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Digilink Inc. -- A Hit at the Link

September 2004
by chris bauer

Managing Editor

People said opening a prepress shop while the nation's economy had one foot on a banana peel was just too risky. And who needs prepress services anymore anyway, naysayers asked, when most printers are bringing their prepress functions in-house?

But that did not deter Michael Wight, president and CEO; Hank Russo, vice president of sales; Ed Hartman, vice president of operations; and Jim Lerner, CFO, at DigiLink Inc., based in Alexandria, VA. The four partners had a solid business plan, a combined 75 years of printing industry experience and, most importantly, a drive to succeed. They would not be denied.

DigiLink execs, from left, include Jim Lerner, vice president and CFO; Michael Wight, president and CEO; Hank Russo, vice president of sales; and Ed Hartman, vice president of operations.
"Everyone told us that prepress is dead," recounts Hartman, thinking back to the time just before the launch of DigiLink in April of 2000. "I can't tell you how many times I heard that when we were going into business."

The partners felt that getting involved in prepress services first would be an affordable entry point—especially since they were using their personal funds to launch the company. The prepress investment was something they could get their hands around. Also, the new company's timing was actually a positive in the partners' minds.

"We thought customers would respond favorably to an independent company since there was so much consolidation going on at that time," reveals Wight. "Instead of getting lost in a large organization, our clients would be working directly with the owners and the managers, and we each have an extensive background in the industry. Customers did respond with surprising enthusiasm and support."

The company—located just minutes from metro Washington, DC, in a modern and ultra-clean, 19,000-square-foot facility—started out offering services such as drum scanning, image manipulation, retouching and color correction, page assembly and processing, proofing, as well as digital ad production and management. But the partners had a bigger vision for DigiLink.

"It all started with a solid business plan," Lerner explains. "The equipment lenders thought it was one of the most well thought out plans they had seen. To assure that we started out on the right foot, we made a commitment to acquire one of the best management systems out there in EFI's Hagen OA."
 

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