Husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Russ and Michelle Williamson hope to make a lasting impression.
The pair, Greene natives, launched The Softer Side, a custom garment-printing business, in August 2021.
The Williamsons said their newest business, incorporated in early January, is growing alongside their other store, RJW Sales, a gun shop at 50 Genesee St. in Greene. Production for The Softer Side, they said, takes place in their garage facility, with retail and pickup sales offered through the store.
“We have the gun shop business, and New York isn’t really friendly to guns, so we wanted to expand to another offering to supplement our incomes,” Russ said. “I’ve always done graphic designing, since I was a kid, so we have that experience working with the latest (programs), like Photoshop.
“We started our gun shop business in the garage and grew it to where we needed a storefront and we’ve had that for eight years,” he continued. “So, we figured we’d start something for my wife to do with the custom apparel. We started out in August and are just testing local people and learning the machines and equipment.”
The Williamsons said The Softer Side primarily offers apparel.
“We have a direct-to-garment printer, so it’s T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts — that’s pretty much we print on at the moment — and we do koozies, though we’re hoping to expand to more hard items,” Michelle said.
“Our biggest item right now is hoodies,” Russ said. “We do offer sleeve-work and we have a local brewery that we do shirts for, and they sell them, so we do wholesale … and that’s something we’ve been trying to gear toward: businesses and doing their shirts for employees. It’s businesses and schools and, with our piece of equipment, it’s not like a silkscreen system where you want 50 to 100 items and are allowed one or two colors; our direct-to-garment printer prints directly to the shirt and does high-end, high-color graphics. And we’re going to be offering glow-in-the-dark stuff and foil-type shirts and blacklight shirts.”
Despite The Softer Side’s newness, the Williamsons said, growth has been swift.
“We started doing it in the middle of August and haven’t really done advertising too much,” Michelle said. “It’s basically been word-of-mouth, and a lot of customers through our other business, so that’s how we started to grow.”
“We’re growing fast and trying to keep up,” Russ echoed. “We’re in the process of developing a website … so we can offer fundraising events, where, if you buy items on the website, so much goes to the fundraiser and it tracks how much adds up. We’re going to start promoting the website … and we’ve done (apparel for) four or five schools’ sports, so it took off quite quickly.”
Their customer base, the Williamsons said, is reflective of that.
“We started mostly in Greene schools and with local people, but we’re probably doing a 30- to 40-mile radius right now,” Russ said. “We’re hoping the online site starts getting our name out a little bit more, but we do have businesses we work with … and that’s what’s nice about our other store: I meet a lot of business owners, so if they want their logo on shirts, we can provide the graphics and design some of the logo.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and a lot of local support,” he continued. “The big thing is … we’re really custom. They can show us a picture and we design the graphic. And we have a lot of apparel on hand, probably over 1,000 (pieces), so we can turn it around quickly. Locals like that they can get it quickly, pick it up quickly and they get a product that lasts.”
“I’ll be talking about something else and (people) will be like, ‘Oh, you’re that T-shirt person,’” Michelle said. “So, our name’s getting out there and it’s really nice that people are reaching out to us to see what we can do for them.”
The Williamsons said, as The Softer Side establishes itself, they plan to go “full-tilt.”
“We’re going to get the branding out … and I’m looking at other equipment and we’re expanding with our heat presses,” Russ said. “The difficulty with a lot of print shops offering multi-color items on polyester or dry-wick, athletic-type shirts … is it doesn’t hold up as well, so we’re looking into equipment that’ll take care of that and fill that niche, because activewear is hard to print on, so we’re hoping to accomplish that soon, so that’s our future.
“We’re thinking about providing vinylworks, like car wraps, but we’re not there yet,” he continued. “That’s a five-year plan, if we take that route. There are so many things we could spin off that we haven’t even tried yet.”
The Williamsons said, with the launch of the website, they plan, too, to offer shipping.
For more information, find “The Softer Side, Ltd.” on Facebook or visit softerside.com.