My Biz: Screen printing, design and embroidery shop moves from NewBo to Czech Village

Gazette – Article by Katie Mills Giorgio

CEDAR RAPIDS — Tony Burnett has a knack for building a business in restored service stations, even though the business doesn’t have much to do with cars.

Owner of Red Ball Printing — which offers custom screen printing, design and embroidery — Burnett recently moved his company’s operations to a former service station on C Street in southwest Cedar Rapids. The large, open workspace seemed to be just the fit for his shop.

And the fact that the new location already had been remodeled made it all the more appealing, Burnett recalled.

“Red Ball started as a one-man operation and we now have two full-time employees and one part-time employee. We needed to add more space for production and personnel,” he said.

The business relocated from the east side of the river to the west side at the end of December and have spent the past few months settling into their new space. The move was planned for December and January as those are typically slower production months for the business.

“We just outgrew our old space,” he said. “Now as we are getting busy again, it is shaping itself,” he said of the C Street space. “We were really dialed into our process over at our old location mostly because it was small and we had to be. We are figuring out how to work with more space and still be efficient.”

Burnett said he’s excited to be investing in new equipment soon that will add more efficiency and automation. He’s also hired a part-time graphic designer and hopes that role expands as more business comes their way.

Originally named Shirt Off Your Back Printing, Red Ball Printing first opened in the NewBo neighborhood in January 2015, in a former service station that Burnett spent a year restoring. Burnett said he really fell into the screen printing business after working for years in finance.

“My buddy had a simple screen printing set up in his garage and we did some printing for friends. I ending up buying the equipment off of him and it grew from there,” he said.

Burnett now is going into his 10th year of screen printing. Red Ball Printing handles custom screen printing, custom embroidery and graphic design for small businesses and events in and around the area.

In any given week they might print shirts for a particular department at a local manufacturing company or school as well as club sports T-shirts.

“There’s quite a variety in what we do,” Burnett said. “And I really I like seeing our stuff out in the wild. Sometimes I even stop people wearing once of shirts and I tell them we printed it.”

As Red Ball Printing grows, Burnett said he also is starting to target the bike industry as a whole by printing custom cycling jerseys, something that excites him as an avid cyclist.

“I just realized that what we are doing for our own community we could be doing elsewhere as well. I saw the niche and market there,” he said.

Of course, running a small business comes with its fair share of ups and downs.

“It can be tough to handle the roller coaster without getting stressed out,” he said. “I have to remind myself that we are always slower in December and January and that things pick up and right about now we start freaking out about how we are going to get it all done.

“So it’s important to try to level out your emotions as a business owner.”

At a glance

  • Owner/operator: Tony Burnett
  • Business: Red Ball Printing
  • Address: 1718 C St. SW, Cedar Rapids
  • Phone: (319) 775-5252
  • Website: