Pam Guffey, president of Gold Star Graphics screen printing and embroidery business, started her firm in 1987 when her kids were in Little League and she wanted a hobby.
A Dallas friend in the business wanted her to sell jobs here, in Oklahoma City, and send them there for printing. Guffey thought that was a crazy idea, since Dallas was hours away. Instead, she bought a book on how to print T-shirts for fun and profit, and flew with her mom to Scottsdale, Ariz., to attend a three-day seminar conducted by its author.
She subsequently bought a very small press and very small dryer and started printing from her garage.
From her 8,000-square-foot facility at 8812 S Bryant, Guffey, 59, sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in south Oklahoma City. My paternal grandparents owned gas stations around town and maternal grandparents owned and operated a trucking company. My dad (an OU graduate) and mom (a graduate of OBU) also were entrepreneurs. They, from our current facility, ran a trailer leasing business, which I sold after my mom died in 2005. My father preceded her in death in 1988. I'm their only child, and grew up helping with office work on school breaks and after I married, before I had children.
Q: What were the highlights of your school days?
A: I went to U.S. Grant High School, where I gravitated toward accounting and bookkeeping courses. They came naturally to me because of my work with the family business. Outside of class, I served as president of the pep club, which had 600 to 700 members then. The experience helped me develop my leadership skills, including talking in front of groups. I graduated in May; married Stan, my high school sweetheart, in August; and joined him at college at Eastern in Wilburton. From there, we went on to Oklahoma City University where Stan had a baseball scholarship. At one time, I thought I'd wanted to be an occupational therapist, but I got pregnant instead.
Q: Can you share a little bit about the growth of your business?
A: The first few years, Stan also reffed high school and college games, and his earnings from that sideline work is what paid the bills. It was just the two of us for the first five years, and then only three or four of us until we opened our embroidery room in '99. We added novelty items — like mugs, mouse pads and ink pens — in 2003, but screen printing still represents 70 percent of our business. Today, we average 13 to 16 employees, have thousands of customers, and most of our referrals come word-of-mouth. Annual revenues are $1.6 million.
Q: What have been the toughest times in your business?
A: Surviving two tornadoes. The 1999 tornado peeled the roof off our building and the 2003 tornado caved in our entire roof. In the latter, it was 10 days before we were back in production.
Q: What do you like most about your work?
A: The variety. Because we offer custom work, every job is different in color and style. Last year, we printed Thunder shirts for the playoffs and have printed shirts for OU's national championship football years. The current economy does concern me. But, though we may have to cut back, we work in an industry where there's always a need for the products we have.