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2011: Tragedy and a New Start
The sudden and unfortunate passing of Paul C. Kitsos leads his family to create the Nicholas Center for Autism (named for his one and only son) along with its employment initiative, Spectrum Designs Foundation.
Co-founders Stella Spanakos, Nicole Sugrue and Patrick Bardsley form a pilot program with a skeleton crew: two teens with autism and a single piece of equipment in a converted barn behind Stella’s Long Island home.
Orders come flying in. Demand for the service and the apparel with a clear, important message is higher than we could have ever imagined! Spectrum gathers momentum to employ production and educational directors.
2012: Ten Teens and a New Location
Spectrum grows to offer more teens with autism gainful employment by producing customized apparel. Families, community members and local schools support the new effort. Buoyed by this success Spectrum and The Nicholas Center make their first major purchase – a 500 sq ft building (The House) where a whole room(!) can be devoted to Spectrum's operations. The Nicholas Center conducts life skills classes upstairs.
2013: Another Move
Doubling our service capacity and tripling our sales, we move to a 1,500 square foot location in the Community Chest building in Port Washington. Spectrum’s annual sales reach the $250,000 mark.
Spectrum Designs invests in state-of-the-art embroidery, digital and screen-printing technology that our highly trained workers operate.
From hooping to thread breaks, new skills are taught to participants and another string is added to Spectrum’s bow.
Our second social media campaign, United Spectrum of the World, gets people from all over the WORLD involved. With snaps from Afghanistan to Zurich we had a different country represented every day for a whole month
2014: Sales Double, Again
Spectrum Designs' first annual Golf Outing raises $50,000 in September 2014. Spectrum doubles its sales AGAIN! With gross sales of almost $500,000, Spectrum becomes the go-to T-shirt printing and apparel customization business for most of the school districts and big businesses in the area. Plans for further expansion have already begun.
2015: Manual to Automatic
Addition of an automatic print press updates our screen printing technology. Production dramatically increases by 500%. The upgrade in equipment creates more hours of direct labor for our employees, increasing output capacity and enabling Spectrum to be more competitive on price, volume, and consistency. Two new full time employees are hired, a screen print machine operator and a direct-to-garment machine operator, through ACCES-VR.
2016: New Enterprises, New Building
Affiliate businesses -- Spectrum Bakes and Spectrum Suds -- are now established brand identities with happy repeat customers. Spectrum Designs shows growth of almost 50% from 2015. Adding $500,000 in sales, the apparel business finishes the year at over $1.4m in gross sales and gains several major customers, including a first-of-its-kind partnership with Autism Speaks for their national walk program – printing & shipping over 54,000 shirts across all 50 states. Designs provides 320 weekly hours of paid employment to 19 young adults with Autism – a 130% increase from 2015. In partnership with the Nicholas Center, an increase of 66% to 580 hours/week of authentic vocational training was provided to 31 high school students. Spectrum’s total reach – 60 individuals and their families, a 40% increase from the previous year. The possibility of purchasing a building becomes reality. The Believe Capital Expansion Campaign is launched. Discussions and negotiations follow, a contract is signed and Spectrum acquires a 7,500 square foot building just steps away from the current location.
2017: Evolving the Future
Spectrum officially owns a building – 366 Main Street in Port Washington, NY. Thanks to successful fundraising events and the Believe Capital Expansion Campaign, Phase II – construction and renovation begins. Spectrum Designs shows growth of almost 60% from 2016 and adds $1,000,000 in sales. The apparel business finishes the year at $2.4M in gross sales. Metro-North Railroad hires Spectrum to create 5,000 Hi-Visibility safety jackets in bright orange for its railroad employees. Working in a space of a mere 1,500 square feet, the project takes a tremendous amount of coordination and team work!
2018: A Place of Our Own
Spectrum officially moves into the new flagship location, tripling production space and hiring capabilities. The client list has grown to include: Uber, Google, NYU Langone Medical Center, Northwell Health, St. John’s University Law School, and MTA Metro North. At year’s end, Spectrum Designs has impacted the lives of 70 individuals and their families and created over 15,000 paid hours of meaningful work for individuals with Autism.