Top Stories of 2021

Before we head into 2022, let's take a look back at the year's most popular stories

As we look forward to a new year, it goes without saying that we’ve seen a great deal of rebuilding, growth, and change in 2021. From the continued COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many businesses to shutter, pivot, and reevaluate, to shops reinventing themselves, serving their communities, and taking steps to survive the “new normal,” the year was anything but typical.

Before we jump into 2022, we wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the year’s top stories.



  • GRAPHICS PRO EXPO is the natural evolution of decades of combined-market trade show success.
  • This brand alignment allowed for growth and clarity while keeping the things that made THE NBM SHOW special intact.
  • In 2021, GPX produced six safe and successful events during a year of transition and continued uncertainty.

GRAPHICS PRO EXPO Announces 2022 In-Person Event Schedule

  • In 2022 GPX will be back with more: more exhibitors and floor space, more networking, more special programming and events, and more training while continuing to provide a safe and personalized experience.
  • “Bringing you the live, in-person GRAPHICS PRO EXPO has been a pure delight for us in 2021, even with all of the challenges and limitations of the pandemic,” says Dave Pomeroy, president of National Business Media, the parent company of GPX. “But we’ve got more great ideas, energy, and momentum ready to roll in 2022. We’ll be coming back with more in every city we visit — come see what we mean.”


Top custom graphics news

S&S Activewear Acquired TSC Apparel

  • According to S&S, joining forces with TSC allowed it to bring a larger depth of inventory and an expanded product offering to the marketplace.
  • “We see this as an exciting next chapter for our company,” says TSC CEO Dave Klotter. “Through a similar customer-centric approach, S&S will be able to build on our success that will greatly benefit our industry.”

Custom Graphics Industry Faces Supply Chain Woes

  • From awards and engraving to apparel decoration and signage and digital printing industries, there wasn’t a sector untouched by supply chain issues this year — an effect of the pandemic.

The Wrap Industry Lost a Friend and Mentor

  • Jeremiah Breitigan, owner/operator of That’s a Wrap in Nashville, Tennessee, passed away on Sept. 15.
  • Breitigan, who lost an arduous battle with cancer, is remembered by friends and colleagues as a craftsman, a leader, an example, and a fighter.

SBA Increased Lending Limit for COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it would increase the maximum amount small businesses and nonprofit organizations can borrow through its COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
  • Starting the week of April 6, 2021, the SBA raised the loan limit for the COVID-19 EIDL program from 6 months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $150,000 to up to 24 months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $500,000.

Sublimation Expert David Gross Released “Sublimation Journal”

  • The publication provides digital decorators with a way to maintain a detailed journal on production-oriented topics.
  • “From equipment settings to marketing objectives, writing in a journal helps to sift through the clutter of a busy day while also providing a record of successes, failures, and questions,” says Gross. “This is the best way to ensure consistency, minimize production waste, and get to the bottom of future problems. Most importantly, writing things down when they happen is the key to receiving good tech support.”

OKI Signed Exclusive OEM Agreement with Imaging Supplies Warehouse

  • Imaging Supplies Warehouse launched a new line of digital transfer printers, powered by OKI Technology, to the Americas market, called Crio.
  • Under the exclusive partnership between OKI and ISW, the new brand is the only authorized OKI-based printer in the digital transfer and garment decoration markets engineered, customized, and certified by OKI for distribution in the Americas.

InkSoft Announced Partnership with Penn Emblem

  • Through the partnership, InkSoft customers have an entry point into a wholesale account and Penn Emblem’s services without investing in the equipment, training, or space.
  • “To sum it all up: you get all of that value without changing a thing in your operations,” says InkSoft co-founder JP Hunt.

In the field

Two Kentucky Teachers Bring Affordable Embroidery to Customers

  • In Owensboro, Kentucky, two teachers took their love for embroidered garments and turned it into a side hustle.
  • They formed The Tailored Teachers in January 2021 and became an LLC in April 2021 after deciding to make their side hustle something they wanted to “pursue seriously,” Anne-Courtney Feenick, co-owner, tells GRAPHICS PRO.

20-Year-Old Takes Over Ohio Engraving Shop

  • For Cameron Snowden, the road to owning Buckeye Designs & Engraving was a long and unexpected one.
  • “I thought about it for about three months while trying to figure out a loan and financial aspects of all of it until I finally just went all in, and we signed our contract on Nov. 30,” Snowden recalls.

Michigan Amputee Finds Purpose in Laser Engraving Business

  • After Brandon Smith, a Michigan native, lost his right leg in 2018, his wife Nicole was looking for something to take the stress off her husband, and that’s how Cutting Edge Laser Engraving was born.
  • “Our absolute favorite aspect of this business is seeing our customers’ faces when you hand them their item or bring an idea to life. Being able to take what is basically a worthless item and turn it into a priceless item is amazing. We love when we see the tears of joy when they receive their gift,” Nicole says.

Where are they now?

One year into the pandemic, we caught up with some industry suppliers to see how they handled supply chain issues and more. Tune in to see what these folks had to say:

From supply chain halts to price increases, to say it was another unprecedented year is an understatement. Despite the challenges, the custom graphics industry showed up and supported each other. We want to thank you for sharing your stories, triumphs, and struggles. We can’t wait to serve you in 2022!

Avatar of Marie Fennema

Marie Fennema

Marie Fennema is the managing editor of GRAPHICS PRO, including GRAPHICS PRO Today, covering news and guidance in apparel decoration, awards and engraving, and sign and digital printing.

View all articles by Marie Fennema  

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