CEDAR RAPIDS – Tony Burnett has a knack for building a business in restored gas stations, even though the business doesn’t have much to do with cars.
Burnett, owner of Red Ball Printing, which offers custom screen printing, design and embroidery, recently relocated operations to a former gas station on C Street, southwest of Cedar Rapids. The large, open work area seemed a perfect fit for his business.
And the fact that the new location had already been remodeled made it all the more attractive, Burnett recalled.
“Red Ball started out as a one-man operation and we now have two full-time employees and one part-time employee. We had to create more space for production and staff, ”he said.
The company moved from the east side of the river to the west side in late December and has settled in its new space for the past few months. The move was scheduled for December and January as these are usually slower production months for the company.
“We just outgrew our old room,” he said. “Now that we’re busy again, it forms itself,” he said of the room on C Street. “We were really dialed into our process at our old location, mainly because it was small and we had to be. We think about how we can work with more space and still be efficient. “
Burnett said he looks forward to investing in new equipment soon that will bring greater efficiency and automation. He’s also hired a part-time graphic designer and hopes the role will expand as more business comes his way.
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Originally known as Shirt Off Your Back Printing, Red Ball Printing first opened in January 2015 in the NewBo neighborhood in a former gas station that Burnett had been restoring for a year. Burnett said he really got into the screen printing business after working in finance for years.
“My buddy had a simple screen printing set up in his garage and we were printing for friends. In the end I bought the equipment from him and it grew from there, ”he said.
Burnett is now entering his 10th year of screen printing. Red Ball Printing does the custom screen printing, custom embroidery, and graphic design for small businesses and events in and around the region.
Each week, they might be printing shirts for a specific department of a local manufacturing company or school, as well as t-shirts for club sports.
“There’s a lot of variety in what we do,” Burnett said. “And I really like to see our things in the wild. Sometimes I even stop people from wearing shirts and I tell them we printed it. “
As Red Ball Printing grows, Burnett said he is also starting to reach out to the bike industry as a whole by printing custom bike jerseys, which has made him an avid cyclist.
“I just realized that what we do for our own community can be done elsewhere. I saw the niche and the market there, ”he said.
Of course, running a small business also has its ups and downs.
“It can be difficult to get around the roller coaster without getting stressed,” he said. “I have to remind myself that in December and January we are getting slower and slower and things are accelerating and now we are starting to freak out about how we’re going to get it all done.
“So it’s important that you try to balance your emotions as a business owner.”
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At a glance
- Owner / operator: Tony Burnett
- Business: Red Ball Printing
- Address: 1718 C St. SW, Cedar Rapids
- Phone: (319) 775-5252
- Website: http://redballprinting.com