Meet the Owner: Fly-By-Night
A local screen printer has been in the business of perfection for the last 12 years and loves every second of it.
Steve Sproul is only in the screen printing business because he likes it.
The 64-year old Georgia native is semi-retired, having left half billion dollar textile giant Slant twelve years ago after his job as Director of Credit became too stressful. He moved to Tampa with his wife Jean and purchased Fly-By-Night Specialty Imprints from a local who had run the business for more than 40 years.
"Doing this creates a unique environment for me," Sproul said. "The rewarding parts of owning a business is still there, it's just more challenging in this economy. We've been able to get through it, but we'd like to get bigger. At least I'm not out there looking for a job."
The Fly-By-Night name is now more than 50 years old and Sproul runs it with a dedication to perfection and customer service. His experience in the textile business involved names like Perry Ellis, Manhattan Shirt Company, Sears and Roebuck and Wal-Mart but that is part of what led away from coporate America.
Fly-By-Night Specialty Imprints
5114 North Nebraska Avenue
Why leave the corporate world? "I got sick of seeing the little guy get stomped on so that the big guy could get what he wanted. I wanted to be in a business where everyone got treated the same. I believe that when you walk through that door, you get the same quality and the same treatment no matter who you are or who you work for.
What's with the name? "This company was involved with an artist named Rick Treadwick in Ybor City in the 1960s. They did a lot of off the cuff type stuff, but since the artist and the printers both had jobs, they mostly worked at night. So they named the business Fly-By-Night," Sproul said.
What's a project you really enjoyed working on? "There's no one project that really sticks out, but there are some customers I enjoy working with. James Warren, director of the theater program for Wharton high school, is a lot of fun to work with because he comes up with some really unusual stuff. Between him knowing what he wants to make and us knowing how to get it on the shirt, we come up with some really fun, creative stuff," Sproul said.
Specialty: Fly-By-Night does it all, from foil printing (shiny surface writing) to imprinted towels and hand printed bags. The price varies by how complicated the project is and how many colors you plan to use, but the more you print, the less it costs. Sproul guarantees all of the shop's work regardless of the money involved. "One thing you get when you leave here is a quality shirt. We don't have a six page receipt with our return policy. If you don't like it, you just tell me and I'll fix it or we can give you your money back and you can have someone else fix it."
Love of owning a business: "This is why I quit the other job. I love every single aspect of this business. Working for Slant was killing me because of the pressure and it got to the point that it wasn't an enjoyable job anymore. I think for most small business people, they're in it because they enjoy it. It's not the income, I can tell you that," Sproul said.
Mom and Pop: Fly-By-Night's only workers are Sproul, his wife Jean who does the bookeeping, and his son Johnathon who is a former printer for a major clothing designer who was laid off as the recession hit full strength. "It's great because he knows how to get just about anything onto a shirt. He does all the graphics, but if you work with a graphic artist, they don't understand how the press effects the artwork before it goes on the shirt sometimes," Sproul said.