Meet the Rising Stars: Kevin Oakley and Shane Snodgrass
Technology and sustainability propel the pair in their Las Vegas business.
Kevin Oakley and Shane Snodgrass
President, CEO | Stoked on Printing | Las Vegas | Ages: 29 and 30
How did you both enter the screen printing industry?
In the beginning, there was a van. Not your everyday passenger van, but a special, outdated, and beat up van, fueled by metal and punk rock music, that provided a shelter to us for months on end. Touring in bands is where the original concept to build a decorated apparel company was formed. Unsatisfied by the suppliers on the market at the time, we turned to learning the craft to fulfill our needs and the needs of our colleagues. We formed our first shop, in a spare bedroom of Shane’s parents’ house. Shane, locking himself away for hours, began learning the ancient art of screen printing. We self-built everything at the time, from our exposure system to our wash-out system – everything was DIY. Through many failures and some successes, Shane began to make sense of printing. Around this time, Kevin, returning his from voyages, and Shane, emerging from the bedroom, we upgraded our facilities to a 1400-square-foot shop. We added an automatic press and began producing more orders while also hiring our first employees (and they still work with us today). In time, we began working with promotional product distributors, which helped us focus on perfecting our craft. Quickly, we outgrew the space and moved into a larger facility at around 8000 square feet. We added two more automatic machines and increased our capacity significantly to continue with our growth. Around this time, we began to see the importance of technology and its impact on providing a better product and service to our customers and team. After a few years, we moved again into our current 15,000-square-foot facility and outfitted it with up-to-date machinery. Our team of now more than 50 strong utilizes this to help us in providing the many decoration styles and services we offer to our customers.
What’s your favorite part of your job, favorite part of being in this industry?
When it comes to working in the apparel decoration business, I love figuring out new techniques and marrying them with a customer’s vision to make it a reality. With the constant evolution within our industry, there is always something new out there that is pushing the boundaries of what you can put on apparel. With Stoked, we have always looked at these advancements to see how we can integrate them into our process to increase value to our customers. Not to mention, there is something so cool about pitching a new process or project to a customer and then seeing it in a store or someone wearing it!
What led you to be a 100-percent paperless company?
The decision to go paperless came from a need to become more efficient and reduce our footprint. The glaring issue with paper is that it is a static media and once printed on cannot be changed. This becomes a problem in our shop because orders change constantly from inception to completion. This leads to team members having to track down those pieces of paper and replace them with an up-to-date printout any time there is a change. This causes huge inefficiencies as well as unnecessary waste of resources, which end up in a landfill just because the customer changed PMS 430 to PMS 431! The solution we came up with was to use technology to kick paper to the curb. We invested in computers and monitors and put them at every station in the shop. This has led to a huge jump in efficiency as each team member is always getting the most up-to-date information while dramatically reducing our waste.
Why is it important for you to stay up to date on the latest technology?
Technology is a key factor in our business that allows us to better provide our customers with untraditional service and products. From a point of service, developing around new web technology has allowed us direct integrations with some key accounts, allowing seamless flows of data. This allows us to stay competitive and provide faster responses to them. Through automation, we can also offer lower quantities and services not typically available. Staying up to date in manufacturing technologies is also critical. We are constantly looking at new manufacturing technologies that will ultimately offer our customers a higher quality product, a new product or service, or provide a safer working environment for our team.