Livin' the dream one design at a time.

Dreamer: Becky Ramaeker

Business: Ramaeker Enterprises, Inc

Location: Knoxville, IA

Industry Contest: Manufacturing/Bioscience/IT

Voting Help

Manufacturing/Bioscience/IT Current Rank
Number of votes
Bookmark and Share
We are dreaming big, growing local and we need a new home. We are a family owned and operated, home based, screen printing, embroidery, and sign business and we are bursting at the seams. We bought some land and we plan on breaking ground this spring.
Business Description:
Ramaeker Enterprises, Inc. is a fast growing apparel decoration and sign business located in rural Knoxville, Iowa. We have some very simple goals.
• Be profitable
• Deliver quality products
• Provide exceptional customer service
• Grow our market share

So, how do we plan to do this? Who is Ramaeker Enterprises, Inc.? What does our future hold?

Who we are:
Ramaeker Enterprises, Inc. is a family owned and operated screen printing business, managed by Tom & Becky Ramaeker. We are a home-based business. We started the business in 2002, the same year our first grandchild was born. We started very slowly, getting a job here and there from friends and acquaintances. We both had full-time jobs. Tom worked at a local lumber yard, so we targeted small contractors in the beginning for jobs. This was perfect match for us, small orders that gave us the opportunity to learn the trade. Becky worked for an IT company, so the art side of screen printing was a nice reprieve from the stressful corporate world.

For the past 3 years, or so, we have been self-employed, leaving those real “day” jobs behind. We now have four grandkids. We are a family business so from time to time we have had all three kids, two son-in-laws and two grandkids help out (two grandkids are still in diapers, so not much help from them).

Our business has grown to now include 10 full and part time employees.

Where we have been:
We started in our garage with a used printing press and a brand new mini-oven to dry the t-shirts. Everything fit in the garage, but who wants to work in a garage meant to park cars? We only lasted there about 6 months until the spring of 2003 when we added a 576 square foot addition for the print shop. The garage became a garage again (we’ll come back to the garage, it seems to be a recurring theme). We worked hard developing a steady customer base in our community, mostly small businesses and school sports teams.

We found that finding customers to buy t-shirts is pretty easy, who doesn’t like t-shirts after all? We worked hard at improving the quality of our products, we had a lot to learn. We planned our growth carefully. When we needed new equipment, we worked until we had the cash to pay for the next item we wanted. By doing business this way we had little or no financial risk looming over our heads. We couldn’t do everything, but we were learning to do what we did very well and developing strong customer relationships.

Three years ago we decided to take the next big step in our business journey. We added another 864 square foot addition on to our house. Up to this point we only had a manual printing press. We had now decided to take the plunge and purchase an automatic printing press, which automated much of the printing process. We had to save our pennies a long time to be able to purchase this with cash, but we did it! This was a major milestone for us. We still have the manual press, so now we can run both presses every day. The auto gave us the opportunity to bid on larger jobs, giving us a larger market share.

As it goes with businesses when you add equipment and customers, you have to add employees, so again we ran out of room. We’re back to the garage story. Our office now resides in our “garage”. We had another major remodel permanently closing up the garage to make for a modern office space. We still run out of room from time to time when we receive large shipments, so we purchased an 8’ x 26’ trailer that serves as our external warehouse.

To meet our customer needs we have expanded our product offerings. We started with a plan to just offer screen printed items, but there is so much more out there. We offer custom embroidery, rhinestone decoration, sign work, design services and promotional products. We learned to be flexible meeting our customer’s needs.

We strive for excellence in everything that we do, and stand behind the products that we produce. We believe in giving back to our community. We recently donated 1,000 shirts to our local Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser. We recently had a volunteer work day for our employees. We volunteered to work at a Habitat for Humanity house. It was a great team building day.

Where are we headed?
We are at the next major milestone in our business. We are out of room again….no more garages to convert! We have decided to take a giant step forward and build a commercial building. We purchased commercial property last summer and are hoping to break ground on it this spring. We are in the final stages of planning and will be seeking financing in the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to save enough pennies for this new building. We have a history of proven profitability and business growth. Our new facility will be 7200 square feet, leaving us with some room to grow.

Our plan is to expand our printing capabilities by adding another automatic and manual press to our production area within a year or two. We are adding a retail space in the front of the building so that we can have some pre-print items for sale at our location. We are expanding our sign printing area to better house our 60” wide format printer.
\We have recently added a sales and marketing staff person to help us grow our sales. Our core customer base are local businesses and organizations. In the past couple of years, we have been targeting businesses outside of our area, but it is hard to do with the staff that we had.
We plan on growing our business outside our area, focusing on high school apparel, brewery apparel and events, such as runs, bike races (on and off road) touring events, music, concerts and local restaurants. We cater to our local businesses first and foremost focusing on quality service and great prices.

We have recently added a sales and marketing manager to balance our processes, to increase sales and widen our market share. This will help us expand outside our current local market by entering into larger metro markets, such as the Des Moines Metro, Ames, Iowa City and much more. This manager has experience in sales, marketing, advertising, social media management and the service industry which has afforded her a large network of established relationships. These dynamic relationships will help us increase our client base and sustain our growth well into the future.
Our short term strategic marketing plan will entail targeting specific demographics to create niche markets. This plan will focus on larger school districts, brewery apparel and events, such as runs, bike races (on and off road) touring events, music and local restaurants. This will bring us into a sustainable long term marketing strategy that can be changed and tweaked to meet our growing clients’ businesses as well as our own.
A primary goal is to cater to locally owned businesses first and foremost, focusing on quality service and affordable prices. We don’t just “do” t-shirts, we create a brand, a marketing medium for these local businesses that is sustainable to them and affordable to their businesses.
Reason for Entering:
We have outgrown our space! The land is all paid for. We need help with building costs and new equipment.
With a new building there are so many things that the grant money can be used for.
There are a couple of new things that we will need very soon after moving into our new facility.
• We need a new phone system. Currently we use “off the shelf” phones, they work, but there is a better way to manage our telecommunications.
o Estimate for a new phone system is $5,800.
• We will also be building or purchasing a permanent table for our sign shop. Currently we do most of our sign work on 6’ foldable tables. We need a more efficient workspace, and the table is part of that solution.
o Cost of a 48” x 132” work table is $500.
• We need additional software for our new and existing staff members.
o Cost of additional licensing for our art software is $500.
o Cost of each additional license for our production management/accounting software is $1000 per user, we need at least two additional licenses.
• The building itself is a huge investment.
o Estimated cost of the building is over $300,000.