Cindy Asay reached another milestone in her varied career: 10 years as a small business owner on top of a career in newspaper production and education.
Asay’s graphic design company, Wild Edge Screen Printing and Embroidery, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week as Asay continues to improve and advance the capability and technology of the company.
The future teacher and businesswoman started her career in the newspaper business, working in the dark room of the Lovell Chronicle in 1982 after graduating from high school. She started in graphic design at Northwest Community College at the same time and although she only went for one year or so, she flourished at the Chronicle, becoming the paper’s production manager until leaving to return to school at the college, now called Northwest College.
Asay first returned to the classroom to obtain a substitute teaching permit and realized she was only about 60 credits from getting her associate’s degree. She obtained that degree while subbing and continued at the college in a University of Wyoming outreach program, joining future Lovell High School counselor Tawnya Teter as graduates of the first class of the UW outreach program.
“We both got our UW degrees in Powell,” Asay said. “My degree was in elementary ed with a creative arts emphasis, and I went on to get a journalism endorsement. I learned Photoshop when it first came out.”
After earning her degree in 1999, Asay was hired as the first district technology director in School District Two in 2000, and she went on to obtain a master’s degree in technology in education through Lesley University, attending class once a month for two years in Worland.
Asay was hired as a high school teacher at LHS and started her teaching career in the fall of 2004, teaching journalism, video, photography and video skills, as well as putting together the annual yearbook. She added introduction to communications at the middle school four years ago, teaching basic computer skills.
Asay retired this spring amid the COVID-19 crisis and moved fulltime into the business world.
Asay’s screenprinting and embroidery company was born from her classroom work.
“I wanted an enrichment project. I wanted kids to be able to apply what they were learning with a hands-on project, something tangible and not just on paper,” she said.
The Lovell Bulldog in-school store was born.
“My goal was to get every kid a school spirit item,” she said. “We had a little store. I obtained a screen printing machine. It was a real work program operating out of the old art room.”
Friction with a community screen printing store led to the school ending the Bulldog store project, so Asay decided to start her own store, and Wild Edge was born.
“I was watching an old Western, “Wild Times,” with Sam Elliott, one night and came up with Wild Edge. I needed something unique.”
Asay started Wild Edge in a corner of her garage with a screen press for screen printing, a heat press and a vinyl cutter. She still uses two of the three original pieces of equipment.
“I take care of my equipment so it lasts,” she said.
Her first order was a set of T-shirts for the Waterhole #1 Bar in Cowley.
She continued to add equipment and expand her capability.
“I’m always wanting to do something more,” she said. “You do one thing and think of another thing so you make it happen.”
Asay obtained a mug press and started the popular sublimation portion of her business, starting with shirts first via a special printer. She can transfer a photograph to just about anything.
“I did mugs in my oven for a while,” she said. “It came from my photo background, putting anything on polyester or a special coating. I like the personalization of things, the uniqueness, so not everybody is stuck with the same item.
“I can sublimate almost anything. There are thousands of items I can do.”
Asay next bought an embroidery machine about four years ago, initially continuing to operate out of her garage.
“It’s a very sophisticated machine,” she said. “It was top of the line at the time. Actually, it still is.”
But Asasy was running out of room.
“The busier we got, just keeping track of orders of several hundred shirts or hats, there just wasn’t enough room (in the garage),” she said.
Wild Edge moved to 355½ Nevada Avenue, the former Robertson Motors Building, in November of 2016, renting from Bruce Jolley.
“My goal when we moved was just to have room to complete orders, some elbow room to do things,” Asay said. “I didn’t intend to open a store front. I came down here in the evenings and worked.
“We put up a rack with leftovers from orders, and people were buying it. So we started creating our own items and it’s grown from there.”
By Christmas of 2017, Wild Edge was open as a retail store, and Asay had to learn a different world, figuring out what customers would want off the rack. But unlike a traditional retailer, she could make just a handful of items, and if they sold, she could make more.
“I don’t have to go to market and spend $30,000,” she said. “I can just make a few items, and if people like them, we can make more and even come up with new designs. It keeps the variety fresh. Instead of getting 40 of the same thing, I get blank stuff and put different designs on them.”
One important move Asay made was to obtain a license from the University of Wyoming to use the Wyoming bucking bronc/steamboat logo.
Asay next added a direct-to-garment printer, which allows her to print any design directly onto fabric. She said less screen printing equals less mess.
“It’s a lot cleaner and higher quality,” she said. “I can print photos right onto fabric. It has broadened what we can do with screen printing. It’s much cheaper and expands that creativity that I crave.”
She also obtained a banner printer. Her work could be seen this spring in the form of the banners on Main Street that featured the graduates of the LHS Class of 2020.
Asay gradually built a staff, mostly family at this time. Sister Sandy Wilson operates the embroidery machine and also ran the store while Asay was teaching. Granddaughters Ashley, 15, and Whitney, 10, Asay are working this summer. She had to lay off an employee when the coronavirus struck in March.
“I would like to put another person back on, but I don’t trust the economy with the COVID right now,” she said. “Down the line I would like to separate the manufacturing from the retail so we have more retail space.
“I would also like to add a laser engraver. I hope to have that within a year. That would expand, again, what we could do. I like having gift ideas for people that are unique.”
There’s little doubt that Wild Edge Screen Printing and Embroidery will continue to grow and expand its product line. It’s in the nature of its creative owner.