Read on to find out how the company's inventiveness led to a new ink product that's as appealing to the nose as it is to the eyes.
By Lori Leaman
Unfortunately, nine months after JEP opened its doors, Hooters changed its print-buying practices and JEP lost its only customer. But despite the major setback, the founders of JEP were determined to press on, secure new accounts, and maintain a viable company serving niche markets. This focus on smaller, specialized markets is still the company's focus today and is evidenced by the fact that JEP doesn't have any signage to identify its printing operation.
"If you want to stay in niche marketing, you can't really advertise, because it's too hard to tell any customer 'no.' Before long, you're doing a bunch of stuff you never wanted to do, and you're just like everyone else," Watson explains. "It takes a little longer, and it's a little harder, but when you use word of mouth, and you network by attending trade shows and reading trade publications, the industry has a lot to give back."
During the next four years, Watson and Hewitt used their industry connections and networking opportunities extensively to grow their client list. And the hard work began to reap rewards. To support the company's growth, JEP expanded its equipment line-up and capabilities to function as a full-service print house and hired additional staff. It also relocated to a larger facility in 2002. Today, the company has five employees and an equipment lineup that includes its original eight-color automatic press (Figure 1) and gas dryer, a six-color manual press, two flash-curing units, more than 100 retensionable frames, Epson inkjet printers, and a heat-transfer press. The shop's art department features capable Macintosh computers with a full assortment of graphic-design programs, as well as a device for outputting film positives.
To support the workflow and growing production volume of the business, which ranges from 1000-10,000 pieces/day, JEP often pulls in help from a large pool of friends and relatives, and well as from vocational-school students interested in making some extra cash. Watson and Hewitt trained the majority of JEP's full-time and backup production staff. The pair begins the training process by introducing novices to the fundamentals of screen-printing technology. New workers might begin by cleaning screens, scooping ink, and breaking down presses, but eventually work their way up to more involved job duties (Figure 2).
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