VOXVOICE Customer Spotlight: Caveman Printing & Apparel

Caveman Printing and Apparel LogoOwned by the husband-and-wife team of Skip and Angie Jones, Caveman Printing & Apparel is a fast-growing custom printing business in Mesa, AZ. When they bought the company, Mr. and Mrs. Jones discovered that the previous owners still used analog documentation for everything. That left them with a lot of overstuffed filing cabinets and a serious need to reorganize. 

Fortunately, using shopVOX has completely transformed the way Caveman Printing & Apparel is run. Now, the company is so successful that the Jones family is looking at new locations to accommodate their rapid growth. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Skip Jones to talk about his experiences with shopVOX. Check out our Q&A below!

Tell us a little about your shop and what your company does

My wife Angie and I bought the shop about five years ago. We purchased an existing printing business, and it was kind of flat. We came in with the desire to grow it, and we’ve done that. On May 1st, we hit our five-year mark since we bought the business, so that’s a nice milestone for us. We’ve done pretty well in growing.

Skip and Angie Jones Headshots
We’re a one-stop shop; that’s how we market ourselves. We do everything, and according to shopVOX today, we’re 97.3% in-house. We do embroidery, direct-to-garment, and heat-press vinyl. We do business cards and all kinds of traditional paper prints. We do wide-format signs and vehicle graphics. We do a lot of stickers, too. It really is a little bit of everything.

I think right now, we’re running about 70% apparel. Of the remainder, between print and vinyl, I would say vinyl is the majority. Digital paper print has fallen off a bit, though it’s still strong. We have regular customers, we do a lot of NCR work, and we have a lot of repeat business for business cards, forms, fliers, and things like that. We do quite a lot of that.

We currently have five employees. So with my wife Angie and I, there are seven of us. We do installations in-house. A lot of our customers actually do their own installs. The core of our business is small to medium-sized businesses, so we do work for a lot of construction companies, mining companies, and things like that in those industries. For those guys, we’ll do large prints, and they’ll take them out, and their teams will do the installs with their own equipment. But we do a lot of installs in-house as well for customers that need that.

At this point, I’m getting back into managing the business. Initially, I was doing all of the print and vinyl production and most of the design work, but now that we’ve grown, we have our own in-house designer, and we just added someone to take care of print production and vinyl production. I’m overseeing operations now and working with production; that’s where the majority of my time is spent.

A collage of products offered by Caveman Printing

Were you already in the printing industry before buying the existing shop?

No. It just sounded like it would be fun. And it has been, at least, most days. My background was actually in the corporate world. I had been with the same company for about 30 years, and I was looking for a change, something to take me into retirement. We started looking around, and I have a bit of a creative side; I’m interested in computers and digital art, so this just spoke to us.

Since you get so much sunlight in Arizona, how does that affect the materials you use for vehicle graphics and outdoor signage?

We do a lot of decals and lettering and DOT lettering for vehicles. As for the weather, it is a big factor, and we make sure our customers are aware of that. I would say that we get a couple of good years out of all our vinyl installs. Adherence is fine, but the color fades, so we do try to pick materials that will hold up for whatever application we’re using.

You can’t really avoid it. For the construction companies and the kind of businesses we’re doing these decals for, they’re getting beat up, and they’re outside all the time. That’s why we try to put as many test materials on our own vehicles as we can. I’ll swap stickers out on my truck, and our employees will put stickers on theirs. I’ll try different things and see what’s holding up the best, just to get a feel for it so I can talk more intelligently about it with customers when they ask about it. And since the stickers we’re putting on our vehicles are advertisements for ourselves, it’s kind of a win-win.

Person Weeding Vinyl Graphics

You mentioned that you also handle apparel decoration as well: direct-to-garment, heat press, etc. Do you also do screen printing?

We do not do screen-printed garments in-house. We have other printers that we work with for that. We first started doing direct-to-garment about a year or so into the business. We started off with one machine, and it took off. I would say direct-to-garment has now surpassed our sign screen-printing processes. Now we have two machines, we’ve put in a conveyor dryer, we’ve expanded that by quite a bit, and we do pretty large runs of DTG. It’s worked out quite well.

We can do direct-to-garment on-demand, so if someone needs a short run of shirts or whatever they’re doing, we can get those out pretty quickly, running the two machines. We just did a large 300-shirt, two-location run, where we were doing about 125 shirts a day. It’s not real quick when you compare it to what you can crank out with screen-printed garments, but for me, that’s pretty fast.

Also, these were black shirts, which means you have to have a white under-base on there. It’s a lot more of a process to get those done, but we turned that order around pretty quickly. Travis, the guy who runs our DTG machines, is awesome; he can crank out a lot of stuff in a short period of time.

DTG has a lot more options. When people are coming in with gradients and more complex designs with a lot of colors, DTG is definitely the way to go. And since we’ve switched over to the conveyor dryer, the brightness and the vibrancy of the colors on each print are just amazing.

Initially, most people start off with a heat press to finish those off to cure the ink. But we were finding that kind of downgrades the quality a little bit, so that’s why we switched over to the conveyor dryer. It just does an amazing job. They have really good prints.

Tshirt and tote bag

Do you do any promotional product printing, like mugs or pens?

Those we outsource. That’s probably the main thing that we outsource. There are just too many types of products and too many different types of machines you have to have to do all that stuff. It’s just not cost-effective for us as a small shop to do that.

You’re coming up on five years, and you’ve had a lot of growth in that time, even during the pandemic. How was that experience for you?

It was interesting. We had been in the shop for a year and a half when that started. We said, “Wow, what’s going to happen now?” But I think it actually helped us, at the end of the day. The community that we’re in is very small business-strong, so we got a lot of support from that.

Ironically, we didn’t see a lot of covid-related print stuff. We weren’t doing covid signs like a lot of other printers were; we just weren’t getting the calls for it. But our customer base just kept growing. We had to shut down our showroom for a month as part of the mandatory business shutdown, but we were printing prescription pads and things like that for doctors, so we were able to use that to qualify as an essential business and keep going in every day.

During that time, we did curbside deliveries, and we still took orders over the phone and through email. That’s how we get most of our orders anyway, so we were able to just keep it going. We came out of that busier than we were when it started. So it was scary, but it worked out.

What kind of goals or plans do you have for continued growth in the coming years?

Well, we’re currently in the process of looking for a new space, because we’ve run out of space where we are now. This is great, of course; it’s a good problem to have, but it’s been its own challenge because there’s not a lot of inventory out there to get into. We’re working hard to find more space so we can add machines and people.

We have plans for a lot of growth. We need to expand our embroidery production; right now, we’re working off of one six-head machine, so we need at least one more of those. We’re also looking to add another wide-format machine and, if it keeps up, one or two more DTG machines as well. We need more space to do all that, so hopefully, we can come up with it in the next couple of months and get into a new facility that will allow us to do the things we want to do.

Embroidery machines sewing hats
We’re constantly looking to grow and add people. Our staff has been great. They’ve all been really loyal; our assistant manager has been with us for three years now, going on four years. The newest person just came on about two months ago, and the other two are a couple of years into it. It’s a family business, so we’re all very close, and it works out well. I think everybody likes the environment. We all get along and work together. They’re excited about the growth and learning new things.

In fact, we took everyone with us to the big Long Beach apparel show this year. We try to do that once a year with one of the shows; we’ll shut down the shop for a couple of days, and we take the crew. Angie and I are going to show in Georgia in October, but the Long Beach one is good for the crew because there’s a little bit of everything there, and it’s more apparel-driven. It’s a good motivator for them. It helps people come up with ideas.

Caveman Printing team photo

Tell us a little bit about when you signed up for shopVOX. What problems were you facing within your company before shopVOX? 

It was so long ago! I think maybe it was in 2019. The shop that we purchased has actually been around for 40 years as of this year, and when we bought it, it was all paper. They had no computer systems at all, so we had filing cabinets full of orders, and everything was a handwritten order form. I knew from the beginning that wasn’t going to last.

In my prior corporate work life, I did a lot of system installations and things like that. So I had some familiarity with it and knew it would be a huge undertaking. It took us a while to find the right software, but we just needed to get out of paper and find something that would get us organized so we could better manage the shop.

The hardest part of the implementation was getting our pricing into the system. Mainly, that was just because of my limited time available to be able to do it, but you gave us a huge leg up in the work that you did. We had a ton of products to get in there, and, to be honest; we’re still not done. There’s just so much of it. We’re adding as we go. But we have all our primary products in there and things that would be for our bigger customers on a repeat basis.

The apparel is 100% in shopVOX, and that’s working really well. We’ve integrated that with the catalogs for our two primary vendors, and that’s working great. To be able to have the majority of our products in there so that our crew can go in, pull stuff up, and do a quote or answer a customer question, it’s a huge game-changer.

Before shopVOX, we were at a point where we had five people running around the shop, and every time they needed an answer about something, they had to come to us. It was just getting so overwhelming that we had to do something. shopVOX has made everything much, much easier and more consistent for us.

When you decided to look for a business management system, were there other systems you had also looked at in addition to shopVOX?

I had been looking online, just through Google searches, and to be honest, there wasn’t anything else that really jumped out at me. shopVOX was the only one that I found that made me feel like I really wanted to look at it. So we started looking at it, and the more I saw of it, the more I saw online, the more I saw reviews, the more I thought, “This is definitely going to work for us.”

Another thing that helped is that the company does our screenprinting; they use shopVOX. They were actually just putting it in as we were starting to look at it, so that gave us some good feedback from their experience. It helped to increase our comfort level. Then, of course, we started to see things coming from them, quotes for jobs they were doing for us, and proofs and things, and we could see how it looked, and we liked it.

So we got to see it from the customer side of things, too. What we saw coming from those guys was something that really spoke to me, something we really wanted to be able to do. There's consistency and professionalism to it. It’s a more professional approach.

Before shopVOX, all our quotes were just typed out in an email. We were using QuickBooks for accounting, which helped with the invoicing, but there was no connection to anything. With QuickBooks and shopVOX working together, we’re able to give a more professional look and feel to our customers. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from that.

Out of all the shopVOX features you use, which ones would you say give you the greatest benefit?

Job Board, absolutely. Everybody has that up on their computers wherever they’re working or next to their machines. It’s just always there. For our morning production meetings, we put it up on the big monitor in our meeting area so we can go through our jobs and figure out everything we need to talk about for that day. It’s huge to be able to see all that. We can be out of the shop and see how things are progressing through production. It’s been huge.

I will say, though, that when I discovered the integration with UPS for shipping, I was like a kid in a candy store. Before that, we were handwriting all the information onto our order forms, but this puts the shipping costs right into the invoice, and it puts the tracking number on there, so the customer gets that. That was big, and it took no time at all to set that up. Within a couple of hours, I had our staff trained on it, and now we’re doing all our shipping that way.

We have found that shopVOX is very intuitive to use, and our staff has been very receptive to it. We have a great staff; they’re helping to make it work. And we are very appreciative of what they’ve done and what shopVOX has done to help us get it in place. 

It’s a great platform; it has helped us get to a paperless workflow and improve our production and visibility of the jobs that we have coming in. If I could recommend anything to someone who wants to sign up with shopVOX, it would be to spend the money to get shopVOX to help you with the implementation. There was a lot to it, so I’d recommend getting the extra training. The staff at shopVOX are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the system, and onboarding goes much smoother with someone to answer your questions.

Caveman Printing Store Front

What do you like to do outside of running your shop?

Who has time for hobbies?! We enjoy traveling when we can. We have a place in Tennessee, and being outside playing with our dogs. Enjoying the Arizona weather when it’s not 110 degrees!

Be sure to check out Caveman Printing & Apparel’s Social Media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The featured photo and all other images were provided by Caveman Printing & Apparel.

Interested in seeing how shopVOX can improve your business? Sign up for a free trial today!