Wilmington | Brad Donnell | www.linprint.com
I would say we probably wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t reached out to the SBTDC.
ABOUT LINPRINT COMPANY A commercial printer since 1947, Linprint now offers a wide array of services beyond their high-quality offset printing including digital and wide-format printing, mailing ,and fulfillment. Brad Donnell purchased the company in 1985 when it was still a small-sized printing company in Wilmington. They made a name for themselves with higher quality, better service, faster estimates and faster delivery—the things that matter to customers. They have made it through the economic downturn and major changes in the printing industry as the largest printer in Wilmington.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO PRINTING? John Lindler opened the doors in 1947 and owned Linprint Company until the 70s when he sold it to a gentleman named Claude Cole. When Claude tragically developed cancer and passed away in the mid 80s, we bought the business. We didn’t realize just how bad it was struggling, so we had a rough couple of years to get things going. We started out as one of the smaller print shops and immediately started making a name for ourselves with better service, faster estimates, and faster delivery. Now we’ve been the largest printer in Wilmington for 10 years.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU IN TO THE SBTDC? In 2005, our biggest competitor was bought out. It was an opportunity. We bought the building on Market Street and a lot of press and pre-press equipment. This was state-of-the-art stuff that no one else had. Unfortunately, we bought it all in 2007. The majority of our customers were in real estate and we all know what happened to the real estate market. By 2010, we were really struggling financially. We were using one of these small banks and they desperately needed to get us off their books, but a traditional bank wouldn’t take us. Our counselor, Janis Mueller, helped us find the right bank, figure out my financials, and put together our presentation to get an SBA loan.
We still work with Janis regularly; in fact, I called just yesterday with some concerns. She was able to bring in an expert in the field that I had questions about while I was still on the phone with her. It was that quick. I think it’s unique that I can call her spur of the moment and get that kind of response. It has been very valuable to us and I would say we probably wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t reached out to the SBTDC. I talk about Janis like she’s magic but she is kind of magic.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE TO STAY IN THE GAME? We’ve diversified our services and our customer base. We got into mailing and that has been really successful. Since we are working on a print job already, we can get it into the mail stream a day or two sooner by cutting out the mail house. We also added wide-format banners, point-of-purchase displays and window graphics. We’re the only place in Wilmington where you can get 40,000 brochures, 100 digital copies, and a sign, all in house. We’ve also beefed up the digital side of things and we will be getting a new digital press in the next couple of months. We added a fulfillment department, which could potentially be huge.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE LEARNING ALLIANCE INTERNSHIP PROGRAM? We’ve participated twice now and we’re signed up for a third year. There are some sharp kids over there at UNC Wilmington. They were very helpful and we used their research to make some important decisions. I think they learned a lot about the business world from an old guy that has done it for a long time, and they were also very valuable to us.
SO, HAS IT MADE A DIFFERENCE? Well, we didn’t go out of business. We’ve hired one additional employee so we’re up to 14. We’re also starting to see a number of our customers returning as email marketing becomes less effective. Even people who use the Internet to buy something still like to look through a printed brochure or catalog. Putting the two together works; that’s where we see the light at the end of the tunnel. This past year, sales were up about 3% and the year before that we were up about 6%.
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2015-2016 Annual Report. View the entire report here.
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The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says, “what do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment. We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales and the addition of seven employees. The biggest benchmark, however, was getting to a point where Calibration Solutions was big enough and attractive enough to buy.
East Coast Umbrella
Now that we’re started, it is getting even easier. We have reps in the Middle East region and with the STEP Grant to help pay for the booth and samples, our reps will be on site to handle the tradeshow. Work with the SBTDC. They held our hands through the process, and we never would have gone to those other countries without their help. Work with the SBTDC, and you’ll find out just how easy exporting can be.