, I'm working with the high schools, they have off-campus work where they, a lot of them, go into churches and clean the churches and that type of stuff. But we're really working to allow them to come in and learn a trade, not so much counting inventory, but organizing and that kind of stuff. And we allow them to print on the manual. And they get so excited and feel like they're really important and they belong. And I fail. I feel joy in that. And Jason gets to be the trainer.

Marshall Atkinson  
That's great. And so you're teaching people that, hey, you can have a purpose. There's something that you could be doing. You knew you could contribute.

Amber Massey  
Yes, I think everybody wants to have a purpose and feel needed. And I think the screenprint shop is my opportunity to give back that way.

Marshall Atkinson  
So when you're working with these folks, right, and sometimes it might take a little longer to do something. How do you allow for that time because this is such a deadline-driven industry? Right? We got a thing it's got to ship Friday, right? Are you kind of like knowing that it could take A little longer and that we are not overbooking and over, you know, over-promising.

Amber Massey  
Yes, I have a crew that comes in in the evenings, all adults, it started out with just women who were like struggling with postpartum depression, or kids who were in college trying to pay their way through or to help their parents pay their rent. So we did that for about three years. And then the kids, you know, ended up graduating, that type of thing. But now I have three different guys that come in, and we work the night shift. So we start at 6:30 and work till 12:30. And then we also work on weekends with my kids and family. We don't miss deadlines, ever. So that's kind of our stuff that we stand behind that is great. Being a shop owner, I can work whenever I want to work. But I do have a crew that can come in when needed. But Jason and I print, I'd say 80% of our jobs, usually my contract work, they give us 10 days to put it out. And I just know how quickly we can work.

Marshall Atkinson  
Right? So with these types of employees, if somebody's listening right now, one of you know, maybe, hey, I would like to get into doing that, right? How should they get started? Or what should they be thinking about, or, you know, do's and don'ts kind of thing.

Amber Massey  
There are several runners that I've met recently that have worked with the special needs community, I think high school is a great place to start. Goodwill is a wonderful place to start, they have a list of employees that they can tell you like, what their abilities are, what they can and can't do, and how many hours they can work because a lot of the adults do get supplemental checks. And they are only allowed to work a certain amount of hours without losing their checks. So we have to watch that because they could work a lot of hours, but not be productive. So we allow them the opportunity to come volunteer and hang out. In addition to that, I don't want to do anything to harm their benefits or anything else. So it's kind of a community, but they still get paid. So I'd say goodwill, the school systems are always looking for something or just printers. I know that Cassia with print United just interviewed a company. And I don't know the name of it, but they focus on special needs in the community, Ryan just posted special needs. I think it's in November, but they just made a post this past week that shows they have a lot of amazing people that just have some limitations or special abilities. So it would probably be more helpful to do it officially.

Marshall Atkinson  
Right? I've been to spectrum designs in New York, where they have 70% of their staff on the autism spectrum,

Amber Massey  
which is amazing. And I think because of the fact that my degrees are in special needs, and I taught special needs just comes easier. But I did just meet a couple of people that taught special ed and are in the print industry, which is cool because we bounce back and forth ideas like in our shop, we have tennis balls or racket balls on the end of every plug. Because our guys step on the plugs. And once you screw up a plug, it's expensive to fix. So we have tennis balls, a rack of balls on the ends pegboards everything goes on a pegboard, everything's off the floor. Once you find your community that it's worked with special needs or just people who have special needs children and those chat groups, you learn a lot.

Marshall Atkinson  
Yeah, one of the things that I've noticed is that you need to have more visual cues. You need to like really make it easy for people to grasp what the next thing is, what they should be doing. And I think this really translates to people that don't have special needs also, right. So the more that you can simplify things and make it so it's really easy to understand what the next thing to do is to better for your shop. So I think a lot of people could just learn from that, and really help their company grow and be more efficient just by really even just thinking about these things.

Amber Massey  
I will say to me extremely add a don't add off the charts. I take really good medicine. As you can tell after 5 pm my filter goes away. Like at truckstops. I do everything color-coded or like 123 Everything has steps. So color-coded green means let's go like this is what we're doing. Yellow is next. And then red. Pretty much mean stop, don't touch it. And we just do that with a traffic light because they're aware of that. Green means you can wash these yellow means don't read means we're doing these again. Everything's 123 steps. So when I say Okay, step one, they know that means the shirt to go on on the cart. So we just keep it very simple, not only for them but for me as well. Because we have a lot of different things going on in the shop at once. So I think simplicity is great for everybody, especially for me. I just like simple.

Marshall Atkinson  
Hey, so you've got kind of a special story about your logo. Can you share that with us?

Amber Massey  
I do. It has taken me six years to decide on a logo That's a long time. And they know and I still haven't finalized it. So not everything is simple for me. Here's my quote, a chaotic woman, no, a passionate woman is worth the chaos. So I say that often, my grandmother's Japanese, she had a brain aneurysm and a stroke, probably about 16 years ago, and we folded origami cranes, with the hope that she would recover. It is just a Japanese tradition. So that became something I knew I wanted to logo. I knew I wanted to use the origami crane in some way. Because that was just it's something our family believes in, we believe in hope, and the crane just represented that. So t-shirts for hope. The hope came from my grandmother, I don't love the name of my

Marshall Atkinson  
business. Your business name is awesome. What are you talking about?

Amber Massey  
It's just people are like, what, like, do you do search for Africa, and I'm like, we will. But it's just to give hope to everybody. Not just special needs people. But people who are struggling with getting pregnant or struggling to raise money for adoption, or, you know, anxiety, whatever it is. The goal is to give hope, to other people's passions.

Marshall Atkinson  
Right? And I love the fact that you're using, you know, something from your personal history, but also means hope. I think that there's a great connection.

Amber Massey  
Thanks. I'm gonna finalize my logo soon. And then I have business cards.

Marshall Atkinson  
So what's next for you? Amber? I mean, the last time I saw you, you were hanging out in Long Beach, running a rocket at the booth there. Right? So what gets you excited? What are you really focused on for this year's upcoming?

Amber Massey  
My oldest graduated from college, my youngest graduated from high school, I want to get better at printing, I want to travel, I want to see other shops, I want to help other shops, the trade show was amazing. That's the first official trade show I've been to besides going to buy my machine and having no clue. It was just awesome, being able to meet new people and just to see what's out there. So I definitely would do more than a different hustler, this year, my brain was on fire, so I can't wait to do that again. So I don't know, I know when to print a lot of water-based. I want to teach other people to print water base. I want to teach other screen printers. So the screen printing industry doesn't get outsourced to another country. In all honesty, I want to keep jobs here in the US. I want to support as much as we can in the US. And I want people to be excited. And in addition to that, with my one son graduating my other one goes into college and I have all these degrees. I also don't feel like you have to have a college degree to do something you love and make good money. And I want people to see that, too, there are traits you can love and do pretty well financially.

Marshall Atkinson  
Right? It's just a matter of finding your niche and your mission. And I think you've certainly done that. And I love the way that you've connected your passion for teaching with your passion for being creative. And then also for making a difference and all into one thing. You've rolled it up like a little hope burrito.

Amber Massey  
Like burritos, just not from gas stations. truckstops.

Marshall Atkinson  
Okay, well, great. So Amber, thank you so much for sharing your story of success with us today. If someone wants to learn more about what you do, or maybe how you can help them, what's the best way that they can contact you.

Amber Massey  
My company name is T-shirts, T S H RTS for hope. My website and stuff is T s fo our hope, which I don't even think T s is a legit word. I think it has to be hyphenated or an apostrophe, whatever. So it's T S for hope or just Amber P Massey, and it links to everything. Just three quick things. One Rock has brought together the Diversity Forum. That is a great place when you were asking about how to get connected with special needs. There's a lot of information out there on diversity and working with special needs. So that's a good place to go. And then the paralyzed I took mentioned Cassie just did an article about the shop that you had mentioned. So that's, you know, you read the articles, and then there are links off of everything else. And I think you posted actually on Twitter about that shot. I

Marshall Atkinson  
recorded a podcast with him and I was just there with my adventures in the apparel decorating film crew and we'll have an episode coming out later this year.

Amber Massey  
So watching podcasts and social media is a great place. And I've watched all your stuff so I'm not sure which one it is. But if you just follow other passionate people, it's easier to find it so there are lots of resources you just got to find the ones that you can Expert. It's out there. You don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Marshall Atkinson  
But thank you so much, Amber, you've been great, and keep it going.

Posted 
Wed
Jul 13, 2022