In a 225-square-foot garage just off of Government Street, Jacob Bennett finds both peace and inspiration. What began as a side project has now become a career for Bennett, in the form of Agenda Trading Company, a handmade and custom screen printed outdoor apparel business.
A few years back, he was in a band and, upon realizing that every band needs band T-shirts, he decided he was up for the task. In the beginning, he worked in a print shop and used a tabletop press in his kitchen.
“I did this on the side, but about a year ago it took off to where I could do it full time,” he said.
He finds the solitude in the garage and, though connected to his home, he finds it to be a good workspace. The walls are lined with shelves which house the paint and color needed for his designs and overhead storage space is at almost full capacity.
Agenda Trading Company sells outdoor-focused T-shirts and stickers to buyers across North America. He cites his love for adventure and the outdoors as his inspiration for the designs. The numerous packages scattered on the front porch emphasize just how popular Bennett’s designs have become.
Bennett said that the secret to growing business lies in social media. He said that promotion through popular sites like Instagram and Facebook have brought him to the forefront of people’s minds. He has participated in a couple of Baton Rouge’s monthly Mid-City Makers Markets, but word of mouth is most important for him.
But how does he make his wearable art? First, he designs the image on Adobe InDesign.
Then he prints it onto a transparent sheet in a dark room and, once the design is on the transfer, he can take it to his printing press.
The printing press takes up most of the space in his cozy workshop. In fact, in order to go out the back, you have to push the turnstyle, much like a revolving door in a hotel. The six-armed machine can be easily manipulated when pressing a shirt, so Bennett can have six different designs going at once.
After he dumps the color onto the transfer and presses it to the t-shirt, he must load it onto a conveyor belt where it gets baked onto the shirt in a hot oven-like contraption. Once it is finished drying and setting, he folds it up and either prepares it to sell at a market, to ship out from an online order or to store for safekeeping, just in case someone in the future might like it.
What makes the process so special is that he does it all by himself— from the initial design to finally, folding the finished T-shirt.
“I do it all on my own, but I enjoy what I do,” Bennett said.
The stay-at-home dad is glad to be able to have this kind of flexible job. His wife is a teacher and the two have an eight-month old son.
In the future, Bennett said he would like to open a bigger shop, but for now, this is just what he needs. In addition to his website and social media pages, he has created a YouTube channel where he posts videos about camping tips and tricks for those looking to explore the great outdoors.
“I always joke with my wife that her college degree is a four year degree, but my college degree is from all those long nights at the print shop working hard and long days,” Bennett said with a laugh.
His hard work and charming attitude is enough to make anyone see that he loves what he does. His passion is reflected in his artwork and he is looking forward to where the future will take him, his family and his business.
Follow Jacob and Agenda Trading Company here: