Pétalos by Ada

DTG Print Technology Helps Launch Blooming Business

Pétalos by Ada   |   Louisville, Kentucky

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our lives in ways we never could have predicted.  For some people, it has generated a need to start something new.  We caught up with Ada Asenjo, founder of Pétalos by Ada and FreshPressedDesigns.com, based in Louisville, Kentucky, to talk about how she began her new apparel business. 

Tell us why you decided to start an apparel business?
Ada Asenjo: I have been a Spanish/English interpreter for almost 20 years, working in other countries and in my community.  I’ve also taught Spanish to elementary school students. Unfortunately, my income from interpreting has drastically dropped during the pandemic.

“... when I saw the Roland DG VersaSTUDIO BT-12, it seemed perfect. It's not too big, it's not too complicated, and it's not too expensive.”

I have dipped my toe in the artists community in Louisville, showing my pressed flower designs in a local exhibit and at art fairs.  I also sell cards with my art in a few local boutiques.  

I decided I wanted to try selling my designs on apparel as a way to make additional money and also to share something beautiful during this difficult time.

How did you handle production?
At first, I outsourced my production, using companies that offer to put artists’ designs on a variety of objects and apparel. Most of the time, the products turn out very nicely.  However, these services only provide a very small profit for the artist.  

Then I tried using some print-on-demand services, which provided a little bigger profit margin, but it was still not enough. It was also very important to me to be able to use sustainable fabrics for my products.  I really wanted to create beautiful things and do it in an eco-friendly way.

I did some research online about printing apparel myself. I couldn’t afford a huge machine, and when I saw the Roland DG VersaSTUDIO BT-12 direct-to-garment printer, it seemed perfect. It’s not too big, it’s not too complicated, and it’s not too expensive. I watched Roland DGA’s webinar on how to use it, and then I called my local distributor. Between the online tutorial and help from my distributor, I felt like I had a lot of support. 

I keep my BT-12 on a table in my home studio.  As I’ve begun offering different types of apparel, I purchased an additional cassette tray.  The inks are really rich and vibrant. I’ve been able to print every color I need for my designs -  and they come out looking great.  

What products did you start with, and what products have you added?

I started by printing on t-shirts. I researched sustainable t-shirts and sourced them from a company called rECOver that produces ecologically sustainable garments . Then people started asking about tea towels, so I started producing those. From there, my product line has grown to include onesies, tote bags, and my newest product, a scarf that has two soft ear loops sewn on it so that it can be brought across your face and used as a mask.

How do you market your business?
My son and daughter have helped me develop my website. I try to take the advice of a marketing guru who said: “done is better than perfect.” My daughter also suggested a photo shoot to help market my products.  I sold my first t-shirt on Instagram. 

Now I sell through Etsy, through social media and on my website. I also sell my products directly at a microenterprises booth maintained by Jewish Family Career Services at a local market.  It’s very exciting to see my business come to life.

What are your current top sellers?
T-shirts are the most popular item, but people also love the tea towels. The scarf/mask is also a big seller. It’s printed on linen which makes it more elegant. My sister-in-law, who is an art teacher and fiber artist, helps me with the hemming.  I also think it’s popular because I never print the same scarf twice.  I put different designs on them, and sometimes I include an affirmation. 

Sales of my products have been growing steadily. Sometimes one of my designs has a spurt of popularity.  For example, I recently sold a lot of totes that had a design in flowers spelling out the word “resist.” That particular design seemed to relate to the times.  

What’s your favorite thing about owning your own business?
Printing my designs and realizing, Oh! I can print anything!  There’s some real freedom there.  I’ve enjoyed working with my BT-12 to put my art on different types of apparel.

I’ve always thought that you really have to pay attention in life. If you don’t pay attention you are missing out.  I wanted to show people the beauty in something as ephemeral as flowers – so maybe they would start to see the beauty in everything.  

Lately I’ve been taking some online information classes on how to boost your business, and doing things like establishing a mailing list.  I’m expanding my horizons to see what else I can do with my BT-12.