When Krista Siana and John Nutting started making t-shirts for friends’ bands, they had no idea they’d started a business. In 2006, Siana and Nutting entered the world of young eco-preneurs when they realized they could make money off their tees. Today, at 26, the two business partners own Bias Design, a Boston-based sustainable screen-printing business they’ve built from the ground up, literally.
“We went down to City Hall and were like, ‘We wanna start a business,’” said Siana. “The guy looked at us like we were crazy and said, ‘OK, $50.00.’ It’s all kind of snowballed from there.”
When I stepped into Bias Design’s studio, the paint-splotched cement floor and sharp smell of ink instantly brought me back to a non-toxic version of 2nd grade art. The setting sun lit the studio warmly, while Krista Siana mixed paint next to a rack of blank blue American Apparel tees.
“I took a lot of color theory classes in college so it’s kind of made me a color-mixing snob,” Siana said, stirring her cup furiously.
Bias Design uses water-based instead of more traditional oil-based inks that require toxic cleaning solvents, expensive ventilation systems, and energy sucking, high speed flash dryers.
The water-based inks are harder to work with because they dry quicker but better for the environment because they can be cleaned with plain old water. “Traditional cleaning chemicals like turpentine are toxic for living, not just for the environment,” said Siana. “I don’t want to be breathing that. Plus, a lot of artists work in small spaces that aren’t well ventilated. It’s totally toxic.”
Bias Design’s eco-business model successfully allows Siana and Nutting to offset expensive American Apparel tees (compared to those from China that sell for pennies) with money saved from going green.
“It is more more expensive, but we are saving a lot in ventilation costs, in cleaning costs, and in energy costs,” Siana said. They’ve also heeded some business savvy and opted for slower, sustainable growth over the long-term versus crash and burn trendiness.
The biggest obstacle for Bias Design? Marketing. “We both went to art school,” Siana said, smiling, “so we got some outside help.” Siana believes people should do what they’re good at. And printing cool, eco designs is what Bias Design is good at.
Here’s where you can find their shirts in Boston: Magpie in Davis Square, Technical on Newbury St. and in Norwood, Stingray in Allston, Calico in New Bedford. Or just go online!
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