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Trust, high expectations delivering growth at CustomInk

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz
www.MarcelloRostagni.com & www.Facebook.com/MarcelloRostagniPhotography & https://twitter.com/#!/MRostagniPhoto
Marcello Rostagni |

Lori Mayfield called her parents 13 years ago, all excited, to let them know she’d found a great job.

In a dot.com.

In the T-shirt business.



They were skeptical about Mayfield’s prospects — and wrong.

Mayfield today is one of more than 300 employees of CustomInk LLC in northern Nevada, a cadre that’s set to grow as the company headquartered at Fairfax, Va., last week officially opened a sales service office in South Meadows.



Mayfield, who now works as a community outreach lead for the company in Reno, was among the staff showing visitors around the new 58,000-square-foot facility at 9390 Gateway Drive last week.

With the new facility, CustomInk expects to add another 300 jobs in the Reno area during the next five years.

The company specializes in customized T-shirts for groups — corporate events, for instance, or family reunions — and special events. (Among its suppliers is SanMar Corp., the Sparks company that itself broke ground on a 750,000-square-foot distribution center in Spanish Springs last week.)

CustomInk arrived in northern Nevada in 2012, employing about 100 people at an office and production facility on the east side of Reno. It’s still using that location for production.

Marc Katz, the co-founder and president of the privately held company, dislikes the phrase “corporate culture” as a shopworn mantra that’s become meaningless, but the company has worked hard to maintain the same spirit among its staff as it’s grown from a startup in 2000 to a three-location, 1,000-employee company today. It’s opening an additional production facility in Dallas this year.

Wearing a red T-shirt, jeans and a gray hoodie emblazoned with CustomInk’s logo — a stylized smiling octopus named Inky — Katz last week settled into a conference room at the new Reno office to talk about how the company instills its values in a rapidly growing workforce.

“It’s about hiring,” he says. “We really look for people who share the company’s values — The Golden Rule, ownership and innovation.”

The company’s employees come to work in T-shirt and flip-flops, enjoy free weekly lunches and daily snacks and receive a rich benefits package.

In exchange, the company holds employees — many of them in their first fulltime jobs — to high standards for sales, graphic design, technology and customer service.

Katz says that surveys find that Inkers — the company’s name for its staff — place greater value on their ability to work as part of a hard-working, high-performing team than they place on the more superficial elements of a good workplace.

CustomInk has been recognized by the Best Places to Work program in northern Nevada — and similar programs across the nation.

Katz says the company’s ability to find workers who share the company’s values played an important part in its decision to expand its northern Nevada operations.

While growth in the $5 billion T-shirt sector has been cooling, Katz says CustomInk posted growing sales of more than $170 million in 2013.