Design business an outlet for creativity

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WEST DOVER — Jess Cronin was rapidly rising in the world of dentistry when she decided to go in another direction.

"I'm a very creative person and I didn't have an outlet for my creativity, so I left abruptly, very abruptly," the 26-year-old said with a laugh from inside the small office where she sells custom-made T-shirts, hats and stickers. She was previously a dental operations coordinator, helping to manage multiple offices, and a dental assistant for about five years.

Cronin started Cronin Creations LLC in 2016. At that time, it served as the name of her part-time photography business.

In December, Cronin took over office space on Route 100 in West Dover. The following month, she began the design shop.

"I went right into it," she said. "I was like, you know, we're going to get this machine that prints on shirts."

Cronin said she has about 15 years of experience with design and went to a vocational high school for graphic design. She lived in different towns in Massachusetts before moving to the area in 2012 to be around friends.

A machine at Cronin Creations prints directly on garments such as T-shirts, long sleeve shirts and hoodies or anything that is at least 50 percent cotton. Cronin said she imports a design into a program, sends it to the machine and prints using permanent ink.

Hats are made via embroidery, using a process called sublimation. Cronin said special ink turns into gas using a heat press.

Another machine makes vinyl decals.

"So we cut any color vinyl for vehicles, windows, equipment," Cronin said. "Any flat surface, really."

T-shirts tend to be the most popular item.

"I'd say right now, my list of future T-shirts — set in stone — is about 600," Cronin said. "And I do that all right here."

She works alone but hopes to have help someday. Her long-term goal is to grow to be more profitable.

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"It's very repetitive work, rewarding in the end," she said. "You're like, 'Yes,' watching your pile of T-shirts go down."

She described design making as "very time consuming."

"People are very indecisive as well so that adds more time into my design time," she said. "It's very exhausting."

For Cronin, the most rewarding part is "putting out a product people are happy with."

"I have high standards for myself and my own designs, and I nitpick at the smallest things," she said. "So when I hand over something they wanted, that they designed and wanted, and they like it and are super impressed, it's like, 'Hallelujah. Thank you, come again.' But it's definitely a big commitment."

Sometimes the work can be overwhelming and Cronin wants to give up.

"But you have to push yourself," she said. "And someone just recently told me, 'You gotta go into your space and put on your music and go out and prove people wrong. You gotta pull your big girl pants up, pat yourself on the back and call yourself a champ.'"

Cronin mostly meets with customers by appointments and contact can be made via Facebook. More than 1,100 people have liked the Cronin Creations page as of Friday.

"So it's definitely getting bigger," Cronin said.

She has an order for 500 shirts for Wilmington Old Home Week, which is happening next year.

Cronin said she is getting advice from people about how to grow her company and be successful. Her own words of wisdom to other up-and-coming entrepreneurs is: "It's time to get up."

"Get up and do it," she said. "There's no other choice. If you want it, you have to do it."

She added, "If you're trying to run your own business, just know that there's not always cream with your peaches."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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