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Mark Kissling

How a Single Digital Printer Rescued This Company from Potential Ruin

Event rental business pivots to print to avoid layoffs.

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Though Decal Doodle (Fairhope, AL) accepts client-provided artwork, they do not use stock images/text. Their in-house design team creates custom graphics for each job, such as this wedding dance floor.

SOHO EVENT RENTALS (Fairhope, AL) opened in 2014 in a garage with 50 chairs and quickly grew into one of the largest event rental companies in the southeast, with a 35,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and 30 employees. When the pandemic shutdown began last spring, cancellations started rolling in. However, SOHO had just purchased a Roland DG TrueVIS VG2-540 digital printer/cutter. To preserve their employees’ jobs, they decided to begin producing safety sign-age and other digital graphics, calling their new venture Decal Doodle.

“Our original intent with the printer was to use it strictly for event branding with SOHO. We wanted to bring this portion of our business in-house to eliminate outsourcing costs,” said Mary Beth Massey, director of marketing. “We quickly transitioned from an event rental business to keeping our team employed through digital printing.”

An in-process shot of Decal Doodle’s tent-graphic job at this year’s Super Bowl LV in Tampa, FL.

An in-process shot of Decal Doodle’s tent-graphic job at this year’s Super Bowl LV in Tampa, FL.

Super Doodle

While producing COVID-related signage, Decal Doodle added a UV printer, screenprinter and DTG machine for T-shirts. “We [now] also offer digitally printed floor and window decals, banners, and signage, which have been well-received by our clients,” Massey said. By January of this year, the offshoot had landed two graphics jobs in Tampa at the Super Bowl, creating custom decals for a tent at the Riverwalk and custom stage skirting for a local news station broadcasting on-site. “We were only a very small part of the Super Bowl, but it was a big opportunity for our team,” she said.

Few events are larger than the Super Bowl, but events of every size are now back in force, led perhaps by so many weddings postponed from last year. Custom dance floor and bar wraps have been the most popular for weddings, Massey said, as are partial tent wraps. “The most popular tent wrap is wrapping the gable end of the tent,” she said, adding, “We also offer decals for sidewalls.”

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Decal Doodle was also recently hired to create an entire carnival-inspired event for the juvenile Mardi Gras court in Mobile, AL. “We designed and printed an 8-ft. backdrop for the stage, a custom façade entrance, signs for carnival games and more,” Massey said. For some events, she said clients want collateral items to take with them, including T-shirts, banners, vehicle wraps and other signage.

Print Proofs

“We are able to be more creative with an in-house printer,” Massey said. “When outsourcing, you lose the ability to test and get creative with different print projects.”

When SOHO added their printer, their intention was event branding, but over the last year and a half, the printer has opened doors to many different opportunities. “We’ve moved from a vinyl company to a full-service print shop.” Massey said. “This has taught us that the opportunities are endless in the printing world.”

Mark Kissling is ST’s Editor-in-Chief. Contact him at [email protected]

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