What’s it take to receive the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Excellence Award? Read our interview with Amy Voloshin, Founder and Creative Director of Printfresh, as we highlight one of the excellent small businesses that drive the Greater Philadelphia region. Join us to celebrate the 33rd Annual Excellence Award winners on Thursday, November 5 »
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I started my career at Urban Outfitters as a design assistant, and I was always fascinated with the textile design studios we would buy artwork from. Studios provided such creative prints and design ideas, I realized that I wanted to be on the other side. I switched to art directing for one of the top textile design studios in NYC and loved working with designers and working on trend and concept. I wanted to be back in Philadelphia, and I decided to start a studio.
Describe the moment that you decided to go into business for yourself. How did you feel once you made the decision?
It was really fun, we started the studio close to where we lived, I loved heading over to the rustic warehouse in the morning, and designing, dying fabric, sewing, taking coffee breaks, it was amazing. The slow start of our business and being the a solopreneur at first was a great time to reflect on what I wanted the company to be. The downside was the financial piece, I self-funded through my savings and some help from my family. Luckily after 6 months we started to sell and make a profit!
Who has been an inspiration to you as a business owner and why?
Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal, and of course Diane Von Furstenberg, they are 2 women who have accomplished amazing things and have taken huge risks to get there. I’m also very inspired by my friends from the 10,000 Small Businesses program. I was in Philadelphia’s Cohort 1 and met so many amazing entrepreneurs who have such enthusiasm for their businesses – like Pat Claybrook of Jidan Cleaning, and Gina Mancuso of CoreFitness, their passion for what they do is an inspiration to me.
What makes your business model special?
It’s basically a cottage industry on steroids. Our business started very small, and despite many challenges in scaling it somehow we have made it work. Everything we produce on the print team is 100% original, so every day we have a team of 11 designers who draw and paint, and create unique designs – making over 100 designs every week!
What is your business philosophy?
Company culture is key to our organization. We only hire amazing, people – we have a ‘no jerks’ policy and we hold people to it. We’ve had to let some really amazing designers and team members go because of this. When we stand up in front of the team and read through our core values at each of our quarterly meetings – it’s important that we hold ourselves and everyone on the team accountable to our core values. Our core values are: Work Life Balance, Positive Work Environment, Commitment to Excellence, Be Authentic, and Customer Focus.
What is most challenging about owning/running a small business in the region? How do you deal with the challenges?
Being in Philadelphia is both challenging and a plus for us. Most of our business we do in NY, LA, and Montreal. Traveling so much to do sales can be hard on the sales team, but if we were in NY we wouldn’t be able to afford the office space that we have. We were able to purchase an old 32,000 square foot tobacco factory through help from PIDC and did a renovation – complete with 24 studio spaces for small businesses and artists, and we created a 6,000 sq foot design studio for Printfresh. We would never be able to afford to do a project like this in NY!
What’s your secret to success?
Hard work. I’m never the smartest or most talented person in the room – but I make up for it through working really hard, and always trying to improve.
What’s so special about the Philadelphia region business community?
Until joining the 10,000 small business program, I didn’t really have much exposure to the business community. But, once I started to meet business members through the program – many of which are members of the Chamber of Commerce, I was so impressed by their passion for their businesses. Philadelphia is truly a city where the American dream is very much alive. Philadelphia is a city where you can still afford to buy space, take risks, and has such generous lending organizations that help business owners grow and create.
Others will be looking to you for advice about starting and/or operating a business here. What are your top 3 tips?
Utilize Philadelphia’s resources – we have an amazing SCORE chapter which gave us strong guidance early on in our business, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton SBDC offers many ways to help and case study opportunities which can help businesses grow, and the 10,000 Small Businesses program is a great educational resource for more established businesses who want to take their business to the next level.
What does it mean to you personally and/or to your business to be named an Excellence Award winner?
It’s been my mission every day, for the last 9 years to create a positive workplace where creative people can do their best work, it’s an awesome bonus to be recognized for my entrepreneurial efforts and I’m excited to be in such great company with the other winners and the members of the Chamber of Commerce!
What are your growth plans for the next 3 – 5 years?
Our plans are to grow our revenue to $5 Million by 2017, increase our staff of 30 to 45 employees, renovate another warehouse and relocate our team, dramatically increase our CAD&Custom division, and increase our sales in Europe.
What is your favorite spot in the region and why?
My favorite spot is Frankford Hall, a local beer garden on Frankford Hall we love to go to happy hour there with our team, and it’s my kid’s favorite restaurant – they love the hot dogs and applesauce, and I love the beer! La Colombe’s flagship coffee shop is also nearby our office and I love having meetings there with my business partner and husband Leo Voloshin, and getting caffeinated for the day – and their greek yogurt is amazing.
What’s the most unexpected thing that has happened while running your business?
Early on in the business 3 of our full time contractors started a competing business while working for us. I’m a very trusting person, and it was a tough lesson to realize that not everyone on your team is really ‘on your team’, it really took us by surprise. It made us get smarter about who we hired, and learned to protect ourselves legally.
If you could give advice to yourself 5 years ago, what would it be?
I would have done the sales early on. It would have been a good learning experience for me and would have forced me to get out of my comfort zone. I would consider myself an introvert, and I chose to work on the creative side of things in the office. I missed out on valuable feedback during that time. I also would have encouraged my business partner and husband, Leo to quit his day job sooner. He’s a wonderful salesman and he’s so passionate about what we do, we would have propelled the business sooner if he would have been full time in the business sooner.