(Oct. 11, 2013) A 25-year-old Ocean City native has opened shop making customizable wooden prints at his West Ocean City office.
Wyatt Harrison of Plak That recently bought a printer in his latest move to localize the business, hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Tuesday to celebrate.
“If you would’ve asked me even last year if I’d have my own printer or even my own shop, I’d have to said, ‘No way,’” Harrison said.
The student of anthropology had almost no business experience before starting the venture, but a sign in a California restaurant piqued his interest in April 2012, ultimately leading to the opening of his Ocean City business.
“I had never seen anything like this,” Harrison said, recalling the sign he saw in the restaurant. “I flipped it over, looked on the back and saw who the manufacturer was.”
Harrison contacted the California-based printing company that made the wooden sign and soon after, prints depicting photographs by his longtime boss Lee Gerachis, of Malibu’s Surf Shop, arrived.
That July, “a guy came in (to Malibu’s) and said, ‘You could really sell these,’” Harrison said. “I went home that night and started the Web site.”
He moved Plak That to a Salisbury printer that August, though the move wasn’t easy since the printer had never used a wood base before.
“I worked with him for a full year… refining the product,” Harrison said.
His final step came last spring, when rising demand and simple math led to a realization: “You need to bring this production in-house,” he said.
Harrison spent months seeking out loans to buy a printer for his business, but “none of the companies would touch me because I was so young. I couldn’t even get a lease because the companies thought I was too risky,” he said.
That led him to the Video Lottery Terminal (VOLT) Small Business Loan, funds collected from Ocean Downs Casino available to small, minority and female-owned businesses in Worcester County.
Harrison was the second recipient of the local loan, with an $88,750 check presented by Worcester County Economic Development Director Bill Badger following the ribbon cutting Tuesday. He will pay the loan back over a five-year period, with a sixth year of interest payments.
“He really had this sense of what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go, and he brought this tremendous energy,” said Lois Haggerty, the business counselor at the Small Business and Technology Development Center at Salisbury University who helped Harrison with the loan process.
After Tuesday’s ceremony, she said, “It’s always wonderful to have a client come in with a vision and see that vision realized.”
Harrison now receives orders for printing photos on wood from as far afield as New Zealand and Thailand, as well as from Ocean City customers.
To learn more about Plak That or to browse wood prints or design your own, visit www.plakthat.com.
Find the business on Facebook by searching “Plak That Custom Wood Prints.”