From helping local schools with rush orders for printed education packets to supporting other local businesses with branded hand sanitizers and face coverings, International Minute Press in Gastonia makes a difference in their community and shows that print is essential.
GASTONIA, N.C. & CHARLOTTE, N.C. – During the COVID-19 pandemic, local business owners like Pam and Bill Joles of the International Minute Press printing franchise in Gastonia have worked harder than ever to adapt and serve their communities. Pam says, “We have always been right here and we remain in service to our local business and community every day, all day.”
For Pam and Bill, orders from clients did not disappear because print is an essential business and their full-service design, printing, and marketing center has remained open throughout the pandemic. Their “roll with it” attitude has helped lift up other businesses who depend on them. “There was never a thought that we would stop working on behalf of our clients.”
Pam continues, “We prepared ourselves for anything during this unpredictable time. We don’t have a big team, but we talk every day about area challenges and solutions, finding new ways to keep COVID-19 guidelines respected and orders coming in for as many as trust us with what they need.”
Regarding the financial side of the business, Pam says, “I stayed on top of accounts receivable to keep money flowing and wisely use what we had in terms of emergency funds. We cut expenses right away, taking advice from our Regional Vice President David Walton by eliminating third-party social media. We can do a great job by ourselves, and by doing so saved money and sharpened up new tools to pass on to our customers.”
International Minute Press in Gastonia helped fulfill a big rush order from local schools for thousands of educational packages. It was the defining moment for their business and showed just how essential printing can be for the local community.
When Pam and Bill received a rush order from local schools, they jumped right in to help. “Everything was shutting down when the school system came to us and told us, on a Saturday morning, that they needed educational packages together by Monday.”
Her team worked back to back 12-hour weekend shifts with all of the latest print technology up and running. By Monday morning, thousands of packages were ready on behalf of area children. “Supplying our school system immediately was probably our defining moment during this pandemic.”
Pam also signed up with Reboot, Recover, Rebuild and is listed under “marketing services” in Gaston County. “It’s known as the R3 Program and is funded by a North Carolina State grant through community colleges. We are providing marketing strategy counseling so small business owners can get their products and services out in the marketplace, starting with branded door hangers, EDDM, rack cards, flyers, coupons and brochures.”
The time, technology and expertise they bring is making a difference as people wish to support local business and appreciate Pam’s efforts to make it easier. “It doesn’t pay a lot, but we are building ties by getting to know new people and adding more all the time. I advise people to sign up for R3 for their own savings if they call us first. Then, we help them build up their business strategy right away.”
Prior to pandemic restrictions, Pam says her customers were “loyal and in high demand within their industries.” While some entrepreneurs were forced to shut down, the foundation of most of most International Minute Press customers is sturdy enough to withstand disruptions. “We have our attention on every client, every project and are ramping up production in each case as they say the word. Fortunately, many of our orders were only delayed, but April and May picked back up.”
Inspired idea boosts client sales and keeps hands clean
A tire company came to Pam for advice and she told them to expand on the use of branded hand sanitizer. “They are giving out hand sanitizer with their logo along with service cards with the promise that customers can return and refill the empty bottles from a dispenser in the shop. This way, people are returning to their location regularly. He ordered 500 and people are loving the idea.”
Pam ventures a guess that living in a manufacturing area was a blessing going into the spring, but the essential nature of work her center provides definitely makes a difference to stability. “For the most part, the printing industry and our system puts us in a better position than a lot of others. Just about everyone we deal with is working ‘business as usual’ already.”
Restaurants, auto retail outlets, tire companies and pharmacies are among the assorted mix of what is a rebounding local economy. It is admittedly rewarding to be a mentor in marketing right now. “Helping our pharmacy learn how to market, we came up with three key strategies for them:
- Use branded hand sanitizer and distribute freely so people see the logo and it becomes a conversation piece to mention value and location.
- Contact area medical practices and distribute the rack cards we provide for additional branded materials in just the right hands.
- Get on several speaker schedules using zoom to start with visible branding while you speak. Eventually, networking will come back in other ways and there’s no reason to wait.”
As the sun starts to shine on the new business day, Pam and Bill help shape it. “Face masks, shields and gloves are going to be part of apparel for a while, so most businesses are smart to have it all tell their company stories. Companies, colleges and local schools will have more spirit and success with their logos imprinted on PPE when possible.”
“We are following government guidelines and even looking ahead on behalf of the people in their area. We will be making customized labels using our dye sublimation machines and wide format printers to create face shields. The addition of these shields is helpful behind the counter and maybe even to make eye-to-eye networking possible sooner.”
Her business carries top technology into the future, but small-town charm remains. “Here, shopping locally is a big deal. We have Bounce Back USA signs throughout our area and we are helping by hosting that free initiative that provides free local listings and COVID-19 awareness posters for Gastonia businesses. ”
“We love our community and know that it is human spirit and work ethic that matter. In fact, for our times of high demand, I count on an older lady named Charlotte who comes in and affixes labels by hand. She loves the work and she is a big part of our team when we need her.”
Gastonia, NC is budding with enthusiasm for healthy, renewed activity in all aspects of life.
Pam is using her center’s full capabilities, plus heart and soul to make sure it keeps going. “As always, we will meet every order with value and speed during this transition time. Things will be different for a while, but things will get back to normal as far as what truly matters.”