John Machacek, Chief Innovation Officer for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, has worked with countless startups throughout our community over the past seven years. He knows their ups, their downs, but most of all, he knows the questions to ask them. Here are John Machacek’s 10 questions for Kirk Anton, Founder of Heat Transfer Warehouse.
1. Tell us your Heat Transfer Warehouse
We sell the products that decorate the clothes we wear, which allows us to support the communities we live in – that is our vision statement. We sell heat transfer vinyl products and related items.
2. You sell and distribute all over the country. What do some of the typical Heat Transfer Warehouse customers look like?
That is a unique part about Heat Transfer Warehouse. We sell to the crafters, the person operating a shop out of their house, we sell to people with side-hustles, and then we sell to customers that have actual storefronts.
3. Is much of your business e-commerce and if so, how have you found success in getting their attention in the ever-changing & crowded space of online advertising?
About 4-5 years ago, we made the switch to 100% online ordering. We found that it helped eliminate errors and enabled a better accuracy rate. As part of that process, we had to transition customers who were accustomed to placing orders by phone;
which took patience and some promos to get them onboard.
With our advertising, we really focus on content marketing. Giving the customer help and ideas is key. Always just trying to sell them something is not what they want to see. We do some stuff with email marketing – I love Klaviyo. Back in the day, we used to do 15 trade shows a year. And then we just stopped and realized we could do more with our digital assets. We tinker with SEO, all the time. We look up keywords to make sure we rank well for them. And then in the spring of 2020, we started working with influencers, which has been a game-changer for us.
4. I am really curious about the influencer marketing. Can you tell me more about that?
We call it our partner marketing. I knew we needed to get more traffic to our site and realized we were behind in this trend. I just started searching out our products or our name, through YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, you name it. I then reached out to people that had things very similar to what we sold or did, or I thought had potential. I’d set up a meeting to learn more and how we could work together. I wanted to make it more about just giving them a link and a commission. I wanted to treat them like partners and have this fit well with how we are as a company and what we do. This has gone very well and since then, we’ve added a team member just to manage our partner marketing. We have also hired one of the influencers to guide and direct upand-upcoming influencers to help them get better at what they are doing. This person has also helped us with our content ideas.
5. Another marketing question. I noticed Heat Transfer Warehouse has good followings across many platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest). Any advice for the readers on what you’ve done to not only build these up, but also maintaining them?
We realized the importance of content, content, content and made it even more of a focus going forward. Like I mentioned, it’s about sharing ideas and tips and we know our customers want that education. We cross promote by using our Facebook and Instagram to promote our YouTube and vice versa. We copromote with our vendors as well when we can and that helps pull in new followers. Hashtags are always good as well.
6. That is really cool. Another cool thing I appreciate about Heat Transfer Warehouse is your focus on culture and employee engagement. And, I see the company’s five Core Values posted on the wall. First of all, will you tell me about how you developed those values and how you foster them?
Our core values are really what drive and define the company. When you look through them:
Connection – I feel this is everything we do.
Dedication – it’s what we look for in every team member and how we work together.
Embracing Change – I feel like I’m the Zen Master of this. We’ll change in a heartbeat and we get the team on board, as what works today may not work tomorrow.
Healthy Living – That means physical and mental, and it’s so important. Sometimes it’s just taking a walk around the block just to stretch and get new perspective on the rest of the day. We also bring in coaches that help with mental well-being and we offer personal financial counseling and guidance.
Teamwork – Obviously we aren’t where we are today without it. We thought about them for a long time as a team to develop them and took a viewpoint of values that are not only important for work but your life outside of work.
7. Next, will you share more about the focus on culture and the intentional employee engagement opportunities you organize?
Culture and charity is who we are. It’s how we get to connect and know each other on a different level. We make sure to do our culture events as a team every quarter. We’ve gone to the zoo, the fair, ax throwing – you name it, we’ve done it. Our next one is just hanging at a park playing yard games. The charity part circles back to our vision, we give back. And not just money, but also our time. We look to make an impact here and with our branches.
8. So, with your main office based in Fargo and having your three warehouse facilities in Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Jacksonville, how do you effectively manage and balance the company culture?
We organize the culture events like I just mentioned. We travel to the locations to participate in the events but also to just connect with our team there. We share a lot of photos among all the locations so we’re all aware of each other and what we have going on.
9. If you could go back in time to Kirk from several years ago, what hindsight advice would you give yourself?
Pay attention to market trends. We had some missteps from not doing this well. Keep on doing-you and don’t let vendors influence our company direction. Stick to your values and if they don’t align with something, don’t do it.
10. What can we do as a community to help Heat Transfer Warehouse succeed?
Go buy a heat press…lol! Interns, we love having them and we could have more – they’ve helped change the company. Talent; tell us about talent who want to work and have fun. Buy your garments locally from one of our customers.
John Machacek has been helping local startups with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation since prior to his position with the GFMEDC. Before joining the team, Machacek was the VP of Finance & Operations at United Way of Cass-Clay and a business banker at U.S. Bank.