Taylor McDowell started his company, Top Banana, out of his home in suburban Philadelphia last year. But within six months, his custom T-shirt printing business had outgrown his abode. “I was going to move into a retail space on South Street when a friend of mine said, ‘Why don’t you buy me lunch and I’ll show you a couple of other places.’” NextFab Studio was first on that list, and McDowell said it was a match from the first moment.
“The main advantage was space,” he explains. His business is based around his direct-to-garment printer, a new technology that allows fabric to be fed through an ink-jet printer, just like a piece of paper. The printer can be a bit fussy, though, and demands a humidity-controlled environment and security. The private office suites that NextFab offers as part of its residency program fit the bill. “The space worked out and the math made sense.”
Space wasn’t the only perk of membership at NFS and participation in its residency program. “I had a good feeling coming in that, from a networking standpoint, I’d meet some neat and interesting people. That’s definitely happened,” McDowell said. Another advantage, he says, “is really being able to ask anyone questions, especially [staff members] who know about Photoshop and Illustrator,” two Adobe programs commonly used for graphic design. “Those people have helped me so much,” he said. “My graphic design skills have really picked up.”
NextFab residencies generally aren’t permanent, but they do offer advantages for growing businesses, such as a business address and spaces to hold meetings, providing, as McDowell put it, “an air of legitimacy” to nascent ventures.
“The only thing that would get me out of here at this point would be [needing more] space and an upgrade of my equipment.”