Very nearly any item of merchandise can have a logo and business information imprinted on it.
Coffee mugs and ballpoint pens.
Calendars and ball caps.
Beach towels and flying discs.
Businesses use promotional products for individual events or to promote their businesses throughout the year.
Specializing in imprinted items from wearables to pens, The Doodler in Colorado Springs is the oldest existing screen printer in town, said owner Lori Wood. Begun as a T-shirt screen printer in the late 1970s, the business was purchased in 1993 by Leonard and Judy Jones, Wood’s parents.
Back then, the business screen-printed T-shirts and rented movies, and the business was named “Doodle on your Shirt.” The Joneses quickly added advertising specialties to their list of items to sell, and with that evolution came the change in business name. Advertising specialties are custom-imprinted items, usually from businesses to customers or other businesses.
When Wood moved to Colorado Springs in 2002, her father wanted her to sell for him, but she initially declined, instead wanting to resume her interior design career.
“I was in sales and interior design, and my parents owned the business,” Wood said.
“He handed me the Business Journal, and that had a calendar of networking events,” Wood said. She saw the business potential. Not long after that, she quadrupled her parents’ business.
After working for her parents a number of years, Wood bought the business from them in February 2009.
As a result of a job well done, in 2005, The Doodler became a national vendor for Wells Fargo Bank, she said.
“They saw the quality of my work,” Wood said. Now, “we have a lot of national accounts.”
The company’s largest buyer is located in New York, but Wood did not want to reveal the customer’s name.
Now, The Doodler sells promotional items to Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, the Air Force Academy and more, she said.
“People think if they order online, then they’re getting a great deal,” Wood said. “But it’s the same price.”
Also, The Doodler will “make sure they get it on time and their artwork is all right.”
The Doodler will still deliver.
“Luckily we’re in a community that wants to do business with a local company,” Wood said. Her staff includes other family members as well as her fiancé, Chad Lucore, and a graphic designer.
Curious about Alzheimer’s Disease because her grandmother was showing signs of dementia, Wood went to the office of the Alzheimer’s Association – Colorado Springs. There, employees were concerned because they were one week away from their primary fundraising event, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and the 1,000 T-shirts they had ordered hadn’t yet been delivered.
Enter The Doodler, which “had to get the shirts here, design the shirts, do the setup, complete with sponsor logos,” screen-print the shirts and then deliver them, Wood said.
The Doodler succeeded that year and has been providing the Walk to End Alzheimer’s T-shirts every year since then, Wood said. Also, her family participated in the walk that initial year, and since then, that has grown as well.
“What started as a family ended up having a walking team” with clients and family members, Wood said.
During the recession of 2008-09, Wood’s business actually increased, she said.
“As my customers saw a decrease in business, they saw an increase in the need to use promotional products, and they had to work harder on a marketing strategy to come up with products that will draw customers to them,” Wood said.
But even though 2008 and 2009 showed a steady increase in business for The Doodler, when the economy was rebounding in 2011 and 2012, business dropped.
When her business declined, customers chose to purchase less-expensive items, she said. For example, they went from buying coffee mugs to buying pens.
Still, Wood said she focuses on selling quality items.
“You’re not saving money if it falls apart,” she said.
“The year 2013 was a real nice increase” of about 10 percent in sales, Wood said.
Starting in November, it was “almost like a light switch went on; we have worked nights and weekends,” filling orders through December and January, she said. “People are starting to spend money again.”
So much so that in one week in January, the business sold as much as it had during all of January 2013, Wood said.
Now, 46 percent of her business is screen-printing hats, T-shirts and tablecloths.
The business is cyclical, depending on the time of the year, she said.
In the fall, her embroidery orders increase, anticipating holiday and employee gifts. Spring brings orders for promotional products because it’s a heavy time for business-to-business expos, she said.
Summer brings orders for T-shirts.
“Everything imprinted” is the company’s tag line. That includes key chains, Rubik’s cubes, cookies, wine glasses, clocks, ribbons, piggy banks and more.
“If it’s something I can’t get,” Wood said, referring to a customer with special die-cast medals, “I usually know someone who can do it.”
Info: 3336 N. El Paso St., Colorado Springs
In business: Since 1977
Number of employees: 4 to 10 depending on the time of year