Go Loco for MoCo: DECA’s New Printing Business


Photo by Luxe Palmer

Mrs. Bushnell demonstrates how to print a t-shirt

Palmer Ridge’s DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) team has known much success in the past; the team has won many competitions and has gone to State and Nationals every year in the history of Palmer Ridge. But what exactly does DECA do?

Team advisor Courtney Bushnell explains: “DECA is a co-curricular career and technical student organization (CTSO)… Much of what we do for DECA is part of our [business] class curriculum,” said Bushnell. “For example, students were working on projects last semester, and those projects are integrated into the curriculum that we were learning, but they also happened to be DECA competitive events… the mission of DECA is to prepare students to be college and career ready.”

This year, alongside competing in events, DECA has decided to invest their time in something different: starting a business. Specifically, a t-shirt printing business. “One of the components of a CTSO such as DECA includes trying to have hands-on opportunities to prepare kids for their future. Part of that can be accomplished through school-based enterprises,” said Bushnell.

“As part of my DECA chapter, one of the things that I’ve been working towards since I’ve been here is trying to find a school-based enterprise or business that my students could run, operate, be in charge of, so that they get that experience and that they’re able to take what they’re learning in class and be able to apply it in a business setting. It’s been a process, trying to find something that would work, given our physical space and given the constraints of the district- not being able to sell food and things like that. I know other DECA advisors around the state that run t-shirt printing businesses and I’ve been talking to them for the past couple of years, which is what got me excited about starting a t-shirt business. I was fortunate enough to receive some grant funding to buy the equipment that I needed to get started.”

MoCo orders in decals and t-shirts from other companies, as the machinery used to produce decals and shirts is far larger.

Palmer Ridge DECA officially founded an in-school t-shirt printing business called MoCo (Monument Company). All shirts are printed in-store, with the machinery being operated in Mrs. Bushnell’s business classroom by DECA and business students.

“Currently, this year, since we’re a startup company, my students that are in my third-year leadership class are the students who have the exciting opportunity to launch the business,” said Bushnell. “The students in that class have been doing the groundwork that’s necessary for starting a company- everything from coming up with the mission and vision of our business, what do we hope to accomplish, who’s our target market, what is our product line, what different roles and responsibilities are necessary to operate the business efficiently?”

The business itself is a fully-fledged non-profit business with a product line. MoCo outsources blank cotton t-shirts and has the decals printed, then transfers the decals onto the shirts using a heat press machine. MoCo also offers its design services and will design the decals for their clients. So far, MoCo is currently printing shirts for DECA, NHS, and other Palmer Ridge clubs. The company is primarily student-run, with Mrs. Bushell acting as CEO, overseeing and aiding where necessary.

Grace Carlander (12) is the marketing manager for the company. “I am dealing with starting our social media, coming up with the theme and general vibe that we want to give off for that, and also contacting different clubs and businesses to make t-shirts,” said Carlander.

The third-year students are in charge of running the business and producing the t-shirts. All the profits will be funneled back into the company in order to buy more machinery, expand product lines, and supplement DECA competition fees. “It’s a way that we can have our students gain real-world experience, just learning to work with each other, but it’s also a way that we can benefit the student body because we are able to print t-shirts for the different clubs,” said Carlander.

Mrs. Bushnell demonstrates how to print a t-shirt. The machine uses heat and pressure, similar to an iron, to transfer the decal.

The company’s goals include both expanding its clientele within the school and throughout the school district– possibly even into the Tri-Lakes community itself. “I would love it for our business to continue to grow and grow because I think that would be really special, and if we could reach out more into the Monument community, since our business is called MoCo, I think that would be a great opportunity for us,” said Carlander.

MoCo still has to deal with competition like any real-world company. Mass-market printing businesses like Custom Ink are the primary competitors. Custom Ink produces at a much larger capacity, worldwide. So what makes MoCo different? “What sets us apart is that we are a local business; we are run by students and we’re for students, which allows it to keep in the Monument community, but you also have that personalized connection,” said Carlander. “If a club comes to us and they want their logo on something, we’re able to help redesign logos if needed, we’re able to help see their vision through.”

MoCo’s first order is for the DECA team. The company designed and ordered the decals, including sleeve decals.

As MoCo is set in the real-world business industry, the company will need to watch out for real-world setbacks. Running a business is far different from competing in a mock event. “The best learning is oftentimes from our failure, so if we make mistakes along the way, hopefully, it’s a learning opportunity that students can take with them,” said Bushnell. “What makes me so passionate about DECA is how I see my students who participate in DECA be so well prepared for their next steps after high school. For example, I have students come back to me when they’re in college and tell me how well-prepared they felt for their college curriculum. A lot of what we do in DECA is teaching students how to effectively present and think analytically and critically, and be able to think on their feet… Knowing the benefits that the students will have down the road is probably what gets me so excited about having kids involved in DECA. Even in the short term, as they’re involved in high school, watching their growth, seeing their excitement.”

If you or your club/business/organization is interested in purchasing shirts from MoCo, contact Mrs Bushnell at [email protected]