Posted on

Women-run T-shirt store finds success despite challenges

Women-run T-shirt store finds success despite challenges

Associated Press

DES MOINES — Kortni Remer started working at her mother's screen printing shop when she was 6 years old.

'I'd help fill orders, put stuff away, anything miscellaneous that needed to be done,' said Remer, 29, who now runs Broken Arrow Wear, a custom T-shirt printing and embroidery business in Urbandale.

She saw how hard her mother, Mari Coppola, 60, worked and how the business grew. It prints logos and artwork on everything from T-shirts and hats to tote bags and pillow cases, and has sold more than 10 million T-shirts in its 25 years.

Broken Arrow is a survivor in a languishing segment of Iowa's business environment, the Des Moines Register reports. Iowa has consistently ranked last or at the bottom in an annual report on growth of women-owned businesses. From 1997 to 2015, the Hawkeye state saw 27 percent growth among women-owned businesses. Nationally there was a 74 percent increase in women-owned firms in that time, according to a report from American Express.

The challenges for women include securing funding and gaining momentum, especially among small businesses, said Kristen Hall, a Des Moines attorney who owns KH Mediation. She is co-president of the Iowa chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

NAWBO in Iowa is looking to create more outreach programs, especially for women in rural parts of the state who have fewer resources.

Broken Arrow has grown under Coppola's direction and flourished since Remer began pushing Internet sales and expanding markets when she took over daily operations three years ago. Remer attributes the success to customer service and improved technology.

'When you contact Broken Arrow, you talk to a live person, not a machine,' she said. 'Our website and mobile apps are constantly evolving so that they are easy to navigate.'

Coppola was in the cable television business with her former husband Kurt Stocker before they decided to buy an old building in Polk City that was home to the Broken Arrow bar. Coppola launched the screen printing business there and it expanded in the 7,000-square-foot building until nearly every corner was filled. 'We could no longer fit product in the door,' Coppola said.

The company relocated four years ago to a 30,000-squarefoot space in a large building north of Ramsey Mazda at Hickman Road and 100th Street. The larger shop has allowed the women to add a new T-shirt press and spread out their printing, packaging and shipping departments. There also is room for the ceiling-high stacks of T-shirts in every color of the rainbow and other supplies that Broken Arrow buys from its suppliers.

About 75 percent of the company's business is done through the Internet for customers across the U.S. The remaining 25 percent comes locally through its single retail and call center location at 4133 Merle Hay Road.

By Patt Johnson

Social Share