It is our honor and privileged duty to continue bringing a variety of voices throughout our industry to the forefront to have deeper and the most helpful conversations around critical topics affecting our lives. In efforts to better understand real experiences by real leaders in our field, we reached out to screen printing pro Nick Burton of Eternal Designs who graciously shared some powerful insights with us and we invite you to read his perspective below so that we may continue to press onward to a more diverse and inclusive and compassionate industry.
From your perspective, what are a few powerful ways that the decorated apparel/screen printing industry can do to meaningfully help diversity and inclusion?
Nick Burton of Eternal Designs:
The are several ways this could be achieved, but I will list three. First, we have to begin having more conversation with more people of color on all platforms. This can’t be the only moment in history where Black voices matter, nor can it be the only minority voice in the room. Latin and Asian voices in this industry have to be included in the conversation as well.
In the industry’s current state, the only voice that seems to permeate the air is those of white people. I am of the belief that you don’t always have to have a subject matter expert on a panel, podcast, or YouTube video for it to be impactful to the masses. In spaces where this content lives forever like the internet; young people should able to find video and listen to content from people who look, and sound like them. This content should reflect more of the industry as a whole not just part of it. This is something that can be easily changed and should be for the future generation of screen printers.
Second, I hear what you are saying but can I see what you are saying? The branding, marketing, promotional material, and in-person events, do not showcase any people of color. Don’t get me wrong, companies like Bella + Canvas have done a great job of using product images to showcase the diversity they want to attract. But they can’t be the only apparel brand to drag the industry forward. I have attended trade shows and expos and I never recalled seeing one black person ever working any booths that I visited. There has to be some form of diversity seen in these areas. I would suggest hiring more people of color in sales and management positions, create a diversity plan for your company that is actually used and promote people of color from within to visible positions. While also include them in Instructional videos, step by step guides, promotional ads.
Lastly, acknowledge we are here. There are a lot of minority-owned print shops out there, but you would never know it because the industry as a whole has not acknowledged they exist. Correction, the industry has acknowledged we exist, only when it’s time to collect our money for a new piece of equipment. If the industry doesn’t have a problem with taking our money, it shouldn’t have a problem showing us a little love. A shop spotlight highlighting minority-own shops in publications like Impressions and Wearables Magazine, along with blogs would go a long way when it comes to showing more diversity and inclusion.
How has the recent overdue change for the Black Lives Matter movement impacted your business (if at all)? If it hasn't affected it in a noticeable way just yet, what do you hope it means for your business (if you have such a hope)?
Nick Burton of Eternal Designs:
The Black Lives Matter movement has opened the door to a whole host of issues affecting the Black community. Issues that have fallen on deaf ears for as long as I have been alive. However, the difference now is that many of those once deaf ears are listening. Like many things in this world, change takes time and that’s no different when it comes to this situation. For my business, things haven’t changed much, if all at all. However, I have begun to see a shift regarding the individuals who are interested in doing business with us. There has been more of a concerted effort to do business with minority-owned companies, but primary Black-owned companies.
My hope is that this is an honest and genuine shift of the public mindset and perception. My heart is telling me that this is just a moment in time, and it looks like the trendy thing to do. However, the one silver lining I have taken from all of this, no matter how it ends up, that now, more than ever in the history of this nation, Black-owned business has been given the opportunity to show the world what they can really do.
In your experience, has there been a topic of conversation that you wish would be included when it comes to rectifying injustices and inequalities?
Nick Burton of Eternal Designs:
The financial conversation has been one thing not covered enough in my opinion. Financial inequality has been one of the main dividing factors of the people. The wealth gap in this country has to be address. But as the saying goes, “money talks”. So, until people with money want to have a real conversation about this problem, the problem will continue to grow and continue to exist.
"Your dreams will never expire but you must have the drive to chase them," -- a phrase Nick Burton, the owner of Eternal Designs in Rome, GA, understand all too well. As a lifelong artist, Nick has been driven his whole life by his passion to create. His journey into screen printing started in high school. After being burnt out from the lack of creativity and growth at his corporate job, Nick left his corporate job and in 2014 created Eternal Designs. Since the inception, Nick has been devoted to building a creative driven company focused on quality, uniqueness, and community. Nick has worked with several different organizations from schools to non-profits to teach and inspire the youth to chase this dream and create their own opportunities. His goal is to nurture individuals who want to develop and design their creative expression and transform it into something extraordinary.
Deeply rooted into who he is; he is constantly inspired to establish opportunities that have been nonexistence to him or his community. Simply put, to create opportunity where there isn’t one, and to create an outlet for creative expression. A dream is only a dream, until it isn’t. For more information on Nick and Eternal Designs, please visit https://eternaldesigns.co/ and/or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
We humbly thank Nick for his openness in sharing his voice to the conversation and we look forward to having many more contribute to this series. Be sure to tune into our next episode of #ROQShopTalk airing tomorrow featuring Nick Burton, Gavin StGeorges of Proud T-Shirts, Amber Massey of T-Shirts for Hope, and Marcus (Mike) Kon of Synergy Media, Ltd. on the subject of Diversity & Inclusion in the Decorated Apparel Space.