Meet the Women in Print: Tracy Hiner
Tracy Hiner was ahead of the curve when she launched her digitally printed wallcovering business.
Black Crow Studios
Long Beach, California
“Tracy’s artistic designs bring inspiration, peace, and imagination to the spaces she creates for. There is nothing out there like her installations, even though industry giants attempt to recreate them and fall short. She loves collaborating with other artists, inspires other designers to bring more drama, and uses her presence to model how social good can bring deeper meaning to art as an experience.” –Ginna Christensen, GC Collab
Black Crow Studios is staffed by all women. Can you talk about your reason for this and how being in a male-dominated industry has affected your career?
I didn’t start out planning [for my shop] to only be run by women, but I absolutely love that is how things came about. I see myself as someone who can guide women in owning their power, building confidence, and navigating business when working in male-dominated industries – in the printing industry or others they may enter in their careers. I hope to show that you can be successful while being true to yourself and not adjusting your behaviors to act in the same way the men around us do. It’s actually a huge differentiating point that helps you stand out within the industry – and that helps you be successful in the long run, even if it is harder in the short run.
I started my business at 27, so not only was I a woman, but I was also young and taking a different approach to entering the printing industry. I was pursuing the idea of producing very expensive, digitally printed wallcovering when that was barely even a market in the printing industry. It was an unconventional path and I was constantly being written off, dismissed, and talked down to by vendors and when I was outsourcing my printing (until I could purchase my own equipment). It was a very frustrating experience. When I would meet with companies, I would often be asked if my husband ran the business (I wasn’t married). I didn’t work with any of those companies.
I almost exclusively worked with Pre Press Supply in Fountain Valley because the owner, Mark Bitzer, always talked to me with complete respect and enthusiasm to teach me about the equipment, listen to my needs, and help me make informed decisions as my company grew.
That experience when I started out was so frustrating; I make sure no one on my team ever speaks to our clients in that way. We are respectful and helpful. Being kind, understanding, and patient is surprisingly rare. Because of this and our commitment to quality and meeting our deadlines, we are a very well-respected brand, not only for our innovative designs, but also for our follow through and commitment to our clients.
You donate a portion of your income to causes you believe in through your initiative, Rebel with a Cause, in hopes of making an impact in the world beyond wallpaper. What led to this decision and how has it impacted you and your business?
I work in a very niche market of upscale wallcovering sold almost exclusively to the interior design and architecture trade. There is so much money being spent in that industry, but it felt very disconnected from the major issues in the world. I would find myself saying the industry should do more to help. Eventually I stopped saying “the industry should do more” and said “I will do more.” So I set aside 10 percent of all sales to donate to charities and causes I deeply believe in. I am proud of that and hope it will inspire other companies to take a stand and do more to help whatever causes they believe in.
I have had my most successful year since launching this initiative. There is a big movement, especially with the younger generations, for companies to be socially responsible. It’s important to look at the triple bottom line: profit, helping people, and protecting the planet. Seeing the humanity behind a company is important and will become a bigger and bigger criteria by consumers in years to come.