By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer
Friday, November 16, 2012 —
When Wendy Lingerfelt began doing embroidery work as a side job back in 1991, she probably didn’t realize where that work would lead her today.
At the time, Lingerfelt was working in a business that served fishermen with equipment like lures and rods and reels. There was also becoming the need for the business to self-promote itself with things like hats and shirts. At the same time, some customers were also seeking the same things for themselves and their own businesses.
So Lingerfelt began doing that embroidery work on the side and on weekends. But it didn’t take long for her to realize that job was taking up more time than she could budget into her already busy schedule.
It was a good problem to have, though. It motivated her to eventually start her own business, in that same building where she previously worked. So in February 1992, after getting her business license and other things needed to get started, she began her own full-time embroidery business. She later met another demand by expanding her business to include screen printing.
Hence Wendy’s Embroidery Specialities & Screen Printing, located in Albemarle.
“I bought the machine, a lot of it to do our own stuff,” Lingerfelt said.
“Then everybody else wanted it done too, and I started doing work for them too, then it just kind of blossomed from that point.”
Lingerfelt said business was good in the beginning. So good that she realized pretty quickly she would have to devote herself to it full-time instead of trying to do it all on the side.
“Probably a few years after that I decided then it was more than I could do part-time and on Saturdays to keep it going,” Lingerfelt said.
“It was consuming me. Between a full-time job and that, it didn’t become a hobby anymore. It became something that I said ‘I’ve got to do this. I’m going to have to stop one thing or the other.’
“There comes a point and time when you know that you can make it and there’s enough repeat business that you know it’s coming. You just know when it’s right to quit your full-time job and come home and do this forever. When you can financially afford it too, I guess. Because I had a small child at that time.”
Soon a single-head machine out in front of where she worked turned into three six-head embroidery machines and two single-head machines that helped make up most of her new business. After about 10 years, Lingerfelt said she saw enough of a need for screen printing that she purchased an automatic screen printing press and a manual press.
“Probably about 10 years of being in business, we determined that people that wanted embroidery done also had a need for screen printing, which is just printed T-shirts,” Lingerfelt said.
“We jobbed a lot of stuff out to someone else for screen printing. I did her embroidery, she did my screen printing.
“We just kind of went back and forth. Probably about 10 years into the business, we determined that it was a good idea to venture out and do screen printing, also. So we purchased screen printing and did that, too.”
Soon she was doing more than just T-shirts. Customers wanted hats, coats, pens, letter openers, business cards … just name it. And her business wasn’t just serving people locally. Her crew of 8-9 employees were soon doing work for businesses in places like Texas. Those companies send their product to her, they would do the work then send it to its final destination.
“I think they know the quality of work they are going to get here,” Lingerfelt said.
“That’s something I’ve always stressed with everybody. We want quality, not quantity.
"I can produce shirts all day long, but if they don't look good and the customer isn't happy with them, then they are not going to come back. If you give them a good quality product, they’ll come back.”
January and February are typically the slow months in the business. But once spring sports seasons begins for high school, travel ball and recreation, things really pick up. That continues through the rest of the year with businesses wanting to purchase finished products they can give to their employees as holiday gifts.
So despite a sluggish economy, business continues to be good, even after 20 years at it. And a small dream Lingerfelt had to branch out on her own has become something more than she could have imagined when she first got started.
“It’s provided a decent living for me and my family. I’m proud of that fact,” Lingerfelt said.
“A lot of hard work in it. But I’m pretty happy with where we are at.
“You can always use more business, but we’re pretty happy with where we are at despite where the economy is at. A lot of companies in embroidery and screen print, a lot of people I’ve known in this industry have shut down. It’s just not there. I’m just thankful to still be here and still be functioning.
“And I pretty much couldn't have done it without the people that are working for me. I’ve got the best people in the whole wide world working for me. They don’t come any better. I don’t think I could look the world over and find people as dedicated as I have. Without them, I couldn’t do it.”
For more on Wendy’s, go to 1embroideredspecialties. com.