Striking while the iron is hot is an important aspect of launching a successful new business.
That is exactly what Kim Thummel and Kristin Wagoner did in October 2017 when they formed K & K Graphics in Clarinda. The print shop offers screen printing, sublimation, vinyl and embroidery services as well as promotional products and services.
“At that time our kids were back in school and we were stay-at-home moms. We were looking for something to do locally that would work around our families. Spencer’s Shirt Works in Shenandoah was closing and First String in Clarinda was closing, so we saw an opportunity in the market for this type of business,” Thummel said.
The problem was, neither of them had experience with this type of business. Their solution was to go to Texas and receive the training they needed. The result was the creation of a successful business that not only serves Southwest Iowa, but all of the Midwest and now ships throughout the United States.
“Screen printing is an art form. We learned what inks to use with different garments and how to adhere graphics to a lot of fabrics,” Thummel said. “Along with any type of apparel, we can also create a wide variety of promotional products. As a result, we work with several schools, nonprofit organizations, churches and corporate clients.”
While Thummel focuses on the business side of the company, Wagoner is the graphic designer.
“I have always been artistic and that has worked well. I really enjoy the customers that come in and the social part of the business. If a customer comes in with an idea, I create it on the computer. It all starts with the artwork,” Wagoner said.
Once K & K Graphics found its footing, a storefront location was opened in the summer of 2018 at 207 E. Main St. in Clarinda. The retail shop offers a variety of Clarinda and Clarinda Cardinals clothing items as well as other sweatshirts, graphic tees and holiday themed items.
“We do a lot of small runs, so there is always something new and Kristin comes up with some good stuff,” Thummel said.
As the business grew and the storefront location was opened, Thummel and Wagoner have also added three employees at the business. They said the employees also provide them with ideas and the entire staff works well together.
“My daughter also helps some. That keeps things family oriented, which is nice,” Wagoner said.
However, like other businesses across the country, K & K Graphics was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdown that occurred in Iowa. Along with closing the storefront, Thummel said orders for larger events like the New Market Fourth of July Celebrations and printing uniforms for Clarinda Junior A’s baseball program were put on hold because of the uncertainty of whether or not those events would be held.
“Our larger orders come in ahead of time, so that was impacted. We still had some orders from larger companies, but our retail sales were definitely impacted,” Thummel said.
In response to that challenge, Thummel said K & K Graphics changed is point of sale system so all the items available at its retail shop would also be available for sale online.
“We received a lot of support from the community when COVID hit. We went online and were able to offer delivery or pick-up services at our storefront. This allowed us to not only sustain our business, but grow our business,” Wagoner said.
In addition, Charnette Harvey started making face masks during the pandemic that are now for sale both at the storefront location of K & K Graphics and online.
Whether it is a physical partnership like they have with Harvey or a partnership in terms of the services they provide, Thummel and Wagoner believe they can help fellow businesses succeed by expanding the reach of their brand.
“I definitely think branding your business helps you. What we want to do is come along side and help our clients succeed in their endeavors,” Thummel said.