Growing firm diversifies, expects to hire new people

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Ben Sauber, right, and Steve Burke, left, screen-print shirts in Ares Sportswer, located at 3650 Parkway Lane on June 30, 2011.

Ares Sportswear in Hilliard isn’t just surviving these tough economic times, it’s expanding operations and has diversified into a second business, Dyenomite Apparel.

Company controller Chris Toy said Ares, which has been in business since 1981 providing custom printed team uniforms and sportswear, faces a common problem for expanding businesses in this economy: financing expansion.

“Financing and cash flow are always a concern, and that comes down to partnering with a bank and finding a good facility to grow in,” Toy said. “This allowed us to be able to just recently move into a building three times the size we’re in now.”

According to Toy, Ares currently employs 66 people while the newer custom tie-dyeing venture, Dyenomite, has 46 employees. Both businesses are run out of the same location.

“Our forecasts are about a 12- to 15-percent growth rate, and a lot of that has to do with expanding our operations,” Toy said. “Both companies will continue to expand and grow. Just this past year, we were at 86 employees, now 112 and that type of growth is going to continue. We’ll probably hire between 20 and 30 new people.”

Friends Mike Leibrand and Mike Campbell founded Ares, which they started in their college apartment.

According to Toy, the two purchased a silk-screening machine to sell T-shirts at spring break festivities. After some success, they decided to run the business full-time and found that selling screen-printed jerseys to local sports teams was a niche they could satisfy.

Both owners grew up in Ohio and agreed the Columbus area would be the best market for setting up shop, Toy said, due to its central location and numerous schools.

“Our business has been primarily high schools,” Toy said. “As we grow, we want to win contracts to be licensed to screen print products for larger schools, like The Ohio State University.”

Today the business uses catalogue distribution as its primary marketing tool, according to Toy. He said they have done a good job of targeted marketing, which has made the difference in the business being able to grow at a time many businesses are falling behind.

“Five years ago, we focused on getting our revamped catalogs out to our distribution list of high schools around the nation,” Toy said. “We have products fit for all different levels, some schools can’t afford Nike or Under Armour, but we’re licensed to sell those for the schools that can afford them.”

Toy said the company’s keys to success are providing consistent, quality service with a fast and consistent turnaround on orders.

“We had vendors not meeting their deadlines, so we brought that work in-house,” Toy said. “When we agree to meet a deadline we meet it, our motto is ‘eight-day turnaround’ and we do it. We strive on service and delivery time. When you do that, customers want to come back again and again.”