FAIRFIELD — When Jordan Inglebright turned 18, her parents asked her what business she planned to start instead of what college she planned to attend.
The offspring of entrepreneurial parents (owners of Roadrunner Towing and American Auto Body Specialists), Inglebright decided to do both; at the same time.
These days, the 24-year-old is a college graduate from San Francisco’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and the University of California, Berkeley. She is also closing in on her seventh year of self-employment with her company ESEF Apparel, a screen printing design shop located in Vacaville that counts among its customers several departments at NorthBay Medical Center.
The business originally began in 2007 as a clothing company by Inglebright and some friends. Inglebright created her own marketing venues by hitting up some of the under-21 clubs to allow her to host an event on a night that usually wasn’t busy. She’d hire bands, make the T-shirts by outsourcing the screen printing and then, depending on the agreement, she’d collect the door cover charges plus money from T-shirts sales.
“It was kind of fun because we created our own demand,” she said.
When she turned 21, she said that opened an entire new set of venues.
She called herself tenacious, with an innate nature to hustle, and rather unwilling to settle on the word, “no.” She said for everyone who gave her a chance in the early days, just as many told her to go away. She credits her business sense, acumen and attitude to her parents, who she called “super supportive.”
Armed with that business sense, she kept asking herself how she could make her business better.
“You can’t stay static,” she said. “You can’t stay the same because the market is constantly changing.”
That attitude saw the rebirth of her company as a screen print shop. She bought her first press in 2010 and set up shop in her garage and networked while at U.C. Berkeley, bringing in customers not only from campus but Berkeley establishments as well. This time, instead of outsourcing the T-shirt designs, she began to make them herself, along with the help of her first employee, Mike Chirila, an experienced screen printer she found on Craigslist.
A year after setting up shop in the garage, she ran out of space and moved to a spot at her parents’ business on Walters Court. Once again she expanded and ran out of room and a few months ago set up shop at her own location on Eubanks Court in Vacaville.
The original screen printing press still stands in her Vacaville shop – dwarfed by the newer manual machine that is the largest on the market. Right next to that small machine, Chirila and the newest employee, Joe Perdoni, recently worked on some staff T-shirts for Liberty Christian Center, rebranding itself is Liberty Church. Pedroni placed the shirts, Chirila used a squeegie-type tool to lay the paint – one coat and one color at a time. Between coats it’s “baked” in a flash cure unit.
“It’s fun because you get to do something different every day,” Chirila said. Appealing to his artistic nature, he said that he likes working with the customer to expand on their design ideas.
Paying rent, water, sewer and garbage never felt so good to Inglebright. She credits the growth to not only hard work but to how the company treats its customers. She’s more than tripled her business since moving to the new location and now has about 140 customers. Along with the success and new business location is the sobering realization that she now owes allegiance to two employees. What was once a way to earn some extra money is now a business and career for her.
She runs into the incredulous; those who don’t believe she’s a real business owner – complete with Chamber of Commerce membership. She said the problem isn’t just that she’s young but that she’s also female. That makes little difference to her, though.
“When people tell me I can’t do something, I’m like ‘OK watch me do it,’ ” she said. ”Someone (once) told me U.C. Berkeley was competitive. OK, watch me get in.
“You have to be competitive to get anywhere. You’re not going to be successful (just) because you have good ideas.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.