What does it mean for an entrepreneur to successfully pivot? Just ask Rachaad Howard, owner of Cream City Print Lounge in West Allis.
Howard launched Milwaukee’s first “print and sip” studio in 2019, a full-service bar and studio where people can enjoy a beverage while learning how to design and screen print clothing. But as Cream City Print Lounge held its first screen-printing workshops, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the studio to close its doors.
“That hit us real hard as we were just picking up momentum in the game,” Howard said. “So, I refocused my energy into the retail side of things.”
As much as Howard is an entrepreneur, he’s also an artist, using creativity and a penchant for capturing human expression in the form of a T-shirt to help drive his business.
At the onset of the pandemic, Howard designed a line of comedic quarantine shirts that brought levity to the pandemic, boosting sales by 300% in the first month, he said.
Following the death of George Floyd, Howard designed social justice shirts with messages like “Kids for Justice,” “Peace, Love and Equality” and “Enough is Enough.” For Howard, T-shirts are an important form of expression, and as a Black business owner, he said he wanted to help the community speak out against injustice.
Kohl’s reached out to Howard and partnered with Cream City Print Lounge to distribute his social justice shirts in 50 retail locations throughout the country.
Howard has more than 10 years of experience in the printing world and has successfully launched multiple brands through partnerships with the Milwaukee Bucks, Harley-Davidson and Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. One of his most popular brands is “Rep Wisconsin,” which Boston Store previously scaled and distributed in retail stores throughout the country.
Soon after the Kohl’s partnership, Howard attracted a $10,000 investment from moguls during a recent episode of “Project Pitch It,” WISN-TV Channel 12’s Shark Tank-style show. Now Howard plans to launch a mobile screen-printing bus, allowing Cream City Print Lounge to take its creative workshops on the road.
As Cream City Print Lounge grows, Howard hopes to scale the business and open several locations in the greater Milwaukee area.
“We’re doing a lot,” Howard said. “We call ourselves the biggest underground printer in the city because nobody knows about us, but we only deal with big clients.”
Location: West Allis
Founder: Rachaad Howard
Product: Bulk screen-printing service and custom apparel design
Goal: Expand staff and establish new partnerships with large organizations