Since acquiring Unlimited Designs from a church friend in 2019, Janet Molandes has been at the helm of the Nacogdoches, Texas-based custom printing outlet. Unlimited Designs stands out for its expertise in crafting personalized solutions, offering an array of services such as custom embroidery, vinyl work, screen printing, sublimation, and promotional items.

“We are a custom gift shop for not only personal gifts but also for corporate gifts,” Molandes said. “We achieve that through sublimation, embroidery, direct-to-fill, screen printing, and promotional products. We truly enjoy what we do at Unlimited Designs.”

Under Molandes’ stewardship, Unlimited Designs experienced rapid success. Despite navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the business thrived, with sales climbing to $164,000 by the end of 2020. This marked a significant uptick from the $120,000 in sales recorded the year before Molandes assumed ownership.

In 2021, sales surged to $204,000, followed by a remarkable leap to $310,000 a year later. This momentum continued as Unlimited Designs experienced yet another rise to $364,000 by 2023, marking an unprecedented peak in sales. As of 2024, the business is on track to achieve another record-breaking year, with sales expected to surpass last year’s impressive figures, according to Molandes.

“My goal is to break $400,000,” Molandes said. “I’ve been working hard to get new customers. We turn stuff around in a timely fashion, which is an issue with some of our competitors. There are six other embroidery shops here in Nacogdoches. We have fought to get where we’re at.”

Previously, Unlimited Designs boasted five embroidery machines. However, when Molandes acquired the business, the former owner sold two of the machines, leaving her with only three. Originally operating in a small slot within a complex, Unlimited Designs underwent expansion two years ago, moving to a new venue.

This move facilitated the transformation of their display space, upgrading from a cramped 4×10 area to a sprawling showroom spanning nearly a thousand square feet.

The newfound space provided Unlimited Designs with the chance to acquire more equipment. Molandes seized this opportunity by establishing a connection with Communities Unlimited (CU) and the Entrepreneurship team during the inaugural Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) Small Business Resource Fair.

At the event, Molandes had an encounter with CU Management Consultant Trent Thomason. Though she found his services intriguing, Molandes was cautious due to Unlimited Designs’ tight budget. Sensing her financial constraints, Thomason facilitated access to the Texas Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) to assist Molandes in propelling Unlimited Designs forward. This grant, as well as funding from CU’s partner T.L.L. Temple Foundation in the East Texas region, provided much-needed support for Molandes’ venture.

“I told him that up front and he managed to get a grant for his services,” Molandes said. “So that worked out well. We moved forward from there.”

Since May 2023, Thomason has been collaborating with Molandes on enhancing her business. Together, they’ve embarked on two scopes of services. The initial scope focused on revitalizing her marketing strategies.

Janet Molandes talks about working with Communities Unlimited

Unlimited Designs has undergone significant upgrades to its website, social media presence, and roadside signage. Additionally, the second phase of the service involved integrating a DTF machine into the business operations. This expansion was made possible through a strategic blending collaboration between CU’s Entrepreneurship team and the Lending team, facilitated by a Small Business Association (SBA) loan.

CU Small Business Lender Chris Ranniger facilitated a $32,000 loan for Molandes to acquire a new CobraFlex DTF machine and a high-speed heat press. With this investment, Molandes can now conduct screen printing in-house, significantly reducing operational costs.

A new CobraFlex DTF machine Janet Molandes acquired for her business through a loan facilitated by Communities Unlimited making her the sole provider of DTFs in Nacogdoches, TX
A new CobraFlex DTF machine Janet Molandes acquired for her business through a loan facilitated by Communities Unlimited making her the sole provider of DTFs in Nacogdoches, TX

Previously, Molandes incurred monthly expenses of $1,328 for purchasing DTFs and outsourcing screen printing. However, with her new in-house capabilities, she now saves 66%, reducing her costs by $876 per month. This significant cost reduction is achieved by creating her DTFs and leveraging them to handle most of her screen-printing needs.

Moreover, she diversified her revenue streams by directly selling DTF transfers to both customers and competitors. As the sole provider of DTFs in Nacogdoches, Unlimited Designs has gained a unique competitive advantage in the local market.

“Janet is a dream client,” Thomason said. “She is hardworking, does her homework, and then some. Lately, we’ve been working on implementing the new machine and ensuring continued growth and profitability with its use. We are currently on pace to set another record high on sales in 2024, thanks in part to cost savings and new income streams from the DTF machine.”

Molandes said that working with CU has made a night and day difference with her business.

“Trent and Chris have been wonderful. They were here for the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting celebrating the operation of the new machine. Everybody from CU that we've talked to has been positive and helpful.”

— Janet Molandes, Unlimited Designs

Janet Molandes

The support provided by CU isn’t about letting individuals remain passive. Rather, they actively engage and encourage individuals to set goals, offering assistance and solutions to overcome challenges. For instance, when struggling with social media posting, Thomason recommended Molandes partner with LifeTech in nearby Lufkin, Texas.

Molandes heeded this advice and sought assistance from LifeTech, a nonprofit dedicated to providing technical support to local businesses in the area. Through their collaboration, Unlimited Designs received a website upgrade and benefits from regular social media posts, all being within her budget.

Thomason further facilitated Molandes’s connection with Cross Timbers APEX Accelerator, a Dallas-based organization specializing in securing contracts for businesses with various government entities. Through this partnership, Molandes will receive support in receiving her Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) certification, empowering her to confidently pursue contract bids and optimize the utilization of the DTF machine.

Above all, Molandes values the accountability and encouragement she receives from Thomason and the CU staff. She acknowledges that this support is instrumental in driving the growth and success of Unlimited Designs.

“Communities Unlimited is not going to let you sit back in your world,” Molandes said. “They are going to hold your feet to the fire. They’re here to help you. Trent and Communities Unlimited have been nothing but cheerleaders for me and my business.”