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Women in Printing — It’s a Man’s World (Not!)

May 2008 By Cheryl Adams
Managing Editor
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IT’S A MAN’S world. Or is it?

For some women, infiltrating the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” long associated with printing has been extremely challenging. For others, gender hasn’t been that much of a factor when breaking into (and rising up in) this traditionally male-dominated business.

However, like most businesswomen (no matter what the field), being female in a corporate world of suits and ties often requires women to be intuitive, intelligent and wise.

Not so long ago, many women in printing were either part of a family owned business or were wives of print shop owners. Today, there are many independent women who start and run their own companies, or who have ascended the leadership (and ownership) ladder of their family’s firms—and are achieving great success on their own.

Below is a small sampling of these amazing ladies. May they stand up and take a bow!

TINA Tromiczak
Berlin Industries
Carol Stream, IL

Tina Tromiczak didn’t grow up dreaming of landing a high-powered career in printing. In fact, she happened upon it.

In 1983, she joined RR Donnelley in the human resources department at one of its largest manufacturing facilities. She didn’t know much about HR, and she knew little to nothing about printing; she just answered a help-wanted ad in the newspaper.

By 1989, a career in printing had found Tromiczak, not the other way around. She moved from HR to a management position in manufacturing at Donnelley and came face-to-face with her destiny.

In her 21-year stint at RR Donnelley, Tromiczak held the positions of HR manager; bindery manager; pressroom manager; international HR director; vice president of operations for central region Financial; vice president of strategy, Financial Business Unit; and senior vice president of operations, Donnelley Financial Print Business. Tromiczak was the first female to serve in the last three positions mentioned above.

Tromiczak says the biggest milestone of her career happened in 2001, when she landed the position of president of Berlin Industries—a single-source provider of web offset commercial printing, digital one-to-one solutions, database management, direct mail services, custom fulfillment and distribution. The company employs 400 people and reported $70 million in sales in 2007.

On a personal note, Tromiczak is a member of the Advertising Women of New York and the Women Presidents’ Association in Chicago. She also serves on the board for Christopher House, a not-for-profit family resource center for low-income children and families.

Allegra Print & Imaging
Scottsdale, AZ

In 1982, when Eileen Rogers had her resumé printed (not copied), she walked into a small print shop in Scottsdale and essentially never left.

She took a job at the local Allegra Print & Imaging, which had just opened the year before, and began learning the operation inside-out.

“One day, the owner concocted a deal that offered me equity ownership and options to buy more, if I could grow sales and meet some other goals,” Rogers recalls. “Thirteen years later, I owned 100 percent of the company.”

Today, under Rogers’ leadership, the operation employs 14 people and reported revenues of $2.3 million in 2007. Additionally, the firm merged with a local digital printer in October and has emerged as a digital marketing services pioneer in both the Phoenix market and within the Allegra franchise.

“With both traditional and digital presses, the latest in cross-media marketing applications, Web-to-print technologies, variable data printing and a great team of dedicated people,” says Rogers, “we are poised to grow and thrive over the next 10 years.”

Rogers believes in making a difference every day. Currently she serves on the boards of Homeward Bound and Planned Parenthood of Arizona, as well as the Housing Board and the Human Services Commission for the City of Scotts-dale. In 2000, she was named the ATHENA Award recipient from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, which honors one woman each year for community service, business success and mentoring of other women.

Her real passion is traveling, and Rogers has combined that with her personal mission of creating joy and enriching lives. Through an organization called The Foundation for Global Leadership, whose mission is to expose American professionals to emerging democracies, she has led delegations of professionals to Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Cambodia and Kenya—with another delegation planned for Nepal in November.

Ramsey Press
Mahwah, NJ

Unlike some printing industry execs whose careers have taken them here, there and everywhere, Nicole Colon’s entire 30-year career has been with Ramsey Press. She started out as a child helping out at her father’s shop, eventually running a two-color press, estimating jobs and preparing financial information.

When her father passed away in 1997, Colon and her partner, Patrick Pagani, purchased the company from her father’s estate. At that time, Ramsey Press had annual sales of $600,000 and employed seven people. In the last 10 years, Colon and Pagani have built Ramsey Press into a corporation that bills $6 million annually and employs 38 people.

As president, Colon has overseen several achievements: Ramsey Press is the only commercial printer in the world (according to Colon) to achieve third-party certifications as 1) a woman-owned business enterprise 2) a G7 Master Printer and 3) a “green” printer tri-certified by the FSC, SFI and PEFC. Ramsey Press was also recognized as one of New Jersey’s top women-owned businesses in 2007.

But what Colon is most proud of is the “intangible atmosphere” of the company. She says that employees are treated very well, like part of the family, and have developed tremendous pride in the fact that they work for Ramsey Press.

Adrienne Myers
Art & Negative Graphics
Lanham, MD

Adrienne Myers began her printing career in 1978 as a proofreader at her father’s printing company, Valley Typesetting, then as a typesetter, a job she held for 10 years. In 1981, Myers and her husband decided to start their own prepress company, Art & Negative, in a garage behind her father’s business.

Over the years, Myers took over total ownership of the company and expanded to a 10,000-square-foot facility in Bladensburg, MD. By then, Art & Negative, which now employed 15, was providing color scanning, image retouching and computerized film output. The company continued to prosper, servicing commercial printers, advertising agencies, associations and corporate clients.

“The prepress industry started to decline in 1999,” Myers opines. “I was contemplating early retirement, but my two sons loved printing, and they wanted me to expand.”

In 2001, she invested $4 million, purchasing a range of new equipment from prepress to bindery. In 2007, the company expanded again to 58,000 square feet, and a new Xerox iGen3 digital press, Web-to-print software and two more Heidelbergs (one a DI press) took center stage.

Besides investing in high-tech equipment, she believes having a close-knit team of employees has been another advantage. Myers gives credit for all of Art & Negative’s success to her employees. She says they’ve stuck with her through thick and thin. And that sentiment is 10-fold toward her family.

“My biggest joy is being able to work with two of my sons, James Myers and Jason Wilburn. Not many parents get the chance to see their children every day.”

3G Graphic Solutions
Springfield, OH

Jeanne Lampe describes herself as a “hands-on” owner. Considering the corporation she owns consists of six separate operations, her hands must be “on” most of the time.

Lampe is the third generation in her family to own the business, formerly known as Charles E. Miller and Son, then Miller Printing, then Graphic Paper Products, which it has been since 1974. Earlier this year, Lampe changed the name to 3G Graphic Solutions.

Miller Printing, which has been an “institution” in Springfield since 1891, is the most well-known of the six companies that form 3G Graphic Solutions. The other companies are now organized as following: Miller Printing and Armstrong Printing fall under 3G Printing Solutions; Springfield Packaging and Rhoades Paper Box fall under 3G Packaging Solutions; and Barrett Brothers and Visual Education fall under 3G Specialty Publishing. Combined, the company’s annual revenues are $12 million.

“We chose the name 3G to stand for third-generation,” explains Lampe. “My grandfather bought the business in 1940, my father took over ownership in 1949, and now I’m the third generation.”

Over the years, she has worked in many of the company’s divisions, especially Miller Printing, where she currently serves as general manager—in addition to being president, CEO and owner of the entire 3G Graphic Solutions corporation.

“Each time the company made an acquisition, my father told me to ‘go run it.’ So, I did,” concludes Lampe. “In retrospect, running all of those businesses was the best education I could have ever had.”

21st Century Finishing
Saddle Brook, NJ

21st Century Finishing, in business since 1990, was initially geared for foil stamping and hologram applications. When Karen DeMaio joined the company in 1998, she believed that “there was more to finishing than just stamping.”

After two years of hearing about competitors’ accomplishments, she wanted to establish 21st Century Finishing as a force in the industry.

“I asked a lot of questions; I wanted to know how everything worked,” she recalls. So she began answering phones, performing customer service, doing estimates and billing, and even ran machinery when things got busy.

Integrity and a lot of hard work have paid off for DeMaio, who rose through the ranks at 21st Century Finishing. With that came many hurdles, but eventually the business began to grow dramatically. Now a full-fledged finishing operation, the company has 38 employees and boasts sales in excess of $6 million.

In 2007, DeMaio reached the highlight of her career by becoming part-owner and president of 21st Century Finishing. “I have a great group of people who work as a team to make sure mistakes are at a minimum, that each job goes out with the best quality possible, and who make sure the customer comes first.

“My reward is seeing a dream come to fruition and knowing that there is still more to accomplish,” DeMaio declares. “My successes are attributed to knowing that, with the right team of people, we can accomplish whatever we choose.”

Bayside Printing

After starting her own printing business out of a garage, struggling and pinching pennies, and selling print by word of mouth for five, long, grueling years, Rose Mary Bundscho finally found her miracle. She witnessed her tiny, three-employee company, Bayside Printing, begin to turn a profit in 1978.

By the mid ’90s, Bundscho had dozens of employees, a bunch of equipment and had built an addition on the garage. Still, Bayside Printing needed a lot more room. Plans were made to buy land, build a 24,000-square-foot plant and purchase three new Heidelberg presses.

In 1997, Bayside moved into its new building, installed the new presses and added mailing services to its operation. Business was booming.

Then came September 11, 2001. Business started slowing due to the subsequent recession. Then came the Enron scandal, which negatively impacted many businesses in the Houston area, including Bayside Printing. Then came Hurricane Allison, which caused even more economic problems.

As if these things weren’t heartache enough, Bundscho’s husband/business partner was stressed out from the financial strain of the struggling shop and wanted a divorce.

Her friends, family and co-workers rallied around her, helping Bundscho to start turning things around (again). She got a $75,000 personal loan and learned quickly how to make every little bit count. Once a week, she even had to lay off workers, which, she says, literally made her feel sick to her stomach.

From 2001 to 2005, Bundscho struggled, working seven days a week, selling print, rebuilding her business, rebuilding her credit, getting new loans and paying off all that pre-9/11-purchased equipment.

“You know the old saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.’ I’m living proof of that. I’m a better business owner because of my experiences. My family, friends, business partners and many dedicated employees worked hard to help me. I’ve been very blessed.”

Today, those blessings continue. The equipment is paid off, and Bundscho is investing in new technology, most recently a five-color Kodak Nexpress 2100 digital press. The digital portion of her business is outpacing traditional offset, and the mailing operation makes up about 25 percent of the business.

“I’m back on top, again. I’ve got 40 happy employees, who have good salaries, 401(k)s, profit sharing, healthcare and a lot of other benefits. Life is good. Today, we’re better off than ever.”

Vice President, Sales/Marketing
Huston Patterson
Decatur, IL

Tonya Kowa-Morelli is the third-generation printer in her family, but she’s the first woman to be taking (partial) reins. Her grandfather and father both owned the business and someday it will, more than likely, be her turn to take over.

After graduating from college and trying her hand at health insurance sales for a few years, Kowa-Morelli joined her family business in April 2004 as a graphic consultant. Since then, she has held many positions, including client services manager, director of sales/special products division, director of marketing and, most recently, vice president of sales and marketing.

Huston Patterson, which opened its doors in 1895 printing the local newspaper, Herald & Review, was purchased by Robert Kowa in 1961, then taken over by his son Thomas Kowa (Kowa-Morelli’s father) in 1991. Today, Huston Patterson is one of the leading package printing companies in North America.

Huston Patterson is parent company to Sigma Graphics. Together, the two firms employ 110, and their combined annual sales exceeded $28.5 million in 2007.

As the vice president of sales and marketing, Kowa-Morelli has many responsibilities, including actively selling print in the Southwest. She is known throughout the firm for bringing youth and enthusiasm to the sales force, and often travels with each sales rep, assisting them with client relationships.

Wearing many different hats, Kowa-Morelli encounters challenges and rewards, but feels that the rewards outweigh the struggles.

“Being a woman in a male-dominated industry does seem to have hurdles,” she says. “However, having an open mind and awareness of that keeps me well grounded. I look at challenges as detours, but rarely is there a dead end.” PI


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Most Recent Comments:
Kelly Cotterell - Posted on April 12, 2011
I would love to speak about women in the Printing Industry, as a young professional the challenges we face are so much larger than what a man faces in this industry. - Kelly
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Archived Comments:
Kelly Cotterell - Posted on April 12, 2011
I would love to speak about women in the Printing Industry, as a young professional the challenges we face are so much larger than what a man faces in this industry. - Kelly