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Arnold couple looks to Elevate their family, city with T-shirt printing business – TribLIVE

Contact Elevate Arnold
Phone: 878-212-9810
Email: order@elevatearnold.com
Website: elevatearnold.com

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An Arnold couple hopes to build their new business along with, and within, a rising city.
Mark and Crystal Saxon founded their T-shirt printing business, Elevate Arnold, on a design by their 6-year-old daughter, Audrey, around Valentine’s Day this year.
Audrey’s shirt, featuring a heart with the word “Love” within it in sign language symbols, proved popular enough that they launched a website after finding they couldn’t keep up with demand for it through a Facebook page.
“It had a lot to do with the positive response from the community,” Crystal Saxon said. “It gave us enough traffic and momentum.”
That original design is no longer available, but a collection of Audrey’s designs, called “Auddish,” is featured on the Elevate Arnold website, among several others.
The Saxons now are running the business from their Arnold home, where the living room is their shop space.
“We removed the living room from the living room,” Mark Saxon said.
They hope to move into a storefront, ideally in Arnold, by the end of next summer.
“A lot of it came from wanting to give back,” Crystal Saxon said. “We want to elevate not just ourselves but those around us.”
Mark Saxon said they might have an easier time finding space somewhere else, but that runs contrary to their mission.
“We’d like to stay in Arnold,” he said. “It’s the whole basis of the business.”
Mark, 35, and Crystal, 30, have been married for 10 years and moved to Arnold in 2012. They met online.
Mark grew up in Homestead and served in the Marines for four years. Crystal moved to the area from Washington State.
“It was just a fresh start,” she said. “He was my only friend at the time.”
They both previously worked for the Veterans Administration, he in housekeeping for 10 years and she as a health care technician for a few months.
Mark was laid off from his last job with a property management company in March, and Crystal has been a home-based hobbyist and crafter.
Elevate Arnold is their first attempt at a business.
“I was just a hobbyist who sold things here and there,” Crystal said.
Earlier this year, Mark attended an eight-week Opportunity Accelerator program for small-business owners at The Corner, Penn State’s entrepreneurial center in New Kensington. Mark said the course helped him step back from the technical aspects and focus more on business fundamentals.
From their home, they produce shirts using direct-to-garment printing, which uses a large ink jet printer to put images on shirts. Their turn-around time is about week, although they give a two-week window.
After starting with T-shirts, Mark Saxon said they are rolling out sweatshirts and hoodies for their Halloween line and are doing temporary tattoos and magnets. They are looking to expand into window clings by the end of the year.
Mark Saxon said their plan is to partner with artists to reproduce their designs on shirts, create shirts for area businesses and sell their own in-house designs to individuals.
“Our motto that we went with is, ‘Inspiring others forward together,’ ” he said.
While smaller businesses might not be able to afford buying in the numbers other T-shirt companies require, the Saxons are able to handle small orders, even if it’s just one or two shirts. A single custom shirt costs $20.
For Arnold, where Mark Saxon chairs the city’s redevelopment authority, they made four shirts for the city’s two code enforcement officers this summer.
Councilman George Hawdon said he wanted the officers to have clothing that identified them as city employees, but minimum orders elsewhere were for 10 or 12 shirts.
“I wanted the code officers to have some kind of distinguishing clothing, but I didn’t want it militarized like the police or bulky like the fire department,” Hawdon said. “They’re very nice, very high quality. He was able to do just a small order for me. The bonus was he was a local business.”
While still doing other work to support his family, Mark Saxon hopes Elevate Arnold grows to become his full-time occupation.
“I want to build an empire to give to Audrey,” Crystal said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian by email at brittmeyer@triblive.com or via Twitter .
Contact Elevate Arnold
Phone: 878-212-9810
Email: order@elevatearnold.com
Website: elevatearnold.com

TribLIVE’s Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox.
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