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Interview With

Trade Embroidery

Although not one to bask in the limelight, we shine a spotlight on the story of Trade Embroidery and how managing director Jake Adams grew a successful business from the ground up from a young age

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Trade Embroidery exhibits regulary as it is a good opportunity to onboard new customers

Hassle-free Growth

When visiting Trade Embroidery, we had anticipated seeing a flurry of seaside rides, perhaps eating some ice cream or donuts, and looking up to see the Blackpool Tower in all its glory (with the business being situation in the heart of Blackpool); but we hadn’t anticipated seeing two planes and a helicopter taking off. 

This is due to the company’s premises being nestled next to a private airfield, making for a relaxing and entertaining coffee break spot in between production.

Managing director and founder of Trade Embroidery’s Jake Adams' start in the print industry was, like many others, an accident. Adams first discovered the possibilities of print whilst at high school at the age of 14 when his graphics teacher encouraged him to print onto mugs for a project. With his interest piqued, Adams convinced his parents to buy him a heat press, and off he went.

Adams began producing promotional items such as mugs and coasters for local charities and community initiatives. When he left school, he continued doing this and invested in some more kit which enabled him to offer smaller-format signage and graphics.

Under the brand Creative Print, Adams produced work locally and began printing banners and large-format work in-house. With this came demand for garments and Adams soon began outsourcing this work with the smaller-format work cheaper and easier to get into initially.

This was Adams’ business model for around five-to-six years and at the age of 18, he took a loan out to buy more equipment and in turn began turning over profit whilst still outsourcing around 75% of print.

Adams then had the opportunity to bring embroidery in-house when the company he outsourced to closed due to its owner retiring. As a result, an embroiderer was brought over from the pre-existing company who had years of knowledge and experience in that field. This was beneficial as Adams wasn’t familiar with the ins and outs of this area.

Valuable Experience

Having always been entrepreneurial, Adams has never worked for anyone other than himself and admits, at times, he didn’t know entirely what this would look like. 

Looking back at the company’s inception, Adams describes it as “all happening by chance” and despite now producing work in-house, he says outsourcing was a valuable experience for the growth of the company as it showed him the pain points of outsourcing, which enables him to remove these and have a greater understanding of the process for his own clients.

Then along came the pandemic and with it came the busiest period to date for Adams with business tripling. During this time, the company saw a boom in demand for embroidery and as a result transitioned to a trade-only model. This was also when the business transitioned to the Trade Embroidery name, moving away from other printed products and focusing solely on this area of the market.

The company has now been in its current premises for four years and is almost outgrowing it. The site is also situated within close proximity to around 20 print and garment decorating companies so it is well placed in its current location.

Market Domination

To date, Adams explains that there are still only a small number of companies offering trade-only workwear and garment printing within the industry.

Instead of diversifying, Adams says the company plans to focus on dominating the trade workwear and branded sphere. “You can’t do it all effectively. We’ve done wide-format print in the past but we’ve streamlined it now to be the experts in embroidery. Any tricky jobs shouldn’t be a problem as customers can offload these onto us. Any complex stuff tends to come Trade Embroidery’s way.”

Adams uses trade shows to educate the industry on the intimacies of embroidery and meet new clients

Learning from mistakes is something Adams says has happened a lot over the years but has enabled him to get a strong grasp on what is a particulary technical area of the industry. On this, Adams adds that his “trial and error budget” grows every year. This budget covers designing and implementing bespoke management systems with the company having to adapt systems to meet its own needs.

“There is no off-the-shelf management system for embroidery so everything we use has been built and designed for us," Adams explains. "The systems we’re using today didn’t exist two years ago. We’ve had to build a new backend site and CRM for management systems.”

According to Adams, customers tend to outsource until they have the resources to bring embroidery in-house but often, they will continue to outsource as it saves hassle and time.

In order to expand and grow, Adams recommends print service providers bolt branding onto their offering by using Trade Embroidery. “You do what you’re good at and leave us to take care of the embroidery products and price it so it is viable and competitive,” he says.

Integrity and Education

The verification process to open an account with Trade Embroidery is strict, but this enables the company to maintain its integrity as a trade-only supplier. The company also offers a ‘try before you buy’ service to get customers used to the process during onboarding.

“Customers need to believe we won’t pick up the phone and poach their customers,” Adams explains. To maintain this trust, Trade Embroidery welcomes its customers and clients to its premises to enable them to see how things work, which in turn makes it easier for them to sell the products to their own customers.

Another big part of enabling customers to succeed is education with designs needing to be digitalised and formatted with a lot of time spent educating customers on what works and what doesn’t, and why. “This is often done during the onboarding process so new customers understand what’s best for their needs which saves time and going back and forth later down the line,” Adams says.

For Trade Embroidery, industry events are beneficial for sharing these education pieces with the company having had a presence at Printwear & Promotion LIVE!, Sign and Digital UK, and The Print Show over the past year alone.
This is because you can get in front of customers face-to-face and explain any issues that aren’t clear and answer any questions they may have, with the product in front of you to refer to if needed.