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“Never forget where you came from”

SYNcere Printing in Tiffin: making bucks and making a difference
Juan Santiago, the owner of SYNcere Printing, LLC in Tiffin is a former active duty Marine and currently a local police officer. Through his printing business, Santiago has been able to do projects supporting First Responders as well as the Relay Iowa run in memory of fallen officers.

TIFFIN– Since 2016, Juan Santiago has been screen-printing T-shirts and other garments under the business name of SYNcere Printing (LLC). It’s a unique enterprise for a unique individual who has been an active duty Marine, a member of the Iowa Army National Guard and a High Risk Unit officer with the Iowa Probation and Parole Department.
His childhood was spent in the foster care system in New York, some with his biological mother. He grew up in Puerto Rico and Lancaster, Pa. He’s experienced generational welfare, poverty, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination. He’s done social work trying to help people improve their situation in life. He’s seen the worst of humanity, and people who just simply made a mistake.
Like the popular commercial for an insurance company says, he “knows a thing or two, because he’s seen a thing or two.”
Like Santa Claus, he knows when somebody’s been naughty or nice, and when they’re lying to him: an inherent trait among experienced first responders.
“I wanted it (the name) to reflect my 20 years in law enforcement, but I didn’t want the ‘thin blue line’ theme, I wanted something more representative. So I got to thinking how when we deal with someone, and I’m sure it’s the same as a paramedic or a firefighter, you know when they’re not being sincere. They keep telling you ‘Yeah, uh, I’m not on drugs,’ or ‘No, I didn’t do it.’ You have that lie detector buzzer going off in your head.”
So why the “Y?”
“I chose the Y because ‘why’ is the number one question we always ask ourselves. Why did she have to lie? Why was he not honest? I think it’s an indirect representation of what we do in law enforcement because that’s the number one question we ask, or we have to ask, or we have to figure out.” Santiago also wanted the name to represent himself. “It gives you that ‘naughty’ but ‘nice.’ Sometimes people question my sense of humor, sometimes I’m very sarcastic.”
With a name in mind, Santiago launched the business from his basement.
“I’ve always been an artist, I like to draw and I learned how to screen print in junior high school,” he explained.
He did more research into screen-printing and sublimation (a process whereby a gel is heated, turns into a gas, and permeates itself into a polyester coating), and discovered sublimation is actually cheaper to produce on small items such as ceramic mugs and some small clothing designs. His first big break came when his friend Scott Storck, owner of Bachmeier Carpet One Floor & Home, hired him to print T-shirts for his employees.
“Then word got out and Brian Sekafetz (owner of Dodge Street Tire) ordered a bunch of shirts, and word of mouth started spreading,” he said.
Santiago learned about the State’s Targeted Small Business (TSB) program, which helps minority, women and veteran-owned businesses educationally and financially. “It’s an entrepreneur program that helps us build our businesses,” he explained. “They offer us opportunities like low interest loans.”
First came being state-certified as a TSB, then came a loan, which purchased most of his major equipment.
“As of August of this year, it’ll be completely paid off,” he noted. “It hasn’t given me any money, but it has given me some opportunities for me as a minority-owned business.”
Santiago also credits help from above, and said he has a promise he’s made. “I keep telling God, ‘You keep helping me, and I’ll keep helping people.” One way he helps is in the form of an automatic 10 percent discount for first responders and non-profit organizations with 501(c)(3) status. At the end of 2020, Santiago will draw from all non-profits who have ordered from him, and the winner will receive $1,200 either in cash for the organization, or in services throughout 2021. “Kinda my way of giving back to the community and the organizations that have supported me.”
Santiago moved out of the basement and into Unit C at 400 Stephans Dr. in Tiffin last May. “My wife was a motivator for me to move here.” Roughly 65 percent of their house had been consumed by the business, he estimated. “I did not realize how much of the house I had until I got this unit. I still apologize to my wife!”
SYNcere, in addition to screen printing and sublimation work, can handle banners, hats, decals, mugs and vinyl graphics. Design work is available as is a wide range of promotional items.
SYNcere exists as a business, to make a profit, but Santiago is quick to point out his willingness to help out a good cause. “I’m trying to figure out ways to give back to the community. Part of my business, and myself is, never forget where you came from. I always said if I had the opportunity to give back, I’m going to, because there were a lot of people who did so much for me.”
SYNcere Printing can be reached at 319-430-2388, by email at syncereprinting@yahoo.com, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/syncereprintingllc/
SYNcere Printing can also be found on the web at www.syncereprinting.com or www.syncereprintingpromo.com.