A pair of high school friends turned business partners have learned the importance of dressing for success.
Joe Kirsch and Jake Reid of Clarinda are the owners of Merch Madness. The screen printing and embroidery shop was opened in the summer of 2019 and is located in the back half of the former J Bruner’s restaurant at 215 N. Sixth St. in Clarinda.
“We’ve been good friends since high school, but after graduation we went our separate ways. We each had jobs where we were on the road a lot, so we were trying to come up with something that would keep us home at night. A lot of our friends are business owners and said they had trouble getting apparel for their companies at good prices and with a quick turnaround,” Reid said.
Seeing a need for an apparel shop that could provide fast and affordable screen printing, the 2014 graduates of Clarinda High School made the decision to team up and start the business.
However, there was one little problem. Neither of the two friends was familiar with the screen printing process.
“It was completely new. Neither of us knew anything about it. We are 100% self taught and have gone through a lot of trial and error,” Kirsch said.
Kirsch and Reid proved to be fast learners. They were able to get the business up and running, but it was not until they added embroidery services that things really took off.
“The area that has grown the fastest is certainly the embroidery. We had no plans to do that initially, but we got a lot of inquiries. Once we started it really took off,” Reid said.
Merch Madness focuses on filling bulk orders for custom apparel rather than retail sales. The company primarily serves a variety of small businesses and organizations wanting products featuring their logo.
“We have a lot of fun with it. It’s good to be able to meet the needs of our friends and other business owners,” Reid said.
Since many businesses or organizations already have a specific logo, Reid said many of their orders simply involve the printing or embroidering of the logo. In some cases, he said the client may want to add something, like a telephone number, to the logo.
However, if a client does not have a logo, Kirsch and Reid are able to personally provide some design services. In addition, the shop works closely with BA Marketing and Publicity in Shenandoah as well as some freelance artists outside the immediate area.
“It’s nice to physically see the results of the long hours we put in. We want to make sure our customers are getting what they want. I enjoy the sense of satisfaction you get from giving something to a customer and having them look at it and say wow,” Kirsch said.
As for Reid, he said the most satisfying aspect of being a business owner has been watching the company grow over the last two years. He attributes that success to making the needs of the customers a top priority.
“You have to take things one project at a time. Focusing on our customers and their products is what has allowed us to grow. We have not only physically expended, but we have done a lot of remodeling and added equipment,” Reid said.
Still, for all their success, Kirsch said he and Reid are not about to rest on their laurels.
“We want to keep growing. We want to continue hitting the embroidery hard and make sure the screen printing is growing as well,” Kirsch said.