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How The Greek Corner's Expansion is Allowing Them to Give Back

Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery has been in Springfield since 1983, but under the leadership of Jason Parke, the business has grown to a full service printing and embroidery company, allowing them to partner with nonprofits to raise money.

By Juliana Goodwin

May 2019

All of printing inks at The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery Springfield MO
Photo courtesy The Greek Corner Screen Printing and EmbroideryGreek Corner keeps a stock of screen printing ink on hand to fulfill various types of orders for different textile needs.

In 2007, Jason Parke was working for a title company when he decided to buy a starter screen printing kit and pursue a side gig by night. An MSU graduate with a business major and art minor, Parke took a variety of graphic design courses in college so screen printing was up his alley. “My grandparents owned an industrial uniform business for 40 years,” Parke says. “I always knew I wanted to own my own business, I just didn’t know what it was.”

Soon the decision would be made for him. When the housing market collapsed in 2008, Parke was laid off. “Two weeks before they let me go we found out we were expecting our first child, which was really awesome,” Parke says. “[Getting laid off] forced me to do it.” He launched his own venture but being so small had to outsource jobs. Parke quickly decided he wanted to buy an existing business with a recognizable name. It so happened that Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery was for sale.

Greek Corner Screen Printing was founded in 1983 by Steve Bean. Located across from MSU, it built a reputation of creating shirts for fraternities and sororities.

“My grandparents owned an industrial uniform business for 40 years. I always knew I wanted to own my own business, I just didn’t know what it was.”
— Jason Parke, owner, Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery

In 2005, it was purchased by Karla Lampe, who later wanted to sell. On January 1, 2009, Parke became owner, inheriting two employees who are still with him today.

Acquisition became key to the growth of the company. In 2014, Parke bought Integrity Design. “It had in-house embroidery,” Parke says. “It gives us control over production. You are not dependent on a contractor getting it done for you. We can do what we want, when we want it.”

In 2018, Greek Corner acquired Springfield competitor Bigfish Screenprinting LLC and its list of 1,800 clients. Bigfish was known for its philanthropic efforts around town, and Greek Corner has donated to many local causes, so Parke felt the company morals were aligned, and the acquisition would give his company a larger market share.

The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery print shop Springfield MO
Photo courtesy The Greek Corner Screen Printing and EmbroideryA peek inside the print shop at The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery.

Today, Greek Corner has 20 employees. Although the company continues to expand, it has seen its share of rough years. Parke’s optimism lies in his niche.

Greek Corner is the official screen printer and embroiderer for MSU athletics, one of the company’s largest clients. Greek Corner has done extensive work with the Springfield Cardinals and Bass Pro Shops Fitness Series, and has printed 25,000 shirts for Walmart’s annual shareholders conference. Working with churches and nonprofits is a significant portion of the business.

Meeting deadlines is a pillar of Parke’s outfit, and he’s focused on customer service because most of his customers come from referrals or are repeat business.

At the company Christmas lunch last year, he reminded employees that even when it gets stressful, when there’s a rush job, they should focus on customer service.

“What I want to remember is there is a human being wearing this shirt, and we want it to be the best shirt possible so they have the best experience in it,” Parke says. “None of us really needs another T-shirt; most shirts are bought as an emotional experience, a mission trip, a baseball game, it’s an emotional experience.”

“None of us really need another T-shirt; most shirts are bought as an emotional experience, a mission trip, a baseball game, it’s an emotional experience.”
— Jason Parke, owner, Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery

GROWING 

When Parke bought the business, it was on the verge of closing. He kept a handful of customers but had to basically start from the ground up.

Most of the equipment was old and had been damaged in a 2007 flood, so much of the printing was done in Nixa. It wasn’t efficient.

He moved the business from the corner of Grand Street and National Avenue to Chestnut Expressway. Parke upgraded to state-of-the-art equipment, an automated screen printing press, and the best software for special art effects. Having the right equipment is key to delivering the right product.

Silk screen printing at The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery Springfield MO
Photo courtesy The Greek Corner Screen Printing and EmbroideryThe silk screen printing machine enables Greek Corner produce shirts quickly and efficiently.

The new location and equipment worked for about five years and then the business outgrew the space, and moved 500 feet away to a larger location where it stayed for four years.

After the Bigfish acquisition, it was time to move again to accommodate the growth of the company.

Last summer, Parke purchased a 23,000-square-foot building that used to house Ozarks Technical Community College’s workforce development program.

As the business grows, Parke's uses his father Brad, who is also general manager of the company, for advice and wisdom. His father worked with Parke's grandfather for 20 years and now helps his son through the company's growing pains.

As the company expands, its method of income changes but currently, embroidery accounts for 15 percent of the business; screen printing is 80 percent; and the rest is promotional products, such as golf balls.

T-shirts waiting for shipping at The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery Springfield MO
Photo courtesy The Greek Corner Screen Printing and EmbroideryPiles of shirts wait on the shop floor before getting printed and boxed for shipment to clients.

A HELPING HAND 

The primary way Greek Corner gives back is through MoneyTees, which are fundraising T-shirts for churches, mission trips, nonprofits, etc.

Customers pick their design and shirt style, and Greek Corner sets up an online store to help them sell. For example, Greek Corner might provides shirts for $5 each but then sells them on the website for $15. At the end of the fundraiser, Parke sends a check to the customer with the proceeds. Currently, Greek Corner maintains 60 MoneyTees websites.

Through MoneyTees, Greek Corner has worked with various nonprofits, including Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks and Relay for Life, to help raise money.

“I’ve been very blessed throughout my life, and it’s a way to give back in different ways,” Parke says. “There are lots of people who have it a lot harder than I do. I can’t fix stuff, I am not all that smart, but if there is a way to help, I want to help.”

Daughter of Jason Parke, owner of The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery

Jason Parke's father isn't the only family member participating in the business. His daughter, Reagan, learns to do a print at the Greek Corner Open House.

Jason Parke, owner of The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery, on a trip to Haiti with Allmade Apparel

Allmade Apparel and Greek Corner travel to Haiti to work with a local orphanage to provide work and income for residents.

Photos courtesy The Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery

Greek Corner also uses Allmade Apparel to give back, which are environmentally friendly shirts that help support families in Haiti. Haiti has a high orphan rate, and many parents struggle to support their families. The average worker in a Haitian garment factory is paid $5.11 a day, but Allmade pays its workers three times that figure, with additional incentives to earn up to five times the minimum wage. Through these increased wages, Allmade’s goal is to support local families while simultaneously addressing the high number of orphans.

Parke was introduced to the shirts by one of his vendors, and took a trip to Haiti to visit the factory where the shirts were made. It was a profound experience, and he makes an effort to promote the product whenever he can.

The shirts are also environmentally friendly. Allmade shirts are made with recycled polyester, which comes from recycled water bottles. Every tri-blend shirt contains the equivalent of six plastic water bottles. Allmade uses organic, non-GMO cotton grown in the United States, and it uses TENCEL™ Modal, which is made from sustainably harvested beech trees in PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) certified European forests.

The shirts cost about $5 more than a regular garment, so it’s not for everyone, but Parke would love to see the brand take off.

How The Greek Corner is Making Donations

Giving back is important to Jason Parke. His business partners with churches, nonprofits and mission trips and sells MoneyTees, which benefit nonprofits.

60

MoneyTees Sites

$59,000

Total Donations

40

Organizations Helped

LESSONS LEARNED

Parke has learned a lot from his first days on the job and continues to glean new knowledge. The first thing he’d tell any entrepreneur is to expect the unexpected and have enough cash flow to cover the unexpected.

“Make sure you have a great relationship with your bank, accountant and attorney. I’ve got all three of those,” he says.
The company acquired Bigfish with growth in mind but immediately ran into problems and extra expenses. Parke was paying rent and a mortgage on three locations until he was able to lease the other two buildings and move into the new facility.

Although it wasn’t the first acquisition, it was the largest and presented more challenges. He had to build customer relationships with 1,800 potential clients and keep his regular clients happy, too.

There was staff training and turnover. The additional workload was more than expected. “Whatever due diligence you are doing, double it, do your homework, do your research,” Parke says. “The other two businesses were such a small scale if something did not go exactly right, it was okay, but this was on such a larger scale, if something went wrong, it could get out of hand fairly quickly.”

Life is back to normal now. Parke has sold most of the old equipment, bought new equipment and is looking at purchasing even more equipment to make life easier on his staff.

Parke’s last piece of advice for any entrepreneur is don’t enter lightly into a business venture. “However hard you think it’s going to be, double it,” Parke says. “Make sure you are surrounded by a great team, which we’ve got. This is my tenth year in the business, and we have the best group of people we have ever had.”