Insureon’s Interview with CatPrint

CatPrint was recently interviewed by Insureon! Check out the interview below!

As seen on Insureon: Small Business Spotlight: Business Growth Tips from CatPrint:

Mitch VanDuyn and Jan VanDuyn are CTO and CEO, respectively, of CatPrint in Rochester, New York. CatPrint is a boutique color printing company offering premium short-run printing services.

We talked with Mitch and Jan VanDuyn about the growth of CatPrint from its humble beginnings in a basement to its current expanded facility. Learn how small-business owners can recognize when it’s time to grow. The transcript below has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What’s the story behind CatPrint?

Our CTO, Mitch, was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and our CEO, Jan, is a Michigan native. Both attended and graduated from Michigan Technological University, then eventually moved to Rochester, New York. Mitch worked at Xerox for over 20 years, which was where the idea for CatPrint originated.

In 2004, CatPrint started in the basement of one of our old houses in Rochester. We used to own four cats and wanted to associate the beauty and cuteness of cats with printing.

What inspired you to pursue digital printing services?

At the time CatPrint was started, custom short-run printing wasn’t something you could do. You generally needed to meet minimum fixed quantities of 100, 250, 500, etc. If you lived in a small town without a local print shop, how could you get three greeting cards printed? You couldn’t. Now all you have to do is upload your designs through the web and they’ll get delivered right to your door on a pre-determined delivery date.

Who’s the typical CatPrint customer? What sets you apart from other printing services?

All types of people use CatPrint, including graphic designers, DIY brides, greeting card designers, business owners, and comic artists looking for an affordable venue to pursue various projects – whether it’s one poster or a thousand brochures that need to be printed.

The number one thing that customers are always raving about is our exceptional customer service. Every single order that is placed is checked for general quality and common file issues, and if there are any concerns, we contact the customer. We go out of our way to make sure that the customer is satisfied.

What’s it like to work at CatPrint?

We aspire to promote a friendly, relaxed, creative, and open atmosphere. All levels of the company are completely open, and every employee can always speak with anyone in the company, including the executives, if they have any questions, ideas, or concerns. We don’t want to be the type of company that has multiple cubicles with minimal interaction.

This open interaction has allowed most of our processes and procedures to be developed and implemented in-house based on employee suggestions and ideas from all levels, not just management.

We have a relaxed and casual dress code for the most part, and we invite individuality. We are also pet friendly, as long as the pets are also friendly! It’s not uncommon for at least three employee animals to be roaming the offices on any given day.

When did you realize it was time to expand CatPrint to a bigger workspace?

As with any business, as sales increase, the number of employees and equipment also increase. When we first moved out of our basement and into our first actual facility, we needed production stations that would never fit in a home basement. We’ve moved and expanded over five times in the past nine years. Moving is always an issue.

Since moving into our current facility, we decided to expand the second floor because we purchased new equipment. Obviously, if an area is too crowded, workflow efficiency decreases. With the extra space now available, efficiency has increased in customer service, research and development, and production.

What “growing pains” did CatPrint experience during expansion?

The first part of the expansion was probably the hardest. The original space needed significant remodeling, reconstructing, and wiring. We knocked down some old walls and added new ones. Waiting for the space to be ready felt like a long time. Everyone felt crowded and simply needed more space.

Now for the moving part: there are no elevators in our building and the doors are pretty narrow. Anything that needed to be moved upstairs was difficult, especially bulky items, like desks, because they had to fit through the doors. In the end, all of the patience and hard work was well worth it! We were definitely able to see improvement in production efficiency because of the added space and new arrangements.

Did anything surprise you about starting and expanding CatPrint?

Not that CatPrint has ever done anything wrong, but most people don’t realize that when you start a business, you have to make sure you don’t do something that could potentially break the law. It’s been a learning process for everyone with all of the rules and regulations that are in place – to actually know them and make sure that our business practices are legal.

Does CatPrint have future plans for more growth?

We probably won’t look into expanding our office space again in the near future. However, we are always working to expand our service offerings. We just launched our Template Gallery at the end of 2014, which allows customers to customize ready-to-print designs with their own details and images. It’s a very useful service for people who aren’t designers themselves but still want to CatPrint their items.

What’s your advice for small businesses struggling with the decision to grow?

Whether or not you’re a big fish in a little pond, or a little fish in a vast ocean, if you’re really good at something, then do it. There have been massive printing companies for decades, but no small shops for everyday people and small businesses that only need certain quantities printed. We stepped in with the idea that everyone can print something and have it delivered to their door by a guaranteed delivery date.

When we first started this company, we had many experts and advisers tell us that what we do is impossible. But we believe in what we do and we’re good at it, and that’s what other businesses should also do.

Tell us about CatPrint’s Foster Cats.

As mentioned earlier, CatPrint got its name from the many cats that we’ve owned over the years. Our current customer service manager, Nicole Gallo, used to work with a local animal rescue group called GRASP, Inc., so we began fostering stray cats that needed a temporary home in the office. Most people don’t understand that some stray pets that are kept caged get depressed, making their situation even worse. Animals need love and care, just as humans do, and we feel that CatPrint is a perfect environment for a pet down on its luck.

Check out previous posts in their Small Business Spotlight series for more small business stories and tips.

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CatPrint Interview: GreenSpirit Arts with Sally Smith

GreenSpirit Arts - Logo

Continuing our Customer Q&A series, we recently spoke with long time CatPrint Customer Sally Smith, owner of GreenSpirit Arts (www.greenspiritarts.com / www.greenspiritarts.blogspot.com) to discuss her work, what inspires her, and how CatPrint helps her business to succeed. Read the full interview below!

GreenSpirit Arts - Shire House

GreenSpirit Arts – Shire House

What is an environmental sculpture?

The term “Environmental sculpture” has a broad range of applications. In general, it is sculpture that is made from predominantly natural materials and is usually displayed or constructed outdoors. It also includes sculptures that are made by dramatically altering the landscape itself into new shapes or forms.

Andy Goldsworthy and Martin Hill are two well-known Environmental Artists, but it is a growing art genre with talented artists all over the world. Some artists choose to make sculptures only with what they find and can manipulate with their hands. Others are willing to use minimal tools and/or structural materials to make the construction easier or safer for the viewing audience.

Often the works are ephemeral and all that remains of the sculpture are the photographs that were taken at the time of completion. The idea of making artworks created solely from Nature that are allowed to return to Nature with minimal impact is a key element of this kind of work.

In my work, I have two subsets of environmental sculpture: my Faerie Houses, which are just what they sound like, and what I call “Eartherials”, which are the more pure art forms that are created in the moment and are not generally representational. The Eartherials inevitably are left in place where they were made and because they were constructed without harmful materials can just dissolve gently back into the Earth. Some sculptures disappear in a few minutes and others take a season or two to be reclaimed by the landscape.

GreenSpirit Arts - Leaf Dancers at Sunrise

GreenSpirit Arts – Leaf Dancers at Sunrise

How long have you been creating environmental sculptures?

All my life really! But doing this professionally began in 2006 for me as it was then that I started recording my sculptures using photography with the idea of creating a portfolio of work.

GreenSpirit Arts - DandiCircle

GreenSpirit Arts – DandiCircle

What do you draw inspiration from?

From Nature itself, mainly. Nature is full of color, texture, and patterns. I love finding these and seeing what can be done that works with the elements at hand.

For instance, when the dandelions first arrive in spring, there is a huge wave of blossoms that turn our green fields into a golden yellow. This is the best time to work with them because there are so many flowers. But you have to know the materials well, because in this instance Dandelions will begin to wilt approximately 20 minutes after being picked, so you have to work quickly.

Knowing the seasonal cycles and the intrinsic limitation(s) of any given material is a big part of creating a successful sculpture. You have to take risks and be willing to fail. There are a lot of art disasters that didn’t make it to my final portfolio!

GreenSpirit Arts - Reeds and Feathers Portal

GreenSpirit Arts – Reeds and Feathers Portal

What is the most difficult part of your process?

Every sculpture has its own particular challenge. But for me the weather is often the biggest challenge because where I live it is so variable. I can begin working on a piece in the morning in full sun and by the time I’m finished several hours later the clouds could have rolled in and ruined any chance of getting good photographs of the sculpture. This means the whole day has been a wash because without good photos, I can’t add the sculpture to my portfolio and have good images to sell.

Ultimately, a visual artist has to have images to sell if they are going to make a living. A painter can sell their paintings, but because my work is so ephemeral, the photographs are what I share with the world as a record of my work. But without good light, it is hard to get good photos of my sculptures. I suppose if I lived in a sunny climate, this would not be such an issue but it is a big headache for me sometimes.

This is why I make a lot of my Faerie houses in my studio now and do installations of the sculptures when I can. I can spend weeks on creating the piece and perhaps just a few hours (on a good day) finding just the right landscape to host the piece. But it still has to all work together and look as if it was always there. This is what creates a successful image for me.

GreenSpirit Arts - Dragon Faerie House at Waterfall

GreenSpirit Arts – Dragon Faerie House at Waterfall

Where are the environmental materials sourced from?

Most of my materials are what I have personally collected here in my location. However, for my elaborate Faerie house constructions, I often purchase natural materials from other collectors. My personal rule is that everything has to be harvested ethically and without harming any living materials.

For instance, there are many lovely pine cones that come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are not available here in the Northeast, so I often purchase them from reputable sellers from other parts of the country. The awesome sugar pine cones from Northern California and Oregon can be 18-24 inches long and have massive “scales” that make wonderful “shingles” for my Faerie House roofs, so if I want to use those, I have to purchase them. However, I try to source as much of my own materials as I can as it helps keep a sense of integrity to the piece if all the elements work harmoniously together.

GreenSpirit Arts - Blueberry Cottage

GreenSpirit Arts – Blueberry Cottage

Where are you located?

I am located on what we like to call the “East Coast” of the Adirondack Park in northern New York State. I live in a tiny hamlet on the edge of a larger village that has its history deeply rooted in agriculture and forestry.

How long have you been printing your work with CatPrint?

CatPrint has been my only printer for my greeting card line and I honestly can’t remember when we got started… I think it was in 2007 or 2008. Since my work is so deeply entwined with the Environment, it was essential to me that I work with a printer who used sustainable practices in their production. I was thrilled when I found CatPrint because they make decisions based on what will least harm the environment in addition to what will make the most beautiful printed item. It adds a lot of value to my greeting cards to be able to say to my customers that they were produced using wind power and recycled papers .People pay attention to details like that in addition to the high quality printing that CatPrint provides. It helps sell my cards to be able to show that an appreciation and reverence for the environment has been present in every step of the process from conception of the art to the production of the final greeting card.

GreenSpirit Arts - Chapel Pond Spiral

GreenSpirit Arts – Chapel Pond Spiral

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists looking to start their own business/sell their art?

It is a lot of hard work to be working artist. Making the art is only 30-40% of the process! A lot of artists are good at the making of their art, but making a living from your art requires that you wear a lot of other “hats”, some of which are not a lot of fun to wear. That said, the Internet now allows us to reach customers literally all over the world so there has never been a better time to be an independent artist. You have to have a website and be willing to work long, long days (and nights) to make it in this world, but if you love what you do, that is usually not a problem.

GreenSpirit Arts - Autumn Leaf Staff Spiral

GreenSpirit Arts – Autumn Leaf Staff Spiral