True Grit: Culture Studio President Rich Santo

Casey Gordon | October 7, 2016

Sometimes when you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Eight years in the nightlife business taught Rich Santo this lesson, and it has served him well as an entrepreneur.

Rich is founder and president of Culture Studio, a state-of-the-art screen-printing company that services clients in the fashion, promotional, and music industries.

Culture Studio was born out of Rich’s desire to disrupt the less-than-exciting garment decorating industry, particularly the most difficult part of the screen-printing process known as discharging. We don’t know too much about custom apparel production, but judging from Culture Studio’s explosive growth, we’re pretty sure Rich is doing something right — what began as a one-off t-shirt business is now a 50,000 square foot facility with eighty employees.

Another arena of success for Culture Studio is creating branded apparel that people actually want to wear. As Rich likes to point out, the boxy promotional shirts Benny the Bull shoots out of an air cannon are fun to catch, but would you ever wear one out on a Friday night?

Culture is an increasingly strategic advantage for companies across all industries looking to recruit and retain top talent, and quality branded swag is a surefire way to turn happy employees into vocal brand ambassadors (who hasn’t seen a Raise beanie downtown in the wintertime?).

Between the promotional industry and his life as an entrepreneur, Rich has now achieved success in two highly competitive, play-at-your-own-risk career paths, so listen up.

Rich shares 5 values from the nightlife industry that he applies as a CEO:

1. Grit. Leaders have to paint their company’s vision, but what good is a spectacular vision if you don’t wake up every day ready to do whatever it takes to make it real?

2. Tenacity. Replace words like “frustrated” and “overwhelmed” with words like “challenge” and “overcome.”

3. Impact. Why are you getting into an industry if you’re not trying to leave your own thumbprint on it?

4. Innovation. “That’s how we’ve always done things” is not a reason. It’s an excuse.

5. Customer service. It’s not just a value to put on the wall. It’s a process to be perfected.

FIVEinSIXTY is our interview series with leading CEOs, founders, and other executives about building amazing company culture, designing creative offices, and creating compelling employer brands.

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