Brothers finding business opportunity in T-shirts

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Four people opened a new business to offer quality custom-designed T-shirts and other promotional items to customers in Hillsboro and beyond the city’s borders.

Brothers Lonnie and Lyle Isaac opened I-Tech Graphics in October and own the business with Lonnie’s wife, Tracy, and Lyle’s wife, Kathy.

After becoming members of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, the four joined other chamber members for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony in February.

“We enjoy it,” Lyle said about their side-line business. “It’s nice to see people walking around town with shirts that we created and helped to make.”

Lonnie, 31, works as recreation director for Hillsboro Recreation Commission and coaches tennis at Tabor College, and Lyle, 36, is territory sales manager for Hillsboro Industries.

They talked about a joint business venture in the past, and everything finally fell into place when they opened their doors in the fall.

“It’s been a dream of mine since graduating from college,” Lonnie said.

“I’ve always been around athletics. And I took a lot of art classes in high school and enjoyed the creative process of coming up with designs.”

Two years ago, the two attended a screen-printing school sponsored by Lawson Screen Printing in St. Louis. The company sells screen-printing equipment and offers instructional classes.

The equipment arrived in September, and the I-Tech Graphics took on its first job in October.

“Everywhere you look, everybody wears screen-printing T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts,” Lyle said.

The Isaacs’ company is set up to offer a variety of custom-designed promotional items for such possibilities as businesses, school athletic programs and clubs, civic groups and family reunions.

The equipment is located in Lonnie and Tracy’s home and the business computers are located at Lyle and Kathy’s.

Customers may call 947-2773, 947-2720 or e-mail them at www.klisaac@netks.net.

I-Tech graphics has equipment to handle both screen printing and heat transfers, and the equipment is different for both processes.

The screen-printing process begins when the Isaacs or the customers create art in conjunction with a computer. That image is printed on special paper or film in a laser or inkjet printer.

The positive side is attached to a screen coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, and the stencil is then exposed to ultra-violet light.

The next step is to wash out the unexposed areas with warm water to allow the ink to pass through the screen.

“We lay the screen down on top of the T-shirt, drag the ink across it and (the color) goes through the washed-out area,” Lyle said.

“Then we run the shirt through a dryer, and it has to heat it up to 320 degrees. That cures it-actually bakes it-into the shirt, and it’s ready to wear.”

The heat-transfer method is much simpler than screen-printing.

A special transfer is made of the desired art work. The transfer is laid down on the material and heated to a certain temperature to adhere it to the fabric with a heat-transfer press.

The first job tackled by I-Tech Graphics was an order for volleyball T-shirts for the HRC.

Since that first order, business has been steady, and they’ve done orders ranging from eight to 200 items.

“We’ve had a couple of jobs where we’ve had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to get a job done because a customer needed it within a few days,” Lyle said.

Some people need a quicker turn-around time than others, Lonnie added. “We deal with that on an individual basis depending on what their needs are.”

I-Tech Graphics also offers on-site heat-transfer capabilities for sporting events, such as tournaments.

“We just take the transfer press,” Lonnie said. “Most of the time, it’s going to be transfers that are pre-made, and we can do those on site. We can do a T-shirt in the neighborhood of 12 seconds or so.”

They were recently set up at the Hillsboro Trojan Classic Basketball Tournament in January.

“That’s what the booster club requested us to do,” Lonnie said. “And so we came up with a different design for every team.”

The brothers said they would consider screen-printing at larger tournaments in the future, too.

“It’s all portable enough that it’s doable,” Lonnie said. “There’s really no limit. And a lot of times, that’s going to be up to the customer, the on-site tournament and what they want us to bring.”

Because of their work commitments, the couples work on I-Tech Graphic orders in the evenings and on weekends.

And they all contribute to the artistic outcome of the final product.

“We bounce ideas between the four of us,” Lyle said. “We show it to our wives. Everybody puts in a little input to come up with some of the designs.”

I-Tech Graphics is a company ready to take orders, the brothers said.

“We hope people will call us if they have any questions,” Lyle said. “We’re glad to quote things or work on a design.”

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