As a small business owner selling wholesale automotive chemicals throughout the northern Rockies, I had used Microsoft® Publisher for many years. I was frustrated, however, that I could not produce my Publisher files using commercial four-color process printing. I could only output to my color inkjet printer. Commercial printing firms would only accept expensive, hard-to-use layout programs. Having worked in commercial printing when I was younger (operating a printing press when I was 16), I knew that, to many customers, four-color printing on glossy stock says "real company," and I wanted to give that impression.
I figured that with an installed base of millions of Publisher users, there would be a niche market for a printer who could overcome the challenges of commercially printing Publisher files (including RGB-to-CMYK conversion, trapping and imposing, etc.). A guy who now works for Printingforless.com took it as a personal challenge, and after several months he cracked the code, so to speak. Today we can take native Publisher files, from any version including Publisher 95, 98, and 2000, and produce CMYK film for printing. It works on Microsoft Word as well. Customers don't have to go through any complicated print setup boxes, just send the raw file. We take it from there.
This service is so unique, that we decided to offer it to Publisher and Word users everywhere, via our online service, which we named PrintingForLess.com. We decided to use the efficiencies of the Internet to provide lower cost and greater convenience. Our key features include a simple file-upload process and InstaPrice® real-time quotes that the customer generates online. By eliminating mobile salespeople, complicated price-quoting, hard proofing, overnight shipping of discs and proofs, and other conventions of commercial printing, we can make extremely high-quality professional printing available to regular people at great prices.
We started with four simple job format options on 80# gloss. As time goes by, we will add other options, as long as we don't lose the simple interface that we have created. So far, response has been great. We love seeing regular people create great publications on their own, as opposed to hiring expensive design professionals to do the work. I think this was always the intent of Publisher, but now people can get their work professionally printed. Publisher 2000 has made the whole process even easier and it has some great new templates and wizards!
Our entire workflow is done on PCs running Windows 95, 98 and NT. We have built a network to connect our 11 computers, and our image setter, which prints film. All of our office work is done with the Microsoft Office Suite. We track customers and jobs using Access, we track sales and profits with Excel, and correspond using Word. The majority of our users view our site, and their online proofs, with Internet Explorer. And of course, Microsoft Publisher is the heart of our business. Our Web site is very busy, with jobs coming in daily.
While our traditional customer base of ad agencies and graphic designers still represents more than half our printing business, the online work is growing fast. We recently did a major re-launch of our site, and we now offer a much wider array of products, including four-color stationery, catalogs, postcards, and more. We have had to add production staff and equipment quickly, and now have 16 staff members.
Fortunately, there are plenty of skilled professionals looking for an opportunity to live in Montana, just north of Yellowstone National Park. (Stand outside our plant, and you can see seven different mountain ranges, including the awesome Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.) It's great watching my employees grow, work, and improve their lives. In the last three years, almost half have become first-time homeowners. I appreciate the vote of confidence that represents.
I take inspiration from the great people I work with every day, both employees and customers. I find it gratifying to watch small-business people create their own marketing materials, get them printed with us, and build their businesses. Our five-color and one-color Heidelberg presses are keeping very busy, and we are preparing to add a third press.
Small businesses must keep up on tech trends. No business can remain immune to the technology revolution. I advise all small business to figure out an Internet strategy that breaks new ground. We are pulling business into rural Montana from all over the country via the Internet. By making technology our ally, we are building our success daily.
Small business: Printingforless.com
Writer: Andrew Field
Location: Livingston, MT
Number of Years in Business: Five
Number of Employees: 23
Number of PCs: 21
Microsoft® products that have helped Printingforless.com to succeed:Windows® 95, 98 & 2000