Embroidery and screen printing business aims for growth after ownership change
Alexandra Sheneman works on a screen-printed logo for a client's shirt at Cajun Design in Kalispell on Tuesday, Jan. 30. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)
A client's logo is stitched onto the front of a hat with an industrial embroidery machine at Cajun Design in Kalispell on Tuesday, Jan. 30. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)
From left, Olivia Krause, Becca Beard and Alexandra Sheneman at Cajun Designs in Kalispell on Tuesday, Jan. 30. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)
A screen-printed logo for the Forest Service at Cajun Design in Kalispell on Tuesday, Jan. 30. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)
A logo is stitched onto a jacket using an industrial embroidery machine at Cajun Designs in Kalispell on Tuesday, Jan. 30. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)
| February 11, 2024 12:00 AM
The name Cajun Design stands out in Northwest Montana, and despite changing ownership and location over the past few months, the business has retained its Louisiana roots and commitment to the local customers it has served over the last decade.
Former owner Olivia Krause is used to the constant hum of the embroidery machines that fill the air in a newly rented building in Kalispell. After 12 years of running Cajun, an embroidery and screen printing business originally based out of Columbia Falls, it’s the silence that feels strange.
Krause sold the business in November of 2023, a year after the death of her husband, Travis Krause, to Brandon Beard and Cory Shaver. Beard and his wife, Becca, moved to the Flathead Valley in 2020 from Louisiana planning to retire, but have instead found themselves managing multiple businesses.
Beard and Shaver, who lives in Texas, own and run multiple businesses in the valley, including Glacier Ziplines, Blacktail Mountain Adventures, and The Brandgineers, a marketing company.
Acquiring Cajun was an obvious addition to the family, allowing the entrepreneurial group to produce merchandise for their other businesses as well as expand their marketing services. They envision Cajun becoming part of a “one-stop shop” for branding and marketing in the Flathead Valley and beyond.
Alexandra Sheneman, Cajun’s new CEO, is excited by the opportunity to continue Cajun’s legacy while expanding its services.
“We’re trying to make sure that as we grow we still keep the tradition of how Cajun started and still service the people that kept it afloat because it’s a local town. Yes, we want to do big stuff outside of Kalispell but we’re still Kalispell-based and we want to make sure we stay true to that,” she said.
Sheneman added that Cajun is most known for its embroidery services, which is a meticulous process requiring a specific skill set and attention to detail. As a result, most embroidery businesses require minimum order sizes. Cajun doesn’t have minimums, despite the disruptions single orders can cause to the flow of operations.
The new Kalispell location allows room to grow, and Cajun hopes to triple its embroidery capacity, allowing it to expand current partnerships with local businesses and begin offering services in other states. As they do so, though, the business plans to continue working with individuals who have smaller needs, like a blanket for a volleyball senior or stockings for Christmas.
Former owner Krause and her husband, a Whitefish high school graduate, bought Cajun Design, previously known as Embroidery Plus, shortly after they moved back to the Flathead Valley. The couple met in Louisiana, where Olivia Krause is from.
After her husband passed away, Krause felt a pull to return to school and become a nurse. Between her new schedule and the pain of trying to run Cajun without Travis, she realized that it was time to sell the business.
“One of my biggest fears with selling is that my customers wouldn’t be taken care of. I have a lot of loyalty towards those folks and that was our living for a long time,” Krause said.
It felt like divine intervention that the Beards were also from Louisiana. As part of the sale, Krause will continue to be involved with her beloved business even as she pursues her nursing degree.
Cajun moved from Columbia Falls to Kalispell in December of 2023. Moving the heavy and complex equipment was a logistical nightmare, involving calling a tow truck after the embroidery machine wouldn’t fit in the moving van, and they faced other challenges from the change of location.
“The biggest struggle we’ve had with moving is that people aren’t aware we’ve moved,” Sheneman said.
Despite numerous posts on Facebook and a sign on the door of the former Columbia Falls location, Krause still gets messages wondering why her truck isn’t in the driveway of the old shop.
Krause and Sheneman want those customers to know that Cajun is still open and committed to providing the highest quality products and services. The new owners share Krause’s learning by doing attitude and attention to detail, and they are eager to show that dedication to customers new and old.
“That’s how Cajun’s always been,” Krause remembered. “We stay late and we get it done. Travis and I had nights where we would be there until midnight or one o’clock or all night long. It was definitely a family thing. If we needed to stay all night we got out the camping bunks and the kids would sleep and we would finish our screen print.”
The new owners have big plans for Cajun Design, including renting out more space in the building, tripling the embroidery capacity, and expanding to clientele around the country.
Cajun Design is located at 235 United Drive in Kalispell and can be reached at (406) 892-3935 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://cajundesignmt.com/.