Candidate for State Representative, Kelly McDonough, interview with Nate Moore, owner of RockHound Apparel, Womelsdorf, Berks County 

A little about your background

Have you lived in this area your whole life? 
I was born in Wernersville and have lived in Robesonia until I graduated high school in 2000. I went to PCA&D in Lancaster for 4 years and got a Bachelors Degree in Design. I then moved to Vermont, Philadelphia, and I eventually made it back to Robesonia in 2008.

Have you always been interested in graphic design? 
Art in general has always had a huge impact on me since I was young. My mother was a very talented painter. She was always encouraging me to create art and find joy in it. In the late 80s, my mother brought home one of the first editions of the Macintosh and we set up a program called ‘PrintShop.’ I swear I went through 5 boxes of computer paper that summer, just printing banners, posters, and signs. I found a lot of joy as a kid looking at album covers and magazines. All the combinations of design and photography really was appealing to me. I would paste posters and stickers all over everything. I still do.

What made you want to start your own business here in Berks County? 
Well, I worked at Penn State Berks as the Assistant Director of Marketing. I started to realize I was gaining a very good toolset for what I needed to start a business on my own. My grandmother had recently passed away, and I received an inheritance check for $1,000. At age 28, I could have easily spent that money on a credit card debt or a fancy vacation, but I wanted to use it for something meaningful. Something my grandmother would be proud of. So I decided to get a screen printing press. My original goal was to just print some fun shirts for myself and some friends, but I quickly realized that there was a huge need for printing in the area. Before I knew it, I was swamped with orders.

In the first 3 or 4 years after I started RockHound, I still worked at PSU full time. I was essentially working two FT jobs. I would come home, eat dinner, and go right back to work until 11 or midnight. I made a lot of sacrifices and put in a lot of very hard work in those early years. I eventually reached the point where I was feeling confident enough to leave my job at PSU to take the plunge on my own. It took a lot of convincing of my wife, but I eventually got her to agree.

About RockHound Apparel 

How did you come up with the name? 
I get asked this a lot and it’s kinda fuzzy, but I have a love for dogs, rescued pit bulls in particular, and I wanted to have some kind of dog theme. I was watching a movie and one of the characters was named RockHound, and for some reason that name just stuck. Shortly after a few logo design drafts, we had one we liked.

How long have you been in business? 
This past March was our 10th year in business. Unfortunately, we had to withhold any celebration, but that just give us more time to plan!

How many people do you employ? 
I currently have 4 full time employees. An office manager, graphic designer, and two screen printers. My wife helps out a lot as well. I am running the embroidery department and oversee all operations.

What do you specialize in/ what goods and services do you provide? 
We provide full service screen printing, embroidery, custom vinyl decal applications and stickers, as well as signage, banners, etc. We also do all types of design: branding, logo design, marketing items, labeling, etc. There are very many arms in this industry and it’s easy to branch out in different directions. We do take a lot of pride in our design work. I feel it’s one thing that sets us apart from our competition.

What organizations or businesses do you supply? Local and/or statewide and national reach? Fundraisers? 
We supply goods to all types of businesses, big and small. We have a large local following of small businesses and groups, but we also have clients that are spread out across the country. We do TONS of fundraisers throughout the year. They are such an amazing way for people to raise money for different causes. We help raise thousands of dollars a year through fundraisers and they are a huge part of our business plan. Schools and colleges are also a big part of our network.

Brick and mortar and online store? 
We have a brick and mortar store located in Womelsdorf and we also do a lot of online sales through our website.

How has COVID-19 affected your business? 
It has affected us dramatically. One day, we are working as normal, and closed down the next. We still had wet ink on the presses. We were in the middle of huge online stores for spring sports which are a big seller for us. For businesses in this industry, Spring is the time where your order load increases substantially. Not having all the buzz this time of year, it is very eery being in a quiet shop right now.
But, I do agree totally with all the steps that are being taken. It needs to happen now and be taken seriously, so we can all try and get back to opening our businesses and regaining some kind of normalcy.

What are your concerns or questions you want addressed in the midst of this health crisis? 
My only real concern is the length of time that we are going to be required to close. The longer it lasts, the more dreadful the outcome looks. I think a lot of small businesses, while definitely banged up from this, can come out of it with minimal damage. Some
others may not. I do feel like once the mandates are lifted, there’s a very strong possibility that we could see a huge rise in demand. We can only hope.

#HereForGoodPA How did you come up with the idea for this small business initiative? 
I wish I could take credit for the idea, but I was recently contacted by a colleague of mine who owns a print shop in St. Louis. They had this amazing idea to start a campaign to help small businesses through an online store on their website. I loved the idea from the start and began to visualize how I could make this work in our local area. I knew I needed to do something to help. Not being near a bigger city might present some problems getting people to sign up, I thought. But within a day, I already had 20 businesses. Two days, we were up to 40. It just kept growing, spreading. Almost, coincidentally, like the virus itself.

Impact? Short-term and long-term. 
While I loved the idea, I had no clue really what I was about to be in for. This campaign has changed me, my business, and has really strengthened by belief that small businesses are the life blood of this country. I’ve met more people and made more connections in the past week than I have in the past year. My email service even locked my account because I sent so many emails out, they thought I was a spammer. The feedback we are getting on social media has been nothing but phenomenal. I’m so pleased that we had a large enough response in the first week that I was able to start sending out large payments to businesses already. My goal is to make an impact by helping these businesses now. I know what it feels like to get shut down on the spot. My hopes are that if you can sell a couple shirts on our website, we might be able to help you pay a bill or two this month. Maybe next time, we’ll be considered an essential business 🙂

How many businesses are participating? 
As of now, we have around 90 businesses on the website and about 15-20 more in the works. We are looking to run the campaign until at least the end of April, possibly longer, possibly forever!
#HEREFORGOOD Small Business Relief Initiative

Anything else you would like to add?
We have raised over $10K so far in our first week with over 550 orders so far. People can find more info about this on our Facebook page and there’s also a Facebook group here:
#HEREFORGOOD Small Business Relief Initiative
RockHound Apparel Facebook Page
RockHound Apparel 109 E High St. Womelsdorf, PA 19567