I recently ran into a friend, Odin Peter-Raboff (Gwich’in/Koyukon Athabascan). He is the owner of Nomadic Stars, and they do screen printing and create promotional items in Fairbanks. You may occasionally see them at a booth at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention and other events. He expanded his business to Anchorage recently and I asked him if he’d would share about it.
My name is Odin Peter-Raboff. My grandfather was the late Steven Peter of Arctic Village and the late Katherine Peter of Steven’s Village, Fort Yukon and Arctic Village. My mother is Adeline Raboff of Arctic Village and Fort Yukon and my father was the late Ernest Raboff of California and New Jersey.
I grew up nomadic traveling wherever my mother wanted to live. We lived in Anchorage, Arctic Village, Fairbanks, Oklahoma and Washington State. Later my mother married James Kari, a renowned linguist, who helped me to get a grasp of the importance of focusing on one field. I learned the value of using my energy and focus on one subject.
Before starting the business, my plan was to have my designs printed by other shops and sell them. After a few print runs of my own designs, I realized I wanted to try printing shirts on my own. I found I enjoyed the entire process. Printing is a combination of art, science and math, and I like the challenges it posed and the results that came out of that challenge.
Once the word got out that I had a little one-color screen press, some friends wanted me to print for them. That’s really what got the ball rolling and I gained new clients. As that happened, I kept buying equipment to meet the needs of the demand, but also to ensure we could deliver at a high quality.
My advice to anyone who wants to get into this business? Don’t jump around and do a million things, because we all know the brain likes to come up with endless ideas. Do one thing and do that one thing really well, then all the pieces will come into place if you stick with it.
Build a team of people who are kind and committed to the mission of your company. Everyday I’m appreciative of my staff. Over the years, they have provided valuable feedback to me on how I can continue to improve Nomadic Stars. Basically, the secret to success is to surround yourself with smart and caring people.
Another thing that helps for my type of business is using tools for communication, specifically planning and organizing software on the cloud is key. I have staff in Fairbanks, Anchorage and the Philippines. We need to be on the same page, and I also need my clients to see mockups and proofs of their designs. Sometimes our clients are under very tight deadlines. Being able to share files and work around the clock is critical.
My hope for the future is that we can change the way business is done. I personally don’t believe in CEO’s making three hundred times more than their lowest paid employees. I run my business in a way that I feel my elders and ancestors would be proud. Be fair, be honest and do right by the people who you work with and for. Do right by the environment.
Currently, Nomadic Stars is one of the few eco-friendly screen print shops in the United States. We print with water-based inks with zero toxic chemicals. This is one part of the business that I’m very proud of. Being eco-friendly is not just about the inks. I take a holistic approach to the business to ensure its eco-friendly. We reuse all the boxes that come into the shop. We use solar for all our hot water needs from spring through summer. We invested in equipment and screens that allow us to repair torn mesh and replace it, instead of shipping frames in and out from the lower 48.
My future goals are to include more renewable energy in our business and hopefully one day be free of using fossil fuels in our business; continue to assist youth who are active in traditional activities through sponsorships; and invest in people who are working towards learning and retaining our traditional Native languages.
Our biggest accomplishments are in how we continue to push our craft. I have met so many challenges in this business, and from those challenges we have developed so many new ways of doing things better. As we grew, we had to stop printing manually and start using machinery to keep up with demand. We have never had a technician help install any of our equipment. I don’t recommend this, but we have managed to install all of our equipment, maintain it and operate it. All of this was difficult, but helped our confidence knowing that we can face any challenge that arises.
This year we opened up our new location in Anchorage to better serve our clients in the southern part of the state. Our Anchorage location is focused on embroidery and promotional items. In Fairbanks, we are focused on screen printing and promotional items.
130 W. International Airport Rd., Suite F
Anchorage, AK 99518
1327 Hayes Avenue
Fairbanks, AK 99709
Enaa baasee’ Odin for sharing about his business! I know it has been a journey to grow Nomadic Stars into the company it is today. Kudos for being leading the way in creating eco-friendly products.