By Brenlee Coates
Hip-hop leads me into Floodway Print Company’s space and assures me I’ve found the right place. Then a friendly Cory Beal hops up to greet me from his office and leads me to his setup: he’s got several monitors running his house brands as the screensaver, Floodway’s sleek logo and the BMX culture brand, Repset.
“It all came from Repset I guess,” says Cory, of his custom screen-printing business. “When I was 16 years old, it was just a website to promote BMX. It was like a blog; we posted our friends’ videos.”
He and his friends saw T-shirts as an easy way to promote what they were up to, and Cory went through some of the typical frustrations when he sought out a custom T-shirt printing service.
“Being a customer, I realized how tough it was just to get a shirt made… what was missing from all of it.”
Cory has helped streamline the process through an approachable, navigable website with easy-to-read FAQs and resources for each step from creating a design to completing the order.
As a high school kid in Toronto, Cory never went through “shops” classes where students are introduced to screen-printing and woodworking skills, so seeing the first-edition Repset shirts get made was his first sight of the craft. “I just kind of thought, ‘I could do this myself’ right away,” he says.
Making something out of nothing
With a door hinge and some scrap wood, he went to town producing Repset’s promotional wares, and ended up getting a job in the field of screen-printing, doing “really technical printing” like large-scale decals for machinery.
“I really fell in love with just the process… seeing it come from an idea right to the finished product,” says Cory. “Mailing it out, that’s just the best.”
The job didn’t last, but with his knack for making something out of nothing, the next step came quickly. “That sort of entrepreneurial way of thinking kind of just shows up,” says Cory. “I wouldn’t have it any other way now.”
Working with the YMCA-YWCA Self-Employment Training program, Cory got to work building a website, acquiring proper equipment, and locating a space in his desired area. “That was definitely a conscious choice to be in the core. I’ve kind of lived and worked in the downtown as long as I’ve lived here,” he says, of his Portage Avenue location.
Since launching in July 2014, Cory’s been busy with orders, and exactly the ones he was after.
“Every screen-printing job I’ve had, I’ve never printed anything cool in any sense of the word – and now, I feel like every other print is something really cool,” he says.
Keeping his overhead costs down (Cory completes all orders himself and takes time to source the best deals in wholesale apparel), Floodway Print Co. is among the leaders in value in the city. He also keeps costs relatively low for small orders, a point of difficulty in the custom wholesale printing business.
But that doesn’t explain the quality of the commissions he’s getting. One guess is his crisp social media presence, where he shoots his completed projects with a Canon before uploading them to Instagram. Most of his designs easily translate into a tappable Instagram post.
He believes designer referrals are what’s attracting the most business, followed swiftly by Instagram and other social media.
His next promotional venture? You guessed it: apparel. “I would never call myself a designer,” begins Cory, who created Repset but outsourced Floodway’s logo design, “but I love it.”
His latest foray will be based on “Winnipeg, prairie pride. It’s just built on genuine love for the city,” says Cory. “I’m looking for a non-abrasive way to sell our custom printing.”
The new apparel will also let him participate in the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s farmer’s markets and create a presence in the community.
“I think a lot of little places that can cultivate that kind of niche, cult following should do more (apparel). You can literally sell your advertising,” says Cory. “Communities can just be built so easily around good things.
“If you love your city, wear it.”
Photos provided by Floodway Print Co.