Albanian Immigrant Xhenis Levack Is Living the American Dream as CEO of Primoprint
Xhenis (pronounced Janis) Levack immigrated to Detroit with her parents — who came to the U.S. with just $7,000 — from then-communist Albania when she was 14 years old. There, she eventually met her husband, Marc Levack, and they co-founded Primoprint in Michigan in 2007, primarily as a print brokerage. The couple relocated to Charlotte, N.C., in 2010 and expanded their business into commercial digital and offset printing.
As the company continued to grow, the Levacks relocated it to nearby Huntersville, N.C., in 2016. Life was good.
But then in 2018, her personal and professional world turned upside down. Marc Levack passed away suddenly at home, leaving the mother of two young children with a difficult decision of what to do with Primoprint going forward. "When Marc passed away, so many people advised me to sell and walk away," she recalls. “But I’m a fighter – and I wanted to make sure things were done right,” the 39-year-old proclaims. “I had two kids, and my employees and all of their families were depending on me. And it is a labor of love – Marc and I created this business together and our employees are like family.”
Under her leadership as CEO, Primoprint has exceeded 20% year-over-year organic growth annually, added 10 new employees, and purchased a new building in Huntersville for additional anticipated growth this year. Striving to provide a boutique experience to its national customer base, the 35-employee shop employs five full-time designers, and a team of in-house programmers who developed Primoprint's proprietary Business Automated Platform, a Web-to-print and asset management solution. "We just added a third salesperson and we're also looking to start offering copywriting services," Levack reveals, adding that she plans to double the employee headcount in two years.
Levack strives to foster an empowering work environment, where different departments collaborate frequently. Fostering a laid back environment, workers can also bring their children and dogs to work when necessary. Levack is especially gratified with Primoprint's employee retention rate, and has received strong feedback to her "Great Monday" initiative, where she takes individual employees, at all levels, out for a cup of coffee to receive one-on-one feedback and ideas on how to move Primoprint forward.
"I'm very humble and want to learn as much from my team as possible. I just turned 39, and feel like this is what I was meant to do," she says, "I just didn't realize it at first."
Living, and Sharing, the American Dream
While Levack is proud of the company’s ongoing success, she is constantly strategizing how to re-invest the profits into the organization and her local community. She is particularly passionate about making sure families have enough to eat, a challenge the former immigrant is very familiar with from her childhood experiences of food needing to be rationed after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. “Food is the basis of life. This is America,” she adds. “It should be the simplest thing to have food on the table.”
As Primoprint plans to expand from its Huntersville office space into a building situated on an acre of land next door that Levack purchased in 2019, Levack is creating more ways to help feed her community. Three months before her husband passed, she got involved with a local school program that provides backpacks with food in them to inner-city children on Fridays, so they wouldn't go hungry on the weekends.
But Levack felt she could also do even more on her own. “I love gardening, and seeds cost practically nothing. So, I want to create an urban garden on our new property whereby underprivileged kids can come learn how to grow healthy food and then take it home to their families,” she says. This, in turn, might eventually lead to opening up a small farm stand, where the children could also learn business and accounting skills.
For this immigrant-turned-CEO, the definition of success isn’t just achieving her American Dream, but passing on that success to others.