Five years ago, Kathy and Steve Ingram took a big gamble. They quit their jobs and together started a familyowned business at their home in Queen Creek.
Their first year resulted in gross sales of about $50,000.
"We were just scraping along," recalled Kathy Ingram, 44, a former Christian education and youth director for First United Methodist Church of Gilbert.
"But word spread and business started to pick up," said Steve Ingram, a former upholstery instructor at the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa.
Today, their company is grossing more than $200,000 annually — and growing.
"We’re now looking for larger working quarters, more equipment and expanding our out-of-state customer list," said Kathy, who quickly added: "But we want to keep a small town base — right here in Queen Creek."
Embroidery and inked images, such as logos and other images, that are sewn and printed on clothing, especially athletic uniforms.
Q:Some of their biggest customers?
East Valley middle and high school athletic teams, including the Queen Creek "Bulldogs" basketball team, fraternal organizations and companies.
Q:Some of their smaller customers?
People who walk into their 400-square foot combination shop and retail store at 22249 S. Ellsworth Road, opposite Queen Creek Town Hall, clutching a newly-purchased baby blanket that, they hope, will soon contain the embroidered name of their lovely, newborn grandchild.
Q:The heart of their growing enterprise?
The good ol’ days when people sat around holding metal needles and embroidering fancy images by hand are — from a commercial point-ofview — long gone.
Well, not completely.
The traditional hand-made embroidery, including embroidery clubs and embroiderers who make and sell unique and specialized items, exist but the embroidery industry — backed by high-technology — is rapidly threading its way through the United States, Embroidery Monogram Business magazine reported.
"U.S. Commercial embroidery represents a $6.6 billion industry, employing approximately 158,000 people in some 25,000 businesses," according to EMB’s Web site at www.embmag.com.
Like the Ingrams, who are among about 100 small, medium and larger embroidery firms in the Valley and who use sophisticated computer programs to create lasting images on cloth.
"My grandmothers used the old-fashioned, needle method," said Kathy, who was born in Mesa and attended Mountain View High School while Steve attended Mesa High School.
The couple met in church during their pre-high school days, and, after a while, married and raised three children.
Steve operated an upholstery company specializing in custom redecorating the interior of cars while Kathy raised the children.
"It was a big risk starting our own business, but we decided we wanted to do something we liked and spend more time at home with the children," Kathy said, echoing the motive many smaller embroidery companies have for entering the market, according to the industry magazine.
The Ingrams at first used their living room in their home on 2 acres of rural land dotted with chickens and goats, but they quickly needed more space.
They moved to the South Ellsworth location a year ago, but that space is also cramped.
Q:How does their computerprocessed embroidery work?
There are several computers and five embroidering machines in a room at the rear of the shop. Designs on software are installed in the computers, where Steve adjusts them so they can function properly.
He also creates his own software designs.
Data from the software is sent directly to the sewing machines.
Each sewing machine has 10 spindles of different colored thread feeding 10 needles.
The needles, under the direction of the computer, automatically sews the design or logo onto the cloth, which is stretched in a hoop beneath them.
Once the image is completed, the hoop and cloth is removed and the extra dangling string is trimmed — by hand.
Ink-pressed images are also made via computer programs, but without needles and thread.
One of their Valley customers is Kentucky Fried Chicken, whose employees in the Valley wear a round, embroidered emblem of the famous colonel who wears glasses and a string tie.
"When I need an emblem in a hurry, they get it to me right away," said Jim Gonzales, area coach for KFC in the Valley. "We’re very please with their service."
Q:What does it cost?
Setting up a computer program to relay a design to the sewing and ink printing machines costs between $20 and $60. Then, each placement of the design on a shirt or other cloth costs between $5 and $7 each.
Q:What’s the Ingrams favorite embroidery?
"We’re especially proud of our embroidering of the numbers and the name, ‘Bulldogs’ on the Queen Creek High School basketball team uniforms," said Kathy.
"Our son, Jeff, plays for the Bulldogs," she said.
Kathy and Steve Ingram
Family: Married; children: Daughter, Theresa Pepper, 24, sons, Grant, 22 and Jeff Ingram, 18; son-in-law, Dustin Pepper, 25; two grandchildren, Dusty, 4 and Layna Grace Pepper, 2
Resides in: Queen Creek
Business: Founders of a family-owned company, Trinity Embroidery, 22249 S. Ellsworth Road, Queen Creek
Success Philosophy: Offer genuine customer service. Honesty. Good quality products
Information: (480) 987-1810 or