Ben Welstead has a good story, and he knows exactly when it starts – 2007.
Back then he was a church youth group director who was busy organizing events, meeting with kids and taking the occasional summer missions trip.
It was these trips that got him thinking about alternative ways to fundraise. He noticed his youth group kids lived in t-shirts and jeans and they were always looking for a cool new shirt to add to their collection, so Ben thought he’d try screen printing for himself.
Ben has always been somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades, so screen printing seemed like just another hobby to add to the list.
He bought a screen printing starter pack and then watched YouTube videos to fill in the blanks. It was a very trial-and-error process with lots of frustration and mistakes, but when Ben finally pulled his squeegee over his very first screen he realized he’d finally figured it out.
That was the start of Basement Ink, Ben’s literally basement-run print shop.
At this point, Ben and his wife, Renee, were both running businesses out of their home. It was busy, stressful and new. They were keeping their heads down, working, making deadlines, figuring out how to run businesses and pushing forward.
And then the phone rang.
While Ben had been starting his business, he and Renee had also become foster parents, and that phone call was about a possible placement.
Two girls – sisters – and then came the question, ‘Would you be interested in possibly adopting them?’
Umm, maybe? The next few months were filled with weekend visits, meetups and a lot of hard questions and conversations with friends and family about what it meant to be parents.
Were they ready? Could they raise these sisters? How do you love a child who you barely know?
It was a hard season with desperate moments and little sleep. The girls moved into their house, they figured out routines, likes, dislikes and on National Adoption day in 2011 they made Cora and Ruby their daughters.
Being parents is revealing, said Ben, and as they adjusted to the joy and pain of being a family a few things surfaced.
Ben realized he couldn’t work at home anymore. There was too much stress, too much anxiety and too much loneliness. Sure, he was in his own house and around his family, but he was constantly thinking about work because it was in his house. It became unhealthy, and as Ben reached a breaking point, Renee handed him a listing for a rental space.
On the day he signed the lease on his new work space, another call came – twins, biological siblings of their daughters.
“We just knew they should be with us,” Ben said.
And six months later, Louis and June became Welsteads too.
For a while things worked out OK. Ben’s family had tripled in a matter of years, it was crazy, in a good way but also a bad way. Ben was still putting in an obscene amount of hours, he was constantly apologizing to clients for missed deadlines and more importantly he felt disconnected from his family when he was home.
Something had to give, but he was at a loss for what needed to happen.
Then, he got a text.
Another screen printer in town, Jason Davis of Screen Ink, had a job opening and wondered if Ben would be interested in merging operations. It was the answer Ben needed, and a few months later he sold his printing equipment, left his rental space and joined Screen Ink.
These days, Ben doesn’t spend weekdays mindlessly printing shirts alone in his basement, he’s collaborating with a team for the first time, finding creative ways to stretch Screen Ink and then biking home with a freed mind to his family.
On the weekends he cheers at soccer games, takes the kids on family bike rides and carts them to birthday parties. The days are busy and full, but so much better than before, he said.
To say a lot has changed over the past nine years of Ben’s life would be an understatement. Everything changed, but Ben wouldn’t have it any other way.
The way he told his story was honest and sincere. It wasn’t some nice spin on things, it was unfiltered, rich and raw.
It’s a story with so much struggle, but also so much beauty. It’s about becoming a family, being a family and embracing change.
But it’s also a story that’s not finished, there’s more to come from Ben and the rest of the Welstead clan, and that’s a story we’re excited to watch unfold.