MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa. — Richie Ray has fond reminiscences of spending a lot of his youth rising up within the Madison, West Virginia, space.
“I attended Danville Elementary college and later Madison Elementary, after which we moved,” Ray stated through a cellphone interview. “My aunts and uncles nonetheless stay in Madison in the present day. I nonetheless have a bunch of household there. Once I go to, a lot of it seems to be the identical to me from once I was rising up.”
Ray used to spend so much of time within the Coal Valley Information workplaces as a youth. His mom, Diane Ball, wore a number of hats for the paper together with receptionist, circulation and promoting duties.
“I can nonetheless bear in mind the structure of that constructing,” he stated. “I’d play within the constructing whereas she can be engaged on advert placement. Being there and watching her try this has all the time caught with me. I used to be most likely between 6 and eight years previous.”
Ray, 43, stated that wanting again, he realizes how fortunate he was.
“We didn’t notice how good we had it then,” he stated. “As soon as I used to be touring as a musician, I assumed each place was like that and it undoubtedly was not.”
Ray toured as a singer/songwriter with the act “Shindig” for over a decade, however in the present day he has settled right into a extra home life in Pennsylvania together with his spouse, Stormy Knight, and 10-year-old son, Milo.
Ray, a 1996 graduate of Sissonville Excessive Faculty, spent 18 years residing within the Louisville metro space of Kentucky, which put him only a five-hour drive from a number of metropolitan cities as he dedicated to a rigorous recording and touring schedule earlier than opening a recording studio the place he would produce up-and-coming acts in varied genres. He stated he by no means consciously sought to go away the Mountain State, however it was extra about geography and accessibility on the time.
“I don’t know if I used to be merely pushed or didn’t have any good sense,” he stated, laughing. “Seemingly somewhat little bit of each.”
Right now, Ray is the proprietor of “That Banner Man,” a full-service printing firm that makes a speciality of something from novelty objects like highschool sports activities buying and selling card units to gigantic industrial banners and indicators.
“I discovered to create my very own promotional objects years in the past primarily based on a necessity,” he stated. “I all the time wished cool album covers for my band and fliers for our reveals and T-shirt designs, however nobody round was doing what I wished, so I dove into studying how to try this and I actually get pleasure from graphics work.”
One in all Ray’s designs went viral on a nationwide stage when he created a buying and selling card in 2020 for Joe Unique, a personality from the “true crime documentary” Netflix sequence “Tiger King.”
“I offered the primary batch I created virtually instantly,” he stated. “It simply took off.”
Ray obtained phrase that Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, higher referred to as “Joe Unique” was receiving requests to signal the playing cards from jail, the place he’s serving a 22-year sentence associated to expenses of animal abuse.
Ray additionally noticed success with a wrestling-themed card recreation that produced over 150,000 playing cards.
The entrepreneur’s newest enterprise comes with a greeting card firm known as “Flawmark” that makes a speciality of humorous greeting playing cards for practically each event. The concept stemmed from Ray’s want to create pandemic-themed Christmas playing cards. The positioning calls the 43 playing cards it gives “tongue-in-cheek and typically offensive” humor. The Christmas playing cards offered out, and he knew he was onto one thing particular.
The pandemic had quickly closed the doorways of lots of the common shoppers of his printing enterprise, so he regarded to suppose outdoors the field.
“It was encouraging to see the general response to it, and it was put collectively comparatively rapidly, however with consideration to element and cautious advertising and marketing methods,” he stated.
Ray has discovered a distinct segment for his product and has begun distributing to retail shops on the East Coast with hopes of continuous a gradual, wholesome development.
The preferred Christmas providing was a Grinch-themed card that recommended that it was the Grinch who created COVID-19.
Ray stated his intent was to carry somewhat artistic, however tasteful, humor to individuals as they stressfully navigated a vacation season made harder by the pandemic.
“It was fairly clear to me that individuals acquired it they usually appreciated it,” he stated.
Themes of his playing cards embody birthdays, love, life occasions and farewells.
Ray stated his artistic vitality comes from the need to see an concept by means of to the top.
“I’m only a horrible worker if I’m working for another person,” he stated. “I’ve a lot respect for individuals who can try this, however I’m simply not wired that means. If I’m working for myself, I’m completely motivated and pushed like loopy, but when I’m working for another person, I simply don’t care. I can’t assist it. My dad is an incredible electrician and I simply marvel at what he does, however I’m simply completely different.”
The Boone County native stated he pays shut consideration to popular culture and developments on social media when creating new merchandise.
“I actually take note of what’s going on nationally and I’m continuously pondering of latest concepts for what can really promote,” he stated. “The fantastic thing about printing it myself is that I can design one thing and put it on the market and if no one likes it, I can pull it down and it’s performed.”
Ray stated he needs to focus extra on highschool and faculty sports activities, and group buying and selling playing cards are merchandise that by no means exit of fashion and make fantastic keepsakes.
He realizes that sooner or later, he’ll seemingly need to outsource his printing.
“That may be a good drawback to have should you can’t sustain together with your gross sales,” he stated. “I do know that as I develop that shall be one thing I’ve to take a tough have a look at, and I’m attending to that time now that it may be difficult. Whenever you work for your self, you need to make these powerful selections. I’m actually excited with my new merchandise and what I’ve on the backburner, launching sooner or later.”