By Chris Meehan | Mar 27, 2016
Employees: varies from 1 to 12
"We've been doing dye-sublimated products and shipping them all over the country, to Europe, we've even shipped to Japan," says Conard.
Using dye-sublimation printing, DiEM makes the types of jerseys and clothing favored by sports teams across the world, whether they're playing soccer, biking, or hockey.
Out of its small shop in Denver, it's producing as many as 30,000 to 40,000 pieces of clothing year for sports teams as far away as New Zealand. It's an impressive feat for a company that sometimes only has one employee and currently tops out at 12 employees.
Then again, the company is fueled by passion. It was founded to dedicate 30 percent of profits to David's Fund. The fund is a charity set up by Conard and his parents in honor of his brother, Division I college sprinting star David Muller, who was fatally struck by a drunk driver at age 19. Those efforts gained the company the Bill Daniels Business Ethics Award in 2014.
"David really liked high-quality apparel. We knew if we wanted to get the quality we wanted we needed to control the garments so we decided to make them ourselves," Conard says. "I taught myself how to make apparel and we started with very basic items and found a need for a process called dye-sublimation."
More like the company stumbled upon it. Shortly after the company launched Conard was asked to produce 800 dye-sublimation hockey jerseys for the state inline hockey association in a month. "I had no clue what dye-sublimation was," he explains. "Three days later, I figured out what it was and found a company to print for us in Denver."
Inline hockey teams have always been an important DiEM customer. "We supplied the Professional Inline Hockey Association and the Skate Inline Hockey Association. Both are the largest hockey organizations in the country," Conard explains.
The leagues actually had an agreement to purchase DiEM's hockey business, according to Conard. "But the day they were going to buy our hockey division they pulled out and decided to build their own apparel manufacturer, modeling what they do off of us," he says.
DiEM now provides jerseys for individual inline hockey teams, the Guam national soccer team, USA Karate, ultimate frisbee teams, men's basketball leagues, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, and a wide variety of other teams and sporting events.
"We want to stay flexible and want to try and work with whoever is interested in representing the brand and the focus," Conard explains. Thanks to his and his sewers' abilities, "I can literally take a concept to reality in a day."
The company resultantly doesn't require orders three months in advance and can deliver product within roughly two weeks in most cases. "A lot of people are looking for what we do. They love that we're made in America and we donate proceeds of our profits to the nonprofit."
Conard is looking at two routes for expansion: in-house or in-state outsourcing. "I want to get more equipment and manage more demand," he says of the first.
The second option is a partnership with an initiative to help bring manufacturing jobs to rural Colorado, R-CAM in Wray.
Equipping the facility will require a significant investment. Industrial sewing machines cost $3,000 to $4,000 each and a professional dye-sublimation printers start around $8,000. He says once the shop is up and running, it can help DiEM expand its customer base and can also work do for other companies.
Challenges: "The biggest challenge I see is I'm still too tied to the product," Conard explains. "I'd like to spend time on the site and marketing."
Opportunities: "Taking on more markets. We just started doing jerseys for competitive trout and bass fishers. They want their sponsors on the jerseys," Conard says. "We're only doing one of the FIFA teams but there are 168 teams in the FIFA World Cup."
Conard also is looking at visual effects in apparel and is working on some patent-pending visual apparel technologies through his LEO Designs company.
Needs: "My need is to increase our capacity," Conard says. "We're turning down business because I know we don't have the capacity to do it."