When participants in Sunday’s Head for the Cure 5K race take off at 8 a.m. in Corporate Woods, they’ll be wearing a little bit of Rellec Apparel Graphics.
It’s just one of the many area races that have been outfitted by Rellec, started by Jerod Eller in 2010.
“We are the named printer for all of Head for the Cure national races all over the country,” Eller said. Rellec also provides T-shirts for other charity events including the Glow Run 5K, The Groundhog Run and the Amy Thompson Run.
“We have begun the ‘week-of-ordering’ initiative for all of our races,” Eller said. “This means that with our races above 500 shirts, we have the option to order the week of the race to...get your race shirt numbers right where you need them.”
Q: What does Rellec offer?
“We are a full-service, wholesale t-shirt design and printing company,” Eller said. The company offers silk-screen printing, logo graphics, t-shirts, and media and print graphics, heat transfers and embroidery.
“We focus on the bulk, large volume orders,” he said.
The company can print designs on a variety of apparel, including fleece, jackets, sweatshirts, hats and other headgear.
Q: How did you get into this business and why?
“I was actually working as a landscape architect and when the recession hit I was finding myself at a dead end,” Eller said.
With a background in graphics, Eller decided to try his hand at printing T-shirts. “I started with my cousin Abe Eller and myself printing in my basement...We got our name by using our last name backwards and adding the C for cousin.”
Jerod Eller’s parents financed the purchase of a small screen printer and the cousins’ business was off and running. Rellec’s first customers were small clubs at Bishop Miege High School where his dad was a coach.
“I did still have a full-time job when I started Rellec,” Eller said. His cousin had an outside fulltime job, as well. Eller was married and had a baby at about the same time.
“In 2011, I quit my fulltime job to give it all to Rellec. That’s when it began to grow.”
In 2012, Rellec’s business had increased so much that Eller moved out of the basement and into warehouse space in Lenexa.
Q: How were you able to move into a bigger space?
Eller’s cousin works at Alenco Home Improvement and stepped in to help out.
“I got a great lease rate (at Alenco) and we were able to get into warehouse space fairly cheaply. It was a “great incubator and harvested our ability to grow.”
Once in the 3,500-square feet of warehouse space, Eller purchased a large pneumatic printer with eight stations and six-color capability.
“It increased our productivity five-fold, and it is a lot less labor intensive,” he said.
Last year, he purchased a conveyer dryer. Both large pieces of equipment were purchased through lease-to-own arrangements.
In addition to moving to a larger facility, Eller got a new business partner in 2013 when his cousin sold his share to Troy Fitzgerald, who also owns KC Running Co.
“He bought equity into the company for his races,” Eller said. Fitzgerald is not involved in Rellec’s day-to-day operations. Eller said partnering with Fitzgerald has been a great move on his part.
”I got my foot in the door with KC Running Co. because the T-shirt guy he was using was not local or reliable,” Eller said. “I started providing them with shirts and graphic and kind of worked my way up. I wanted the ability to grow my brand quicker and he made me the sole graphics guy for KC Running.”
Q: Who are your customers and how do you market to them?
Rellec’s customers consist mainly of schools, clubs, businesses and non-profit organizations that put on races and walks.
“Doing philanthropic things has helped, like becoming sponsors for races for causes that I feel strongly about such as Project Walk Kansas City, and Baconfest,” Eller said. “It obviously helps the charity grow, and obviously if the charity grows, I can grow with it. And it is a good way for me to advertise my brand to people I am focusing on.”
Rellec relies heavily on word of mouth to increase business. Eller does plan to put finances behind some radio advertising, as well.
Q: What about competition?
“There is a lot of competition out there and the key for any business is finding their niche,” he said. “In the beginning I didn’t know what my niche would be. The 5k and 10k race fad was taking off. I had connections through them (KC Running Co.) that helped me to have a foundation in the market in Kansas City. It started the snowball rolling and grew at a much fast rate.”
Eller said he concentrates on providing a high level of service that has customers coming back again and again.
Q: What challenges do you face with Rellec?
“Maximizing profitability and minimizing mistakes and bumps in the road,” Eller said.
Scheduling is another hurdle. Eller has five employees.
“Just dealing day to day and week to week with employees and the job,” he said. Using a Google calendar has helped Eller as well as regularly communicating with employees.
“We sit down every Friday for a quick staff meeting and look at the due dates of jobs and plan,” Eller said.
Q: Growth and future?
Joining forces with KC Running Co. has taken Rellec to the next level providing a steady revenue stream to add staff.
“I don’t know where I would be” without KC Running, Eller said. “It freed me up to have better buying power with my wholesale vendors and have sales through the back door, gain employees and capital while I could go with external sales and bring in new clients and referrals from them.”
Now Eller is considering a move to meet his growing need for space.
IN A NUTSHELL
COMPANY: Rellec Apparel Graphics
ADDRESS: 16201 West 110th St., Lenexa
WEB SITE: www.rellec.com