Five women changing the face of large-format printing.
Coaching from her grandmother has paid off for Naccarato: “Early on, being a woman had an advantage because when I would go to Chamber of Commerce meetings or other networking group meetings, I was certainly the only woman signshop owner that had ever shown up, so I kind of stood out,” she says. “Other than that, I’ve never really thought about being a woman or not. I was raised by very strong women who firmly believed – and taught me to believe – that women can do anything that men can do, so it’s just never been part of my thinking.”
Of course, Naccarato realizes it takes more than bravado to grow a company, and she attributes a lot of Iconography’s success to its emphasis on building strong relationships with its customers.
“We view our customers as our partners in whatever we’re trying to achieve for them, and for that reason, we’ve enjoyed a really high percentage of repeat business,” she says. “In fact, all of our new business today comes from two places – it either comes from our website, which does a good job for us, or it comes from referrals from our existing clients. We definitely have focused on delivering quality and building those strong relationships, because that’s the easiest way to grow and retain your business.”
Knowledge is key: Stella Color
When Lynn Krinsky first opened up shop 24 years ago providing LetraSet rub-down transfers for commercial clients, digital wide-format printers were not yet a blip on the radar. She’s seen a lot of changes since those early days.
“About two years after I started my business, we had the opportunity to go digital,” Krinsky recalls. “At the time, there was a company called Iris out of Massachusetts, and they had a salesperson in town. I think he knocked on the wrong door, and it was my door. I ended up buying the printer, it was the first really nice digital printer, and I have been fascinated ever since.”
Today, Stella Color (stellacolor.com) – her Seattle-based company – works primarily with commercial accounts, offering a wide range of digital services including aqueous, solvent, continuous tone, latex printing, direct-to-substrate UV, and even dye-sublimation fabric printing. She long ago retired the old rub-down transfers, but Krinsky says her creative approach to running her business is as keen as ever.
“You can’t just put out a sign that says ‘Posters’ and take orders,” she says. “You need to be creative, and you have to know your substrates, know your products, know what works indoors or outdoors, and under certain conditions. It has become much more complicated. It used to be very simple, because the substrates available to us and the printing technology was simple; there weren’t many options.”
While the technology has become more complex, it has also become more affordable, and that is a cause for concern for Krinsky.
“The price points on some of the printers are so low now, that you can have people working out of their garage,” she says. “They lower the cost of the prints, they compete against you, and even though they don’t have all the other equipment necessary to finish it up, they can still wreck your day. It has become much more of a commodity than it used to be.”
The lower price of entry has shaken up the industry, she says, but it doesn’t seem to have opened up doors for women to enter the wide-format digital world.
“I don’t know why there aren’t more women in the industry, except there aren’t enough women in business anyway. I think women tend to take on less debt, and you really have to put yourself out there and invest some money in equipment,” says Krinsky. “You also can’t think of yourself as a woman, you have to think of yourself as a business person. To me, it’s kind of a creative job, so I’m kind of surprised that more women who are into the arts or who want to run their own business might not think this is interesting.”
Paula Yoho is a Columbus, Ohio-based freelancer and a frequent contributor to The Big Picture.