- Associated Press - Friday, December 1, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - As Custom Mizzou Ink gets up and running, the employees are making the new store their own - even if the idea didn’t come from them at first.

Co-managers Miranda Hohe and Jamie Flores, along with graphic designer Melicia Cates, are running the first garment and sticker-printing business on campus. It is a subsidiary of The Mizzou Store, which initiated it. They let students run their store, instead of students pitching the business idea, Flores said.

“Everything comes from us, all the marketing, designs and databases,” said Hohe, an MU senior. “We make the decisions, and then our higher-ups at The Mizzou Store approve the decisions, especially when money is involved.”

The space in the MU Student Center became available, and The Mizzou Store decided to fill it with a subsidiary, said Dale Sanders, senior associate director for campus stores, in an email. They wanted it to be student-run, but have financial backing from The Mizzou Store and professionals to provide guidance to the student employees.

“The goal is to provide students with real-world experience running a business,” Sanders said.

The Columbia Missourian reports that all three women working there now have experience in retail and business. Cates, an MU senior, grew up with parents who were entrepreneurs. She ran a nail service in her sorority house when she lived there. She said she learned both nail skills and business skills from her mother, who owns her own salon.

Flores, an MU junior, said she has worked for a small business in the past and wanted to try it out here. She has considered opening her own business in the future.

“Being able to have a job where we can create designs that customers have only imagined is a fun process to be a part of,” Flores said.

Hohe, an illustrator, was interested in the job because of the printing aspect. She had previously worked for Mizzou Publishing.

“I was interested in how (printing) works and wanted to know more,” said Hohe. “Then this job opened up.”

Custom Mizzou Ink also uses a printer that prints directly to the garment, instead of screen printing like many others. Because of the way their printer works, they look at how big the print area is and how much ink it will use, and charge from there, said Hohe, a self-described “printing nerd.”

“We always run test prints before the final print, just to make sure it prints right,” said Flores. “Once we master the shirts we probably won’t have to, but for precaution we will.”

While designing from scratch is an option, students often come in with their own designs, and then Custom Mizzou Ink helps them build on that design, Cates said.

Because Custom Mizzou Ink is owned by The Mizzou Store, they are uniquely licensed to use any Mizzou marks, such as the iconic tiger head. Once, they made a shirt that read “Mizzou Brother-in-Law,” which the store doesn’t sell, Hohe said.

One of Cates‘ favorite projects for the store so far was designing their grand opening’s promotional materials, such as banners and digital ads. The grand opening event was Oct. 26, despite the store having been open since the summer.

“I made the theme different from our regular Custom Mizzou Ink colors,” Cates said. “I wanted it to stand out. We’re only going to have one grand opening the whole time we’re here.”

The grand opening also marked the opening of a design contest. Custom Mizzou Ink is accepting designs that go along with the theme “The Heart of COMO” until Friday. The winner, selected on Nov. 15, will receive two shirts and two stickers with their design on them. Designs can be digital or physical drawings sent by email or brought into the store, Cates said. A juror team, not the employees, will select the winner.

Many people like to order game-day designs, and the store also received a lot of orders related to Greek Life big/little reveals at the beginning of the year, Cates said. Custom Mizzou Ink prints stickers in addition to garments, and the design process is very similar.

“A lot of student entrepreneurs do stickers to promote their business,” Cates said. “It’s a win-win. We get to be informed of student activities, and they get to make their ideas become a reality.”

Cates, Flores and Hohe work together and separately to keep the store running. Each woman helps customers individually and will often move through each order with their own customer. However, they will help each other when needed.

“The co-workers here, we’re a team,” Cates said. “I like that support.”

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Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com


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