2021 Rising Star: Curry Printing's Marni Smith Finds More to Inspire Her Every Day
Here is one professional from this year's crop of “Rising Stars.” Seven exceptional 20- and 30-somethings recommended to Printing Impressions as exemplars of the next generation of leadership in the commercial printing industry. We asked each of them to tell us how they got here, what keeps them dedicated to the industry, what they’re proud of having accomplished so far, and where they hope to be going forward.
We also made a point of asking them why, in their opinion, it’s so perennially difficult for the industry to recruit people of their age group. The most compelling answer was basically, “Nobody from the printing industry ever told me what a rich career opportunity I’d find in it. I had to figure that out for myself.”
This bears thinking about. So does the fact that there are many more young stars like these just below the horizon, waiting for the outreach that will let them rise and shine as print professionals in their own right. We’re pleased to profile their role models here.
As a third-generation representative of a family-owned printing business that her grandmother took over 35 years ago, and that her mother now owns and runs, Marni Smith has always had a toe in the water of the industry. Since early last year, she’s been fully engaged with Curry Printing in sales and business development — and finding more to motivate and inspire her every day.
An Intensive Learning Experience
Despite having worked at the shop since childhood, Smith knew that a full-time role with the company would be an intensive learning experience. After graduating from Gettysburg College in 2017, she prepared herself by spending several years as a business development leader for University Tees, a provider of custom apparel to the college market.
She returned to Curry Printing in April of 2020, finding it “a lot more challenging than I could have ever imagined,” despite her family tie to the company.
Her first task was making sure she could fill “the black hole of knowledge” that lies at the center of most people’s understanding of the printing process.
Smith notes that as a sales representative, “you become that wealth of knowledge for them,” in keeping with the Curry Printing core value of “being our customers’ heroes.”
In business development, according to Smith, “you make as much work for yourself as you want.” She’s convinced that the more work she does, the more it will pay off both for herself and for the company whose customer base she’s determined to grow. She says she got her first taste of this kind of success when she landed her first customer, a police chief in Delaware to whom she sells mugs, badges, and other promotional items.
New to the field though she is, Smith knows that success in sales sometimes means overcoming the profession’s “stereotypical reputation” for being manipulative. The way to do this, she says, is always to be approachable, personable, and ready with a friendly solution to whatever problem the customer may be facing.
Stepping into a new job at the peak of a pandemic might not have been the ideal way to start acquiring this knowledge. But Smith says the experience was a “blessing in disguise” for making her work harder to establish herself than she would have had to in normal business conditions. She says she was able to keep going by remembering, “It will never be as difficult or as trying as it is right now.”
A Constantly Evolving Industry
Smith notes that one of the things that drew her to the printing industry is the fact that it is always evolving — something she wishes was more obvious to other people in her age group. In her view, “the fact that it is still called ‘the printing industry’ makes it a little unattractive to people my age” when it consists of so much more than just the printed end-product.
“I wish I saw more people my age getting involved in the printing industry,” Smith declares. Her answer for attracting young talent: “changing the brand or the narrative of what printing is,” so that people can see the possibilities it holds. She also advises employers to be sensitive to her generation’s desire for company cultures that support an appropriate work/life balance.
Perhaps one day, she’ll have an opportunity to build that kind of culture as an employer in her own right. “It would be cool to own my own printing business,” she says. For now, though, she’s focused on doing whatever it will take to make herself the asset to Curry Printing that she aspires to be.
“I still have a lot to learn,” Smith says, making it sound every bit like a promise.