Mother and son relaunch screen printing business
Debbie Bolken closed her first apparel printing business in Watford City, N.D., more than 23 years ago, but she regretted it.
Then, Bolken and her son, Brent Bolken, started a new screen printing business in West Fargo more than a year ago.
Independent Screen Printing at 25 Sheyenne St., creates custom apparel mostly for local businesses in the Fargo-West Fargo area. The business is primarily operated by Brent Bolken, and his mother, who works a day job at an area bank, assists when she’s needed. Brent’s brother Cody also helps out with the business.
There can be a lot of challenges for a family-owned screen printing business, including competing with other printers in the area and custom apparel websites. The Bolkens hope that their growing connection with the West Fargo community will help grow their business.
What drew you to this location?
Brent: I’ve always like West Fargo. This location here, it was a good price to get in, that’s what I kind of like about West Fargo. It gives better pricing for small-business owners to open up and to start with a ground footing. Sometimes in Fargo it’s a little high and a little harder to get in on the ground level.
How did you get into the screen printing business?
Brent: When I was younger, my mom had started a screen printing business in Watford City called Caps n’ things. … I was a little guy, probably 9 or 10 years old, and I’d come after baseball practice and help her. She did that for about three-four years. She got pretty big doing it, but then she had a lot of other things going on, and she had to focus on her family. She kind of got out of it for a long time.
Debbie: I loved that business, I don’t know why I gave it up. I love the creative side of it; I love the design of it. It was just, I had too many irons in the fire at that time. I regretted it ever since.
Brent: Recently, I had kind of been dissatisfied where I was working, and decided to take a chance and do something different. When I was younger, I liked what she was doing. I’ve always liked apparel, clothing lines, starting your brand or having your own fashion, or even helping people in the business community to establish their brand.
What kind of clients are you serving?
Brent: Local businesses, other businesses, I do play around with selling some stuff online. I’ve done stuff for charitable organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association. I like the charitable organizations, too, Emergency Food Pantry has gone through me recently.
What’s the most difficult part of building a client base?
Brent: It’s definitely getting noticed. It’s definitely kind of getting people to know you exist. Fargo is kind of big yet small place.
It’s getting easier; they always say the first three years are the toughest. It’s been going pretty good, just trying to find that medium, there’s competition more than there has ever been. Once people get to know you in a small-town atmosphere–that’s why I like West Fargo, is they do a lot of stuff locally to help each other, and that would be my hope to really establish myself in the community.
Debbie: We’ve noticed that a lot, it kind of has the feeling of the town that we were from. It reminds us so much of Watford City when we were there.
Independent Screen Printing
- Location: 25 Sheyenne St., West Fargo
- Hours: Monday-Friday 1 to 6 p.m.
- Contact: 701-793-4356 or visit www.ispfargo.com.