Unknown Arts Studio

Starting a business can be a daunting task. It usually means taking big risks and making yourself susceptible to the whims of the market, arduous hours and the incredible stress of trying to be successful at what you are doing. We’ve all heard the statistic that the majority of businesses fail and a good chunk of them don’t even get off of the ground. So, that being said, here is the story of three, young entrepreneurs who have succeeded at starting a business and are beginning to make some headway. While still in school at Champlain College, Dan Allen, Scott Thompson and Curt Prestash had become acquainted with one another. Prestash, who was already familiar with screen printing, a techniques that uses woven mesh to transfer ink onto another material, teamed up with Allen, a Web Design and Development major, to launch a website and a small business selling shirts. The business was short lived, but it was the beginning of a future collaboration. After graduating, Allen, Prestash and Thompson, a Multimedia and Graphic Design major, got together to brainstorm a new venture. They spent a summer planning and negotiating a deal with the owner of some old silk-screening equipment and the supplies necessary to get the project rolling. After purchasing the start up materials, they went ahead with the steps of opening a business. “We found very few difficulties as far as legal and state regulations when starting up. We found that part to be very easy. The real difficulty is seeing the need for a product or service, studying the market, evolving the product over time, responding to customer’s feedback, and staying motivated and passionate about what you do.” The studio opened in October of 2009. Business started off slow and they found that getting customers was the most difficult part. “We learned the hard lesson that putting something somewhere doesn't mean that anyone knows about it.” Slowly, more orders began to come in and the word started to move around. A lot of this success can be attributed to the pride that the Unknown Arts Studio takes in contributing to the local art and music scene in the area by getting involved with events and activities and even sponsoring a few of them. They say that this has had a positive effect on both how they treat their work and how they are perceived as a company. “They [customers] don't just see another manufacturing company pumping out T-shirts, they see a collective of people that want to work closely with the community and feel good about what they do.” Right now the Unknown Arts Studio is almost exclusively screen-screening, as far as garment embellishing goes, although they have also been doing paper prints like signs, posters, restaurant menus and business cards. “Because the rabbit hole goes so deep, we're always finding many new and exciting challenges in the screen printing world. We also find ourselves expanding and exploring the areas of retail, fashion, marketing, and distribution.” In the future, the company hopes to see a continued pattern of growth, not just for their own business, but also a stronger connection to their community and to their area. “We want to have a line of prints and clothing that speaks volumes about Vermont's life, values, and traditions. As our artwork and printing techniques become polished and we will get better and better at showing off our beautiful state. And hopefully a bigger studio, we're starting to run out of space to put shirts!” By Neel Tandan