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The History of Anita Goodesign

How it all began

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 Our company was founded in 2004 by our Owner & Operator Stephen Wilson, but his journey to start this company and build it into an industry leader began a decade before that. 

Back in 1994, Steve was 24 years old and working as an electrician with his father. He never felt like this was something he wanted to do, and decided to search

for something more fulfilling. This is about the time he bought his first personal computer and thought, “There has to be a way to make money with one of these.” Having loved his graphics classes in high school, he got some graphics software and installed it on his computer. This led to the founding of his first business, Artbox Graphic Design.

Now, you might be wondering when we get to the embroidery part. Well, a lot of screen printers Steve was working with started asking him about designing embroidery for clothes, which he had never done. At around the same time, Steve’s mother had attended a home embroidery party, much like a cooking, candle, or jewelry party. She came home very excited and told Steve, “I found what you are going to do next!” She explained how the demonstrator would show what he created, take orders, then deliver the finished goods a few weeks later. She said, “We can do that too!” Steve agreed, but quickly realized he had no idea how embroidery was made or where to get a machine. He then remembered all of the screen printers he worked with requesting embroidery and thought, there may be something to this.

After a lot of searching, he finally found a distributor and made the trip to see what they had to offer. The distributor explained how the machines worked and told him how easy it was to use them at home. Steve leased his very first embroidery machine that day for a small fee of $24,000. That didn’t include any software, hoops, or accessories, and it had a screen that looked like the face of a calculator.

Once the machine arrived, Steve and his mom began giving home demonstrations and selling personalized sweatshirts, with themes like “This mom is loved by” and “Dad’s Crew” with a boat, stick figures and kid's names. Almost immediately they began getting swamped with requests for custom designs and logos. Seeing a great opportunity, Steve then told his mother, “I am going to create our designs. I am going to digitize!” So, after another visit to the salesman from whom he bought the machine, and going over all the options for digitizing, Steve signed another lease to become the proud owner of $50,000 worth of digitizing software. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Do you know what you do when you spend $50,000 on software? You spend every waking hour learning how to use it, and that’s what he did over the next few months until he finally created his first design and charged for his services.

Luckily, there weren’t a lot of digitizers back then. Steve had no idea what he was doing. But he was young and, whenever a job came in, he would stay up all night learning how to do it. He took every class, went to every trade show, and spent every minute digitizing over the next two years.

Over the next several years, Steve worked with several licensing clients and created embroidery for Disney, the NFL, Nickelodeon, MLB, and a host of others. During that time, he won dozens of awards and was traveling around the country teaching digitizing classes. One day a woman came up to him after a class and said her mother owned a store in Florida and that he should come teach a class there. Steve said, “What kind of store?” She then explained that people embroidered as a hobby and had machines, software, and everything at home. Believe it or not, this was the first he had heard about home embroidery. So, he went to Florida, taught the class, and had a great time. During that class, he was introduced to representatives from a machine company who hired him to teach at their convention. He then met sewing machine dealers from around the country - it was like a new world!

As Steve traveled around teaching digitizing classes, he was asked the same question from every dealer he met: “Why don’t you have your own designs to sell?” After some thought, he contacted one of the artists that he was doing freelance with to draw some artwork for him. The artist’s name was Ginny Vela and she still works with us today. The first collection she created was called ‘Americana’ and it was released under Artbox Digitizing.

Steve was still traveling the country and teaching digitizing at the time, but wanted to create a company where he could teach software and create designs. So, in September of 2004, Artbox Digitizing was dissolved and Anita Goodesign was born in Union City, New Jersey! Not long after, Steve relocated his business to Charlotte, NC. When he started, there were only 5 employees, a tiny 3,000 sq. ft. office, and a simple mission: to create the best designs in the industry and provide a top-notch embroidery education to go along with them. While our team has grown over the years, our mission remains the same.

Now to answer the most popular question we get at events, where did our name come from? His grandmother was always a source of inspiration and supported everything Steve did as she worked in the sewing industry her whole life. Her name was Anita Pieroni. Of course, the second part of our company name is a play on words, making it “I need a good design.”

Steve with his wife Aundrea and their two kids, Wren and Otto.
Wren can be found in the studio already taking after her dad and making art!
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