Featured Success Stories of Companies Certified by NWBOC
Elizabeth (Liz) Pecha-Poelker of PrintFlex Graphics, Inc. in St. Louis, MO
Growing up in a family where entrepreneurism was a normal way of life was the backdrop for Liz Pecha-Poelker's leap into business ownership: she started PrintFlex Graphics, Inc. with her father and another owner in 1995. She had already worked for a different company her father owned, and some years earlier Dad had wisely suggested she work outside the family business for a while, which she did. “I thought I wanted to be a social worker, but Dad said, ‘you're personable, you should try sales,'” Ms. Pecha-Poelker recalls. “So I did, and it really clicked for me.” She was managing partner for the 10 years father and daughter worked together, until his death.
In 2003 Ms. Pecha-Poelker closed the offset printing side of the company due to market forces making it less profitable. She and the original partner reorganized PrintFlex and she became the majority owner and CEO. PrintFlex focused on a segment of the printing industry that had less competition and a growing base: printing specialized labels for the food industry. Examples include tear-off, Save Now stickers on orange juice, mini recipe booklets stuck to the side of a liqueur bottle, and cross-branding coupons like Buy Lay's Chips and Get a Kraft Dip. “We decided to focus on this segment of labels because it was quite difficult to do, so there weren't a lot of printers at that time willing to take on the headaches,” Ms. Pecha-Poilker says, “For instance, we can't use the same adhesives on a pizza box and on a cold beer.” The paper stock for the label, the type of inks used, the choice of adhesive, the material the label is sticking to, and the environment it will be in, such as frozen temperatures – all combine to make every project variable. Obviously, the company nailed it early on, and has been in a growth mode ever since.
Under Ms. Pecha-Poelker's leadership, the growth has been dramatic: from $3.8M and 19 employees in 2005, to $8M and 32 employees in 2014. PrintFlex Graphics, Inc. won the INC. 5000 fastest growth award for 6 straight years (2006-2011), a feat quite difficult for manufacturers to achieve. The SBA also recognized PrintFlex Graphics as the Regional SBA Team of the Year Award for financial stability during the recession, strength of employee benefit plans, and growth in sales. When asked how growth of this level is achieved, Pecha-Polker says that among the many contributing factors like quality and customer service, she has never lost sight of how important it is to continually develop the sales force.
More important than the growth data, though, is profitably. “In 2012 we were able to retire old debt, which allowed us to invest in purchasing a large building next door. It was far cheaper than moving,” she says, “and we were able to expand what we offer our clients into turn-key label solutions.” The company now offers machine rental and servicing for machines that apply the label in-plant at their client's locations.
PrintFlex Graphics obtained WBE certification after making a slow start of applying, but responding to their corporate clients who were asking them for it. “We publicize our WBE certification on our website, and it is an element of our getting a foot-in-the-door,” Ms. Pecha-Poelker relates, “I've also found that reaching out to interact with other women in the industry is really helpful, and for me this recently happened at a national conference when I met two women from Ohio and Pennsylvania. I suspect we'll keep in touch."
PrintFlex Graphics website
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