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Sticky Business: Students grow enterprises

David+Perez+pulls+sliced+stickers+from+a+cutting+machine.
Photos by Carmen Guzman
David Perez pulls sliced stickers from a cutting machine.

Deep in the dusty and cluttered sunroom of his home, graphic design major David Perez Toledano fits a roll of paper into a printer several sizes larger than him.

His fingers dance on a screen, then put the machine through the motions of printing bottle labels for a local juice company. Mechanical needles make cross sections over the labels and cut them into stickers – for this order, the customer requested hundreds. 

Perez waits patiently as the printer spits out stickers, taking in his handiwork. This is the phase where he plays the waiting game – sometimes that involves checking into his online classes at Eastfield.

“A lot of times I’ll do school during the day, then I’ll work back here at nighttime,” Perez said. “I’ve worked until 4 in the morning trying to get [stickers] out.”

By day, he’s an Eastfield student taking in-person and online classes; by night, he’s printing commissions for his winding list of customers. He’s in a handful of students who manage a business on top of grades.

Perez credits the business idea and initial operation to his friend, who went into a print shop to learn the tools of the trade.

“We were using other companies to make stickers, and my friend said, ‘Man, we could do this,’” Perez said.

While his friend went to work, Perez joined the Navy to secure funds. He was on an aircraft carrier stationed in the 5th Fleet, which took him to Dubai and Bahrain.

Just like the sticker business, it consisted of long hours and working with hundreds of people. Contrary to military regiments, Perez’ work doesn’t follow a consistent schedule since orders come at any time.

“It’s tricky because of the ebb and flow of work,” Perez said. “I can wake up one morning with nothing to do, then before you know it, I have 2,000 stickers due tomorrow.”

After the military, Perez used his  Bill benefits to take out loans to pay off his business. He was fortunate to get a deal on a used sticker printer – it serves his business to this day.

“We didn’t put money in our pockets for the first two years of operation,” Perez said. “It was all reinvesting and paying off loans.”

Perez’s service also helped him pay off tuition, and he signed up for classes to learn the accounting end of business. 

A class on QuickBooks proved to be helpful in crunching numbers. Additionally, graphic design and computer classes taught him how to work in the technical side of printing.

“I’m going to school to receive my benefits,” Perez said. “I even get a basic housing allowance as long as I maintain my grades.”

Several miles away, in a trucking depot off MilitaryParkway, graphic design major Isasac Escoto takes orders from truckers lining up at his family’s food truck, Both Worlds Cuisine. The kiosk gives him some relief from the stuffy kitchen, its steam and hypnotizing aromas bellowing from the cashier window.

Escoto mans the cashiers window of his family’s food truck.

“This pays the bills,” Escoto said. “From time to time, we get stressed out,  but knowing this truck is going to help us is the most important thing to know.”

Escoto is one of the pillars of his family food truck business, employed since it hit the road six years ago.

When Escoto isn’t battling kitchen heat, he’s speeding through homework so he has more time to work.

“I have gotten overworked a few times, but my parents help me out with that issue,” Escoto said.

The truck has been Escoto’s way of getting to know Dallas, serving food at golf courses, parks and celebrations. With a Mexican mom and American father, their truck serves a blend of cuisine from both countries.

“We go anywhere, like this truck lounge space where truckers don’t have time to get food,” Escoto said.

The truck also pays off his tuition, and Escoto is interested in entering graphic design.

Escoto takes a customer’s order.

Escoto acknowledged a time will come for him to leave the nest, but he’s keeping the family business in mind for a backup option – regardless, Escoto’s parents have insisted on him to follow his studies.

“They’ve been trying to find people to help out on the truck, especially when I’m not around,” Escoto said.

Additionally, Perez isn’t limiting himself to a fledgling print shop.

“I want to make an app – a sticker app for people to submit their files to us for printing,” Perez said.

Perez’s business has served several large businesses such as Garland Camera Repair, but his big customers are pop-up events and local music gigs. He prints disposable stickers in the thousands. Those same events also serve as his business’ lifeline, for it relies on word of mouth.

“We don’t pay for any advertising,” Perez said. “I’ve never done any.”

With a reputation to boot in his local scene, Perez’ business has endured through major events such as the pandemic. Meanwhile, he maintains his studies at Eastfield to strengthen his ability to be a voice for other businesses.

“Things have gotten better for us,” Perez said. “When a lot of people lost their jobs, they started trying their own businesses, and our business is helping other people’s businesses.”

 

 

One of many boxes of stickers containing businesses and music groups Perez has worked with.
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Carmen Guzman, Editor in Chief

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