In October 2017, Ginger Bowman bought a commercial printing business. In the last five years, it has overcome three significant challenges, being flexible and agile.
- High concentration of customers.
- An industry that was put in its path.
- The pandemic.
Some in the industry thought Bowman would fail. But sometimes it takes an outsider in the industry to think outside the box to see where the opportunities lie.
The printing industry is dominated by men. At first, no one took Bowman seriously. Many in the printing industry have transferred their business from their fathers.
Her experience is in the film industry as a technical director. She has held senior positions in Oscar-nominated and winning films. When she had children, she realized that the long hours of the film industry were not compatible with the type of mother she wanted to be. He began teaching at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), which has film and television programs.
When her children were older, “I felt I had a lot of skills and abilities that weren’t used as a professor,” Bowman said. “I wanted more and I wanted to force myself, use all my strengths and have more control over my destiny.”
It intends to modernize commercial printing by mixing marketing and printing services. Bowman was not a marketer, but he had confidence in his ability to learn. After all, she hadn’t gone to animation school, but she learned to work and rose to senior technical director for best films.
“I wanted more control over my financial future,” Bowman said. “I wanted to force myself and use all my strengths.” She chose to buy a business instead of starting from scratch.
Before buying it, the business changed hands several times and its business model also changed. He started as a franchisee of the Atlanta-based Franklin Printer. It was very similar to the printing services that Staples and UPS now offer. “The business was serving people who came in and needed something quickly printed,” Bowman said. When the business changed hands again, it changed its business model to commercial printing rather than access services, and changed its name to Southprint.
Bowman now owns the company, which has been rebranded to Synergetic Media. Under her leadership, the business model changed again.
The advantages of buying a business are that the difficult start-up is already done. You have instant cash flow from existing customers. The company has a financial history, which makes it easier to get a loan. Existing employees and managers have experience in business. Bowman mortgaged his home to get a $ 200,000 SBA loan to buy the company.
One of the disadvantages of buying a business is that you may not know the company’s weaknesses before you buy it. Bowman did not know that 70% of Southprint’s business came from just three customers.
One of these customers, Whole Foods, accounts for about a third of revenue. When Amazon bought Whole Foods, it changed its buying habits. While Bowman maintains Whole Foods as a customer, he is a much smaller customer. The other two large customers had begun to provide for their printing needs.
Sales fell 50% in the first year. Science lesson: When a business relies on a small group of customers, its income is highly vulnerable. “I recently considered acquiring another retail printing company,” Bowman said. Before making a decision, she asked the business owner to see the company’s revenue by customers to see if only a few customers were responsible for most of the sales. Revenues were concentrated with only a few customers. She withdrew from the deal.
Bowman has begun work on restoring Synergetic Media’s client list. No matter how small, each client was treated as the company’s number one customer. The small number of customers grew and new customers were attracted.
Because she knew video, Bowman first added video services. No one understood why a printing company would offer video services.
However, the business is triggered. That’s when Covid’s blockade happened. Colleagues told Bowman that their income had fallen sharply by two-thirds. Although she felt good that her company was doing better than the competition, her income had fallen by a third.
Bowman attributes her better-than-average performance during the pandemic to learning how to be agile when her top three clients drastically cut costs in her first year in business.
While others dwindle, Bowman invests in her company. She trained staff to build websites and SEO to expand services. Suddenly, customers and prospects understood why all these services, including video and printing, were under one roof.
Bowman rushed in and scooped up their equipment for pennies on the dollar when another printer went out of business. Now it can produce signs where the money is.
It was time to rebrand the company with a name that reflects what it has become. Bowman renamed the company Synergetic Media. Rebranding uses Bowman’s film-making skills to create content that attracts attention, evokes emotion, and creates meaningful connections.
Synergetic has moved from 4,000 square feet to 11,000. It has just won a large customer and several smaller ones. The business is returning to pre-pandemic levels and is on track to surpass sales levels for the company it bought in 2017.
What business challenges have you overcome?