Q&A: Daniel Fox, founder of Skreened

By Abernathy Miller
From the November 14, 2013 edition
  • Photo by Meghan Ralston

What started as a printer in Skreened Founder Daniel Fox’s Olde Towne East apartment has grown into a platform for designers to grow as entrepreneurs. Now the site that allows designers to create and sell their designs to the masses employs more than 100 people. However, the success wasn’t without growing pains. Fox admittedly didn’t sign up for the realities of a shrinking market. Even through the tough decisions, one thing is sure: Skreened is about so much more than T-shirts.

I was working at Nationwide Financial, but I didn’t fit in very well. One day I just thought, “I’m going to get a domain name and start designing shirts. I registered Skreened, and then sat on it for about a year. Then I decided I wanted to do something people could participate in. After sitting on the domain for a year I decided to turn it into a platform for other designers.

At first, it was just me hanging out with my printer in Olde Towne East. I was doing freelance work to help pay the bills. But business started ramping up right around the 2008 election, and I was able to hire my first employee.

My first employee was a customer who really dug the whole idea of Skreened. I like having people work for me that get what Skreened is about. The vision is to empower the designers. I want to help people become successful, not just push shirts. Ultimately I have to live with myself, and the selling shirts part isn’t what is gratifying. I want to teach people to be in charge of their own success.

On paper my job is not what I’d thought it’d be. It isn’t quite as sexy as I thought. I do some designing, but mostly I have to make spread sheets, crunch numbers and make decisions I never thought I’d have to make. But somebody has to keep the vision and take on the responsibility. That being said, it does give you a sense of pride and ownership.

A few weeks ago we had to lay off 20 people, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t think people who start business think about the consequences. I knew the people. I didn’t want to do it, but in reality business was slow and the decision had to be made. It’s all a part of the market. I looked like a total asshole. That being said, through the course of the company, I have had people tell me it was the best place they had ever worked. They told me the culture here was the best they’d experienced. Maybe that’s because I just don’t know how to do “corporate,” but it felt really good to hear people genuinely enjoyed working for Skreened.

The most important thing to learn as an entrepreneur is that it is never anyone else’s responsibility. Every success and failure is your fault, and you have to own it. Though that’s a lot of pressure, it does give you the ability to change things within your company.

I don’t think Skreened could have grown in any other city but Columbus. Columbus has this ridiculously supportive culture that allowed us to grow and become successful.