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Wednesday, Apr 17, 2024

PRINTING—Okay, Print It

BizInk.com Year Founded: 1999 Core Business: Online printing service Revenue in 1999: $1.7 million Employees in 1999: 3 Revenue in 2001 (projected): $3.5 million Employees in 2001: 22 Goal: To become the industry leader for online print solutions Driving Force: The increasing complexity of doing business nationally and the need for fast flexible printing capabilities. online service thrives on clients seeking simplicity as their printing needs become more complex in the internet age Pancakes cost more in New York than they do in Oklahoma. In the South, they eat grits, not home fries. This year may be a winning vintage for Chardonnay, but not for sauvignon blanc. The variations in the cost of living, the vagaries of regional tastes and even medal-winning wines may make doing business across the country more complicated, but it is also fueling sales at one young company. In just two years, BizInk.com, an online printing service, has doubled its sales by tapping into the needs of national corporations to customize their printed materials everything from menus to stationery, brochures to product labels for the different units or divisions they operate. Since it began operation in September 1999, the Woodland Hills-based company has gone from three customers to 12 accounts that include IHOP Corp., Subway Restaurants, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Sutter Home Wineries. Sales have jumped from $1.7 million in its first year to a projected $3.5 million this year. BizInk works this way: A client sets up a master account with the communication materials it requires. If it’s stationery or business cards, for instance, a template with the corporate design including logos and other graphics is created and posted on a Web site. Each office then goes on line to order its own supplies, changing individual names, titles, addresses or phone numbers as needed. If it’s menus or promotional materials, individual regions can log on to change prices and menu items or specials and contact names for individual distributorships. The changes and revisions can be made almost instantaneously, so there is no waiting for proofs to be sent back for approval, and shipping is done directly from the Web site transaction. “The key is the Internet access,” said David DiTomaso, the largest Subway franchise owner in California with 16 stores. “The other is I don’t have to go to a number of different sources, pick up the phone and follow up. I’m pushing to get this on a big, corporate-wide level because I think it offers opportunities for everybody at Subway, not just me.” When IHOP developed menu inserts for its summer special, “red, white and blueberry pancakes,” the company provided a photograph of the new item with the advertising copy, and the individual restaurants were able to change the prices to suit their own markets. Sutter Home was able to design labels for the necks of its wine bottles, customizing each to reflect the particular category and competition each of the varieties had won. “It used to take eight weeks to get an accolade necker out,” said Barbara Washburn, manager of marketing services for Trinchero Family Estates, owners of Sutter Home. “We’re now down to 10 days, and the fact that they’ll take the image, print it and package it and ship it, makes it extremely turnkey.” A traditional printer would set type and send proofs back to the client, who would then have to mark up the corrections and return it for printing. Each variation on a single template would have to go through the same process. “Where something would take two weeks, it takes a few minutes,” said Scot Feinberg, BizInk founder and co-partner. Feinberg was running a printing company when he realized that he was fighting an uphill battle against the competition with little to differentiate his firm from any other. He hired eCybersuite, a company that provides technology solutions for Fortune 500 businesses, to help come up with a way to conduct his business online. At first, eCybersuite founder and CEO Tom Pelino was not impressed. “I heard about a new customer of ours and I said, ‘What are we doing for them?” recalled Pelino, who eventually partnered with Feinberg in the BizInk venture. “Someone said they do business cards online, and I thought, that doesn’t sound so great.” But Pelino, who ironically attended high school with Feinberg although the two didn’t know each other at the time, soon realized that BizInk’s services went well beyond business cards. “We did a little research, some due diligence, and realized there wasn’t anybody out there (providing these services online),” said Pelino. It took about six months and an investment in the seven-figure range to build the technology the company needed, but the time and investment was well spent, the executives say. Where competitors who have since entered the market have developed the technology and then looked for a market, BizInk began with a market the company had already identified and then built the technology to suit it. As a result, clients say the sites are easy to use and far less expensive than competitive services. Much of the company’s growth so far has come from the customers that had worked with Feinberg and some of eCybersuite’s existing clients. “We feel as though we have enough customers, we’ve proven the concept and nailed down the internal systems,” said Pelino. “Now we’re getting ready to sell it on a larger scale.” The partners’ interest in expansion has been tempered by the current investment climate. Many venture partners want a larger stake in the company than the two are willing to offer and, so far, BizInk has been able to finance its operation through cash flow. “We don’t have to take money for the sake of taking money,” Feinberg said. If the right investor doesn’t surface, “we’ll just build the business slower.”

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