This is a follow up story for Life and Limb Printing. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
We are a screen printing and merch company. The majority of our work is apparel and headwear production and our core customer base includes breweries, restaurants, distilleries, and some entertainment and corporate wear.
I feel so grateful and excited to wake up knowing I can help others push through failures so they don’t make the same mistakes I did back in the day.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
To date, we are showing pre-pandemic numbers, which is incredible. Although it was nowhere near where I had forecasted us in late 2019/early 2020, I am extremely proud and grateful for how we pushed through and kept going no matter what.
When I decided to start consulting for merch companies and print shops back in late 2019, the plan wasn’t to take on many clients due to the plans I had for my own company.
It was late 2021 when I decided to push and pursue this because it was needed.
There were a lot of print shops not only hurting, but going under, ultimately due to a lack of systems. After bouncing ideas off of some of my mentors and diving into the problems and solutions, I decided to run with it. As of right now, I have an amazing client base of, not only print shops and merch companies but also a few small start-ups which were completely unexpected.
I can’t tell you how grateful and excited I am to wake up knowing I can help others push through failures so they don’t make the same mistakes I did back in the day.
This ultimately led to certain brands reaching out to discuss bringing me on as a merch consultant. Giving myself a day (or two) to celebrate these wins, I set aside a few hours of deep work each day to build out systems so that I could effectively run my own merch company, consult other print shops, and be a merch consultant for certain companies/brands.
Through some great calls and meetings, I signed my first merch consulting client in August - Nashville’s own BNA Airport!
I had mentioned in our initial interview that I have a baby/kids supply line that has a core focus on childhood mental health awareness called Cavehouse Supply, and in September I teamed up with Stronger Together Nashville and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and had my first real debut to the public through a youth mental health festival here in Nashville. I was terrified, anxious, excited, all of the emotions….it went amazing and was so well-received. This led to another event the following weekend, and that led to other events.
I began meeting other mental health professionals, educators, and parents who were already showing support for what we are doing. From an idea in 2015 to our first public-facing event in 2022, I am working on the brand’s core mission, along with resource materials and products to supply to kids and their parents/guardians so that they can provide the attention and support needed to navigate the day-to-day. Through this, I released my first coloring book which is so crazy to type!!
The takeaways here for me are to never forget to celebrate your wins.
It’s ok to step back and take some time.
Success is building community and surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you - those who are in your corner but are not afraid to call out ways to help you be better. Failure we can do on our own. Success always takes help.
Do what you love and you’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked before. You will fail at times but this will allow you to find ways of doing these things even better. Then your successes will begin outweighing those failures, then you JUST KEEP GOING.
One thing that seems so obvious, yet one of the most difficult things to grasp is that you truly can’t pour from an empty cup. If you are in a bad place physically/mentally as a leader, then that is passed down to your team, your clients, and anyone you spend time with.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
As you have mentioned before Pat, what works in the past won’t necessarily work for the future. These past 3 or 4 years, I have talked about how we can’t keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them. It sounds like a simple statement, but so many become wrapped up in what is working that they forget big change can create great results.
Given all of the moving parts in the past 2 years, I have full-on imposter syndrome. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before these people, companies, brands, family, and friends, find out I’m a fraud. The way I’ve found to navigate this, to push past it and kick it to the curb is to lean on my community. Then you find that you’re not alone in those thoughts and turn, you regain the confidence and keep moving forward.
Mental health has always been the ultimate challenge. I used to see it as the final boss that couldn’t be taken down. This thought was debilitating for me not that long ago and it was easy to think that all hope was lost. After locking down a great therapist and doing really hard but necessary work with each session, I become equipped with the tools needed to recognize what is happening and “befriending” that inner voice and my anxiety disorder.
I have been pretty open and vulnerable to some degree in this and previous interviews regarding my mental health, but it’s on purpose. I want other entrepreneurs to see that they are not alone. The mental struggles are very real and there are ways to navigate all of them. Learning that we can rewire our neural pathways was emotional for me because I thought I was stuck, in business and personal life. That alone should be celebrated!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
One thing that seems so obvious, yet one of the most difficult things to grasp is that you truly can’t pour from an empty cup. If you are in a bad place physically/mentally as a leader, then that is passed down to your team, your clients, and anyone you spend time with. What I kept putting off for so many years, I decided to no longer remain stuck.
Entrepreneurs are athletes, right?!? I am now finding myself getting into the best shape of my life, physically and mentally. The timing of it all had a lot to do with it for sure, but we are in control of our thought processes and the choices we make, so you have to choose to take that step and stop pretending you are “too busy.” As a business owner/entrepreneur or just a human being, I highly recommend locking down a great therapist.
As I mentioned in my previous interview, it is with the utmost importance that you do what you love and that you give it everything you got. As humans, we seek out our sense of purpose and try to find real meaning in the work we do.
One move I made that has brought me a lot of joy is partnering with some non-profit organizations to help them create and build out their merch line and set them up with a strong online webstore presence. Especially for non-profits, merch can be the life force during certain times, becoming a significant source of revenue.
Systems = Success. Focus your energy early on building systems in your business.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I have never been more excited about the future! I have 3 companies bringing in revenue and working on a 4th. I am working with the best therapist out there, along with forming healthy habits I never would have imagined doing just 1 year ago, such as yoga, voice therapy, weight training, and eating better. Consistency is key and it’s the hardest thing. Understanding now that my health (mental/physical/emotional) matters, it has to be a priority - Healthy habits have to be implemented or everything suffers.
As for the merch company Life and Limb Printing, there are plans and although I can’t talk about them just yet (good stuff though), I will say that I’m so grateful for where I’ve been and where I am now with the company.
I have built on the merch consulting work and have created a new company that encompasses the entire scope of merch such as brand and marketing strategy, product development and manufacturing, inventory and logistics management, automations and application development, retail partnerships, and more. This is a heavy lift and I’m here for it! With a great team, you can accomplish great things.
Cavehouse Supply has some developments in the works with new resource materials and products. While a lot of this is in the planning stages, I am excited to build out my advisory board and accomplish incredible things together so that kids can be empowered to create and know that they are superheroes that will do great things!
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
How I Built This with Guy Raz is a favorite for podcasts.
Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam is incredible when it comes to deep diving into the human psyche.
One book that has been a great push for me has been Whatever It Takes by Brandon Bornancin. When I felt very stuck, I picked up this book and it helped me navigate around some of the barriers I was putting up for myself and just GO!
Another book that has been life-changing from a hiring standpoint has been Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. I thought I knew what I was doing years ago during the hiring process, but I was sorely mistaken. I was really bad at it. After diving into this book and pinpointing where I was falling short, it became so much more of a win being able to find leaders and “A-Players.”
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their businesses?
Systems = Success. Focus your energy early on building systems in your business.
Community is everything. Seek out your community and grow together! No one can achieve anything alone. Together is better.
You can read every sales playbook ever created, but one thing that has served me well over the past 14 years is being myself and being authentic. Stop with the senseless sales talk and start building strong and lasting relationships.
Hire leaders, not managers.
This one is so important - embrace the failures. Failure is not an option, it’s a certainty. Whether it is a micro-failure or a gigantic mess, it doesn’t last forever and it does get better. JUST KEEP GOING!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, I am not looking to hire but am always open to connecting with others who are interested in the merch industry or starting their own business.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Adam Tanaka
- Life and Limb Printing
- Cavehouse Supply
- Instagram - @adamtanaka
- Instagram - @cavehousesupply
- Get in touch! [email protected]
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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