When Brett Ortiz launched AZ Custom Hats & Apparel in 2016, his business grew quickly and built a reputation for making high-quality, custom products that include everything from hats and accessories to clothing items.
“We started out selling hats with different sayings on them,” Ortiz says. “That eventually grew into people wanting us to make them custom hats, which then snowballed to shirts and other items. At that point, we went from being an online Instagram business to creating full-fledged promotional products.”
As his company blossomed, Ortiz started to get larger orders that were difficult for him to handle on his own. He reached out to fellow business owner Erika Schmeissing for help.
“Brett would come to me for his embroidery orders, which I would help him with,” Schmeissing explains. “From there we formed a friendship, and ultimately a partnership.”
Schmeissing founded Arizona Custom Embroidery in 1986 and has been in the Airpark area for more than 30 years. Her company specializes in custom embroidery for a wide range of products and has an extensive client list that includes major resorts, country clubs and other businesses in the area.
Ortiz and Schmeissing began working together almost daily while helping each other out with various orders. Eventually they came up with the idea to merge their businesses; then, when Schmeissing’s office lease was up in 2020, she moved into Ortiz’s space. But after a couple days working together, they realized they needed more room, so they found a new space across the street that was three times larger and could accommodate their need for expansion.
Ortiz and Schmeissing are excited for their partnership and the opportunities that lay ahead of them. They look forward to combining their shared knowledge and resources to further expand their client base and business model.
“We’re both applying our knowledge of the industry and our experiences,” Schmeissing points out. “We’ll take things that he does well and combine them with what I do well. We test out different things to figure out what works best for us in each situation. Brett also helps me with the computer and technology side of things.”
“Erika does a lot of contracts with country clubs and golf resorts, whereas I work with a lot of bars and nightclubs,” Ortiz says. “Between the two of us, we’re pretty diverse and widespread. I’m bringing more technology and social media into the mix, which is changing things up. She has years of experience and is guiding me through different things, while also helping me be more organized and keep track of stuff.”
Despite COVID-19, the two have been busy. They’ve been making lots of custom masks in-house for clients, in addition to screen printing and fulfilling orders for promotional products. They are assembling a full showroom where clients can come by to check out their offerings and work with them on custom designs.
Arizona Custom Embroidery’s website features an entire catalog of apparel choices that clients can browse, while AZ Custom Hats & Apparel’s website also offers the option to design online. Together, Ortiz and Schmeissing plan to continue to be a one-stop shop for all their clients’ needs.
“Putting our two businesses together has made us stronger and given us hope, especially during this pandemic,” Schmeissing says.
Adds Ortiz, “I’m pretty excited about this new opportunity for our combined growth and success. It’s wonderful to be able to learn from one another and teach each other new things.”