Photo by Erika Fleegle

Free shirts promoting 3E Studios were given at the ceremony honoring Sidney Jake Huffmyer as Young Entrepreneur of the Year on July 2, 2015.

By Erika Fleegle

Easy. Efficient. Enjoyable.

Now, Sidney Jake Huffmyer can add a new description to his line of work at 3E Studios; Young Entrepreneur of the Year presented by the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) and co-sponsored by the NorthSide/NorthShore Chamber of Commerce.

On Thursday, July 2, SBA’s Pittsburgh District awarded Huffmyer with the distinguished Young Entrepreneur of the Year award during a reception at his screenprinting studio in Manchester.

The NS/NSCC also hosted their monthly Face-to-Face networking event in conjunction with the SBA awards presentation in celebration of the award.

For Huffmyer, the award encompasses more than just selling t-shirts. After pursuing a music career and signing with a local record label at the age of 16, he went on to earn a degree in audio engineering from Full Sail University with the intent of signing on another label, touring with his band and selling t-shirts.

“There was always that creative aspect to it that I enjoyed,” Huffmyer said.

It wasn’t until he attended the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in electrical engineering, that his plans took another detour.

To further their creative endeavors selling t-shirts for local bands, Huffmyer’s cousin, Dave Burns, purchased some basic printing equipment from a retiring t-shirt maker. The rest is history. After running 3E Studios in Huffmyer’s parents’ basement, the pair  moved around to several Northside locations over the past eight years before settling into their current space on Western Avenue.

While the original printing equipment is still in the shop, it’s only on display in the front room. The newer equipment, which was secured with help from the Northside Community Development Fund, is kept in the back and can crank out 500 custom shirts an hour. A number of these shirts could be seen around the studio as guests drifted in and out. Huffmyer prints everything from shirts for family reunions to contract jobs for Giant Eagle and the Pittsburgh Penguins to gear for Pittsburgh-based band Rusted Root.

During the ceremony, speakers had nothing but praise for the work that Huffmyer and other area entrepreneurs have done. Dr. Mary McKinney of the Western Pennsylvania Small Business Network welcomed the crowd, noting that, “Small businesses really are the engine of growth of the region.”

“It’s just so exciting to see young people out here doing something,” Kelly Hunt, director of the SBA Pittsburgh District, said.

The Pittsburgh District covers a large portion of Western Pa., from State College to Erie to Greene County.

Catherine Tyson of the University of Pittsburgh’s Small Business Development Center, who nominated Huffmyer for the award, also stressed how important it was to create relationships within the community.

“I first met Jake (and David) when he was an engineering student. Even now, they’re always coming back for help and advice.”

Huffmyer couldn’t be happier with where all this advice and support has led him today. While screenprinting is certainly a departure from engineering, he notes that “There’s the design aspect incorporated with precision and physics, all just to make a t-shirt.”

In terms of growing the business further, 3E Studios plans to offer a design and ordering service for customized shirts through an interactive website, according to Huffmyer.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously omitted the NorthSide/NorthShore Chamber of Commerce co-sponsorship and meeting information.

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 Photo by Erika Fleegle

Jake Huffmyer of 3E Studios on Western Avenue shows of his award presented by the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Small Business Association on July 2, 2015.