Green and Groovy T-Shirts Grew Out of Garage
Article by Small Business Administration (SBA) – September 2014 WMADO Newsletter
Similar to many startups, Curtis A. “CAS” Shiver, founded his custom dye/screen printing business in his parents’ Annandale, Virginia, garage in 1987. With a focus on the “Made in America” label, the importance of environmental sustainability and being a good corporate citizen, Sundog is a unique, full-service textile factory that manufactures from fabric to finished product.
Located in the City of Fairfax, Virginia, Shiver used a $1 million SBA 504 loan to turn his small hand-dye T-shirt company to a full service textile manufacturing operation that can churn out 3 million tie-dye T-shirts a year that are “Made in America”. Clients include A-list rock bands, major theme parks and Fortune 500 companies as well as independent T-shirt shops, record stores, sports leagues, service clubs, and schools.
“The SBA 504 loan’s terms were affordable,” said Shiver. “I could not have bought the old Verizon Communications service depot without the $1 million fixed asset loan.” He creatively retrofitted the 10,000 sq. ft. structure to his unique operation by renovating and enclosing the parking garage to create additional space for the manufacturing plant which now totals 38,600 square feet. He was able to bring a substandard 36,000 square foot building up to code, move and install all of the equipment, and only missed two days of production during the four-month move.
He focused on green and long-term sustainable solutions. Sundog has reduced the environmental impact of the plant by using recycled lighting fixtures, energy efficient windows and geothermal and solar energy systems. Having the production under one roof, shipping costs are reduced and their carbon footprint is therefore smaller. Sundog Productions qualified for and received a grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia for a solar heating system for the water used during production. It is estimated that Sundog Productions is saving 3.75 million BTUs per day by using geo-thermal and solar energy, which translates into an average savings of $1,600 per month in natural gas bills.
In addition to the plant’s energy saving measure, Shiver developed and uses an eco-friendly dye for the production of T-shirts. The creation of Sundog SeaInkTM, a seaweed based printing system, which contains no PVC binders or resins, provides an eco-friendly printing system for natural fibers. He has three potential patents on this proprietary process and is pursuing all avenues. While currently under review, he expects to be the first recognized factory printing GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified products in the country. This standard is the greenest of the green and a worldwide accepted standard for manufacturing.
Sundog SeaInk contains no PVC, binders or resins. The printed graphic feels soft just like the T-shirt material. Sundog Sunburn enables logos and symbols to be etched into the material creating an image. Combined with the tie-dye or screening process, the result is a wearable piece of art.
He also developed a custom clothing iPhone App, Tie Dye Doodle, enabling consumers to design their own tie-dyed T-shirt. Sundog will produce it and ship it in two weeks; clothing on demand.
With the new, larger plant, Sundog is creating jobs for all skill levels. At present he employs 55 workers. Some of his workers have come to him from a work release opportunity from Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. In addition, Sundog has sponsored community events such as National Night Out and donated T-shirts to many community events. He is member of the Fairfax Downtown Coalition serving as chairman and continues to support the coalition. He is an advisory board member at a local bank.
He continues to innovate and look towards the future. “Many people are creative and can see trends in fashion, but my focus has always been on execution. We know that without consistency and quality, our creativity won’t sell many shirts,” he said.