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How to suceed in printing
By Karen Edwards
November 2005

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Photo Gus Brunsman III

r design owners Juli Rogers and Dave Ramirez
with senior designer Becky Patrick (seated).

There is one thing you need to understand about the printing business in Columbus: It is highly competitive.

Nearly 200 printers are listed in the city’s current Yellow Pages, so for two people like Dave Ramirez and Juli Rogers to start up a new printing business – r design & printing in the Short North, which they did two years ago last March – well, it all just seems a little foolhardy.

That is, until you factor in the elements that go into a successful printing business. Like experience. And Ramirez and Rogers have plenty of that.

Experience counts
“Not that anyone wakes up one day and says, ‘I think I want to go into the printing business,” says Dave Ramirez – but each gathered a wealth of experience on their circuitous route to their own print and design shop.

Take Juli Rogers, for example. She was a glass-blowing major at the Columbus College of Art and Design until a friend talked her into choosing another field “that would actually pay my bills,” says Rogers.

That field was graphic design, and after leaving CCAD, Rogers went to work at the weekly (and now-defunct) Trading Times newspaper. “That’s where I learned to work on short deadlines,” she says.

She went from there to a job at CM printing as a lithograph stripper – “as opposed to any other kind of stripper,” says Rogers with a laugh. This was a hands-on learning job, which taught her a lot about the printing process, and how to make it more cost effective.

From there she went to a small print shop in the Short North where she met Ramirez, who had come to the shop following a stint with a paper manufacturer.

“I worked there for a number of years before coming to the print shop,” says Ramirez. Obviously, his knowledge and expertise in paper is unsurpassed.

Both Ramirez and Rogers say they learned a lot at the small Short North print shop.

“I learned from the ground up,” says Ramirez.

Lessons in pricing, press operation, facility management, and quality control were all part of the job for both of them – and stood them in good stead when they decided it was time to fulfill their dream to open their own print shop.

It was a risk. They both knew that.

“You have to pay back the loans,” says Ramirez, “so it has to be successful.”

And that brings us to the second element that goes into a successful printing business.

Grow the business.

Knowing and growing
One of the advantages of ownership, says Ramirez, is the ability to take the business in the direction you want it to go.

“You have to think in terms of growing the business,” he says. Not geographically, with multiple locations, or even through shop expansion, although that may come in time.

In printing, growth equates to equipment – and a successful printer knows when it’s time to bring in the machines that will allow the shop to offer its customers greater and greater service.

For now, r design & printing can handle any kind of print job, but some work must be outsourced to other printing houses which have the machines to do the job.

“Of course, some of the large printing companies outsource their smaller jobs to us,” says Rogers.

But Ramirez and Rogers understand that if their business is to succeed, it will eventually have to offer some of the services
that are outsourced now.

And it will.

“We’ll build on what’s here,” says Ramirez.

The pair envisions a day when they will be able to offer a competitive, four-color price, direct-to-plate printing, and large format color so they can prepare signs, banners and placards.

For now, however, r design & printing will continue to do what it does best: one, two and three spot color, forms, letterheads, brochures, business cards, and other small print jobs.

“We also have full graphic design capability,” says Rogers.

That’s been enough business savvy to persuade Doctors’ Hospital, Durable Slate Company, the Short North’s Pistachio bakery, and Cameron Mitchell restaurants to become regular customers of r design & printing.

“We recently designed a new ‘Fresh Martini’ menu for Martini’s restaurant,” says Ramirez.

Once again, we’re brought to another element for a successful printing business.

Good relationships.

Customer relations
And Juli Rogers may be the queen of good relationships in the Short North.

Ramirez credits Rogers as the reason so many clients followed them into their new business.

“She’s great with people,” says Ramirez.

Rogers says that may only be because she’s the one who works one-on-one with the clients. Ramirez has other duties that sometimes prevent more client contact.

“I talk about my kids a lot,” says Rogers. “Everyone who comes in hears about them.”

Both Rogers and Ramirez are parents (Rogers has two children, Ramirez three), and both say that one of their favorite clients is INFOhio, a non-profit agency that provides online resources for the state’s school children.

“This is a group that not only provides a great service for kids, but they also work very hard to save taxpayers money,” says Rogers. “They’re really responsible with the money they have.”

But every job completed by r design & printing has the potential for cost savings.

“We’ll ask clients what they want and what their budget is,” says Rogers – then they work within that budget.

All budgets can be accommodated, adds Ramirez.

“We’ll show a client different options, any of which will help the project come in on budget,” he says.

If there is one thing clients notice about r design and printing, it’s that the shop is reliable, quality-conscious and friendly – and that goes for the entire staff.

In addition to co-owners Ramirez and Rogers, r printing employs a senior designer (and CCAD grad), Becky Patrick, a press operator, and a part-time individual to work the front counter.

Ramirez says r printing will travel to pick up jobs from clients, but they prefer having clients come to the shop to discuss the work they need done.

“We can show them around the shop and show them the kind of work we do before we go over their projects,” says Ramirez.

“We enjoy working here, and people can see that,” adds Rogers.

Certainly, their location is one that serves them, and their clients, well. They have a front office where they meet clients, a retail space, and the press room and warehouse space in back. It’s also one of the few businesses in the Short North that has its own parking space.

“We always have candy available, and it’s a great place to pick up a copy of the Short North Gazette,” says Rogers.

Rogers and Ramirez say they’re happy with their Short North location.

“Whenever anything exciting happens in this city, it happens in the Short North,” says Rogers. “It’s a fun, creative place to be.”

Oh yes. If you’re wondering about the print shop’s name – well, the “r” is self explanatory. Both Ramirez and Rogers begin with the letter. But why the lower case?

“It’s more us,” says Rogers. “We’re not loud and flashy. It’s creative. It sets us apart.”

And in a field with nearly 200 players, that kind of creativity, mixed with experience, and business savvy, is not a bad idea at all.

In fact, it’s likely to prove a blueprint for success.

r design & printing, 30 E. Fourth Avenue, (across from the post office), 614.299.1420. Hours: M - F 8:30 - 5:30

2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.