X-Igent Printing : Taking a New DirectionSeptember 2009 By Julie Greenbaum
BROTHERS Omar Rodriguez and Hugo Cervantes, owners of East Los Angeles-based X-Igent Printing, know a thing or two about starting a commercial printing business from the ground up. When the shop they were working for was acquired by a new owner, they decided to cash in $70,000 of the equity in a home they purchased in 2000 to launch their own brokerage, turned printing operation, in 2001.
It certainly helped that Rodriguez, president of X-Igent Printing, and Cervantes, vice president of operations, have worn many hats throughout their printing careers. Rodriguez formerly worked as a general manager, an operations manager and as a sales representative, while Cervantes got his start even earlier, taking print shop as an elective in junior high. Cervantes later worked as a bindery helper part-time during high school, and then as a pressman.
"After we first opened, we encountered a few obstacles along the way," admits Rodriguez. "But we addressed those problems by hiring a consultant who helped us restructure the company, and implement some new processes and procedures."
One-Stop Shop Ahead
From that point on, the brothers began to purchase equipment and started out by offering both copying and graphic design services, hiring one full-time designer. "We just kept on evolving from there, adding new services and a new product line every year," Rodriguez explains.
Today, the company is a complete one-stop shop, offering color and black-and-white copying; sheetfed offset, digital and wide-format printing; graphic design; advertising specialties/promotional items; and in-house binding and mailing services. The printer produces a wide range of printed products, including brochures, presentation folders, postcards and direct mail pieces. Two main vertical markets it now serves include banks and the food service industry, with further plans to service the healthcare industry, including hospitals and doctors.
Since the majority of the work that X-Igent receives requires quick turnarounds, they invested in a four-color Heidelberg Quickmaster DI 46-4 press to complete those jobs. Copying is done on a variety of Canon copiers.
In 2007, the enterprise moved from a 4,000-square-foot facility in City of Commerce to a 6,000-square-foot plant in East Los Angeles. The relocation was a seamless transition, as the company only shut down operation for one day.
"We didn't think the move was going to go as smoothly as it did. At that time, our intent was not to purchase the building we were occupying, but to move because our lease was up," Rodriguez notes. "We started looking for a new building and found one in just two weeks. And, luckily for us, the person that was in the building at that time was actually a customer of ours, who let us move in a week ahead of schedule."
Room to Grow
The move into a larger building allowed the brothers to move forward with many of their plans. "Our new facility has helped us expand into different markets, and has enabled us to purchase the equipment necessary to support the business. In our previous location, there was no room for any additional staff or equipment," says Cervantes.
The added floor space allowed an investment in a Mimaki JV33-160 ink-jet printer, enabling X-Igent to enter the wide-format market. "At that time, everyone was telling us that the 'future of print' in regard to producing banners, posters, signage and decals was in wide-format printing," recalls Rodriguez. "That's a part of the business that we are trying to build. We have enough work for it, but we think it can still be a lot busier."
Aside from the Mimaki ink-jet device, the company's pressroom includes a two-color Heidelberg Quickmaster 46-2 offset press and the Quickmaster DI 46-4. In the next several months, X-Igent is also planning to purchase a 40˝ sheetfed press.
One of the biggest challenges the brothers feel the industry faces today is toner-based production. Rodriguez jokes, "If we can just get rid of all the copiers everyone has we would be in a better place." Another challenge is that, with the move to becoming a more environmentally friendly pressroom—by using solventless chemicals—certain tasks that used to take 15 minutes now might take 30 minutes.
Last year, X-Igent posted $1.5 million in sales and projects that, during the next four years, it will experience 20 percent annual growth. With a staff of 15 employees, it boasts close to 400 active accounts, primarily in Los Angeles, Orange County and Ventura County. Clients can e-mail their jobs currently, and the shop is exploring the option of adding an online ordering system.
The owners have been very proactive in making donations and volunteering their time to community service, which have resulted in numerous awards and recognition. X-Igent is a recipient of the TELACU Emerging Business of the Year Award, as well as a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Commerce Industrial Council Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the company has received a letter of recognition from the desk of the Governor of the State of California. Both Rodriguez and Arvin Ochoa, X-Igent's business developer, are ambassadors to numerous chambers, and have mentored the kids and students in their community.
Last summer, X-Igent hosted a Hawaiian "luau-themed" mixer for five area Chambers of Commerce, with more than 200 people in attendance. The event was such a huge success that they have already received multiple requests for an encore.
Making Growth a Reality
Moving forward, Ochoa will focus on the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification that the Hispanic-owned company is pursuing. The minority-owned business status will allow X-Igent to bid for work from large area corporations, such as Disney, as well as secure government contracts. In addition, the company will continue to grow its wide-format printing and direct mail niches.
"Our projection is to be a $5 million company in the next four years. We plan to achieve that by service, quality, competitive pricing, customer relationship building and adding complementary product lines to meet our customers' demands," Rodriguez concludes.
"With 20 percent growth every year, we should be able to reach our goal in that amount of time." PI