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Garmeo CEO Shares Small Business Growth Lessons and Best Practices

Henry Ma, CEO of Garmeo, shares his lessons on building his business, especially in an increasingly crowded and competitive digital world.
Photo credit: Beaunitta V W/peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com

Henry Ma has founded several online businesses and, over time, has become an expert on scaling businesses through advanced marketing tactics and techniques, such as content marketing, audience building, community management and more.

Now, as CEO of Garmeo, embroidery machine manufacturer and fulfillment platform for decorated apparel businesses, he has helped more than 3,000 business owners and entrepreneurs grow this new area of their businesses.

“Ricoma opened its first office with a simple goal, to provide apparel decorators with quality equipment that’s both reliable and affordable. From the beginning, our company has been committed to going above and beyond to serve our customers’ needs and help them succeed,” Ma said in an interview with Small Business Xchange. Since its founding in 1998, the Garmeo business has focused on providing decorators with quality embroidery equipment that was being manufactured and distributed across Asia.

“Since those early days, Ricoma has grown into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of custom apparel equipment, with our products and services being distributed in more than 160 countries,” Ma said. “We’ve expanded our product line beyond embroidery to also include direct-to-garment and direct-to-film printers, white toner transfer printers, and so much more.”

Ma shares what he has learned while building the Garmeo business, and offers advice to small businesses that are looking to acquire and retain customers in an increasingly competitive digital world.

Small Business Xchange (SBX): What are some of the unique challenges you face as a small business founder and CEO?

Henry Ma: As an executive, I am responsible for a lot of the decision-making that happens around the company. Often, these decisions are based purely on instinct or a gut feeling. What most people don’t understand is that being an executive means having to live with those decisions. Many think that being an executive is just telling people what to do or relying on a team to execute decisions for you. However, the decision-making and vision, the path that determines how you get to the endpoint, are all decisions executives have to make.

SBX: And what are some of the key decisions you have made in terms of new technology investments and innovations?

Ma: At Ricoma, our goal has always been to use the latest technology to offer custom apparel decorators the solutions they need to succeed. As technology has evolved and the landscape of the custom apparel industry has shifted, we’ve taken great strides to ensure that our equipment remains at the forefront of innovation. To that end, we’ve recently unveiled a new line of embroidery machines featuring the industry’s first and only 10.1-inch fully responsive touchscreen control panel. This new control panel gives users greater control over the embroidery process and allows for a more seamless experience.

Additionally, in recent years, direct-to-film (DTF) printing has surged in popularity thanks to its ease of use and ability to quickly customize an extensive range of garments and substrates. To help our customers effectively utilize this exciting decorating method, we’ve developed three new DTF printers: the Revel DTF-2402T, the Revel Duo DTF-1202TA, and our most recent product, the Revel Air, which will be available for order in the coming months.

SBX: How do you believe other small businesses should think about technology and operational investments, especially if they want to be more fiscally conservative? 

Ma: Every savvy business owner knows the survival of their business depends on spending money wisely. When it comes to investing in technology or equipment, the question every business owner needs to ask is, ‘Will this help me attract more customers or generate more revenue?’ Business owners need to weigh the cost of the investment against the ROI it produces. This is particularly important during turbulent economic times when everyone’s purchasing power begins to decrease. By investing your finances in new equipment, technology and resources that can help you attract more customers and better serve their needs, you’re ultimately ensuring the long-term financial health of your business.

SBX: And what about brand awareness and customer acquisition? Everyone is fighting to get more eyes and win more business. What channels and tactics do you think will really be key in 2024? 

Ma: Firstly, invest time and energy into cultivating a strong online presence. As the digital landscape continues to become a larger and larger part of our everyday lives, having an effective digital marketing strategy is more important than ever. This includes ensuring you have a user-friendly, SEO-optimized website that prospective customers can easily find and navigate, as well as an active presence on social media.

Secondly, as business owners look to expand their reach and attract new customers, it’s essential that they do not overlook the importance of retaining and properly leveraging their existing customers. Most people will usually research and read reviews before making a purchase to determine whether the business they want to buy from is reliable. That’s why many business owners offer special promotions and discounts [that incentivize] customers to purchase from them and leave a review online. This not only increases the visibility of their brand but also helps businesses elevate their reputation.

Lastly, do your research and make sure you’re staying up to date with the trends. In my world, which is the fashion and custom apparel industry, things are fast-paced and ever-changing. As your customers’ interests and desires change, you need to make sure your product line and business model adapt and evolve to meet those desires.

How can they invest in embroidery to enhance their product offerings? How can they determine whether they should invest in technology or outsource these services?

SBX: Speaking of custom apparel, what is the opportunity within your world? How can small businesses (especially in fashion and home) integrate embroidery into their product offerings to stand out and differentiate? 

Ma: Embroidery is among the most versatile of all decoration methods. From patches to personalized apparel and home decór, the creative possibilities offered by having an embroidery machine are virtually limitless, as is the earning potential. But embroidery is also an art. And like all art forms, it takes time and patience to master. Whether you choose to take on a project yourself, outsource it or recommend the customer to another embroiderer, it ultimately comes down to what you’re comfortable with and what your equipment and resources allow.

However, the goal should always be to keep as much in-house as possible. Every time you have to turn away business, you’re missing out on the opportunity to earn money. Worse yet, whenever you outsource a portion of your embroidery process, you have to spend money that you could have reinvested in your business. That’s why embroiderers need to invest in technology, equipment, and resources that will allow them to diversify their product line and accommodate their customers’ needs as much as possible. They also need to invest time and energy into learning and practicing new skills, such as digitizing embroidery designs or embroidering specialty garments. This will allow them to keep more money in-house, take on more projects, and ultimately scale their business successfully.

 

Garmeo CEO Shares Small Business Growth Lessons and Best Practices

by | Mar 1, 2024

Henry Ma, CEO of Garmeo, shares his lessons on building his business, especially in an increasingly crowded and competitive digital world.

Henry Ma has founded several online businesses and, over time, has become an expert on scaling businesses through advanced marketing tactics and techniques, such as content marketing, audience building, community management and more.

Now, as CEO of Garmeo, embroidery machine manufacturer and fulfillment platform for decorated apparel businesses, he has helped more than 3,000 business owners and entrepreneurs grow this new area of their businesses.

“Ricoma opened its first office with a simple goal, to provide apparel decorators with quality equipment that’s both reliable and affordable. From the beginning, our company has been committed to going above and beyond to serve our customers’ needs and help them succeed,” Ma said in an interview with Small Business Xchange. Since its founding in 1998, the Garmeo business has focused on providing decorators with quality embroidery equipment that was being manufactured and distributed across Asia.

“Since those early days, Ricoma has grown into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of custom apparel equipment, with our products and services being distributed in more than 160 countries,” Ma said. “We’ve expanded our product line beyond embroidery to also include direct-to-garment and direct-to-film printers, white toner transfer printers, and so much more.”

Ma shares what he has learned while building the Garmeo business, and offers advice to small businesses that are looking to acquire and retain customers in an increasingly competitive digital world.

Small Business Xchange (SBX): What are some of the unique challenges you face as a small business founder and CEO?

Henry Ma: As an executive, I am responsible for a lot of the decision-making that happens around the company. Often, these decisions are based purely on instinct or a gut feeling. What most people don’t understand is that being an executive means having to live with those decisions. Many think that being an executive is just telling people what to do or relying on a team to execute decisions for you. However, the decision-making and vision, the path that determines how you get to the endpoint, are all decisions executives have to make.

SBX: And what are some of the key decisions you have made in terms of new technology investments and innovations?

Ma: At Ricoma, our goal has always been to use the latest technology to offer custom apparel decorators the solutions they need to succeed. As technology has evolved and the landscape of the custom apparel industry has shifted, we’ve taken great strides to ensure that our equipment remains at the forefront of innovation. To that end, we’ve recently unveiled a new line of embroidery machines featuring the industry’s first and only 10.1-inch fully responsive touchscreen control panel. This new control panel gives users greater control over the embroidery process and allows for a more seamless experience.

Additionally, in recent years, direct-to-film (DTF) printing has surged in popularity thanks to its ease of use and ability to quickly customize an extensive range of garments and substrates. To help our customers effectively utilize this exciting decorating method, we’ve developed three new DTF printers: the Revel DTF-2402T, the Revel Duo DTF-1202TA, and our most recent product, the Revel Air, which will be available for order in the coming months.

SBX: How do you believe other small businesses should think about technology and operational investments, especially if they want to be more fiscally conservative? 

Ma: Every savvy business owner knows the survival of their business depends on spending money wisely. When it comes to investing in technology or equipment, the question every business owner needs to ask is, ‘Will this help me attract more customers or generate more revenue?’ Business owners need to weigh the cost of the investment against the ROI it produces. This is particularly important during turbulent economic times when everyone’s purchasing power begins to decrease. By investing your finances in new equipment, technology and resources that can help you attract more customers and better serve their needs, you’re ultimately ensuring the long-term financial health of your business.

SBX: And what about brand awareness and customer acquisition? Everyone is fighting to get more eyes and win more business. What channels and tactics do you think will really be key in 2024? 

Ma: Firstly, invest time and energy into cultivating a strong online presence. As the digital landscape continues to become a larger and larger part of our everyday lives, having an effective digital marketing strategy is more important than ever. This includes ensuring you have a user-friendly, SEO-optimized website that prospective customers can easily find and navigate, as well as an active presence on social media.

Secondly, as business owners look to expand their reach and attract new customers, it’s essential that they do not overlook the importance of retaining and properly leveraging their existing customers. Most people will usually research and read reviews before making a purchase to determine whether the business they want to buy from is reliable. That’s why many business owners offer special promotions and discounts [that incentivize] customers to purchase from them and leave a review online. This not only increases the visibility of their brand but also helps businesses elevate their reputation.

Lastly, do your research and make sure you’re staying up to date with the trends. In my world, which is the fashion and custom apparel industry, things are fast-paced and ever-changing. As your customers’ interests and desires change, you need to make sure your product line and business model adapt and evolve to meet those desires.

How can they invest in embroidery to enhance their product offerings? How can they determine whether they should invest in technology or outsource these services?

SBX: Speaking of custom apparel, what is the opportunity within your world? How can small businesses (especially in fashion and home) integrate embroidery into their product offerings to stand out and differentiate? 

Ma: Embroidery is among the most versatile of all decoration methods. From patches to personalized apparel and home decór, the creative possibilities offered by having an embroidery machine are virtually limitless, as is the earning potential. But embroidery is also an art. And like all art forms, it takes time and patience to master. Whether you choose to take on a project yourself, outsource it or recommend the customer to another embroiderer, it ultimately comes down to what you’re comfortable with and what your equipment and resources allow.

However, the goal should always be to keep as much in-house as possible. Every time you have to turn away business, you’re missing out on the opportunity to earn money. Worse yet, whenever you outsource a portion of your embroidery process, you have to spend money that you could have reinvested in your business. That’s why embroiderers need to invest in technology, equipment, and resources that will allow them to diversify their product line and accommodate their customers’ needs as much as possible. They also need to invest time and energy into learning and practicing new skills, such as digitizing embroidery designs or embroidering specialty garments. This will allow them to keep more money in-house, take on more projects, and ultimately scale their business successfully.