Our Story

Ten years ago, I was working as software test engineer for the Hubble Space Telescope. I had a great career there, with a promising future. However, after being there for almost ten years, I was starting to feel restless, and my desire to do something more creative was growing. We also wanted to start a family and I wanted work that was flexible, with freedom from a set schedule. And, I had to be able to use my computer skills (didn’t make sense to throw away all that training). I did some research and found a program that awarded an accredited degree in Graphic and Web Design in two years. Perfect. I signed up, and quickly soaked up all the new skills I was learning.

Meanwhile, my husband, Brahm, had been laid off from his computer technician job. The dot com bubble had burst, and the demand for computer skills was shrinking. We had some equity in our house and thought about purchasing a packaging and shipping franchise (like a UPS Store), and Brahm could run the business. He’s a hard worker, and a shipping/packaging store was just the kind of work he could really get into. Little did we realize we were just buying him a job, and really had no clue about how to run or manage a business.

The stars align…

Through a serendipitous encounter, we met Hoss Chamlou, the owner of the printing/packaging/shipping store called Speedy Printing & Pak’n Ship in Fairfax, which he had been looking to sell. I was finishing up my graphic design training. Buying a printing business was a match made in heaven.

SpeedyStore1We started the process of purchasing the business. I was excited to do graphic design; Brahm was excited to have a great job. And neither of us had any clue what a difficult journey we were about to begin as business owners. We were planning our retirement and looking at new BMWs for Brahm, while the small-business-owner-gods were just laughing at our ignorance of what lay ahead. But, we were seeing a lot of prayers answered. In August of 2004, we signed the purchase agreement and acquired the business. That same month, we found out we were expecting our first child! Another answered prayer.

Fast forward…

After our daughter was born, I quit my job with the Hubble, we moved to Fairfax and put all our efforts in the business. After 3 years, the reality of being a business owner finally set in as sales were decreasing and our debt was increasing. We tried doing some mailings, offered new services, ran some ads. But that merely gave us a temporary boost.

Finally, when the recession hit in August of 2008, we hit rock bottom. We had no more credit to draw on, our job jackets were empty, and our phones were silent. A sole fly was buzzing around our shop, and he was desperately looking for a way out. The shopping center in which our store was located was in decline and most of the stores had closed. We were a picture of bleak, but that wasn’t all…

Our future was uncertain as we had a lousy lease that gave the landlord the right to kick us out anytime for any reason. So I reluctantly put out my resume and started looking for a job. The single interview I went on made me realize I wasn’t ready to go back to the 9–5 prison. I liked, no, I loved the freedom of having my own business, and I equally loved the work I was doing.

“Big doors swing on small hinges.” quote by W. Clement Stone

One of our low-budget attempts to generate new business consisted of a postcard mailing. We searched Google for names and addresses of people who likely needed printing: local attorneys and accountants. (We were too poor to buy a list.) We sent about 100 postcards and about 40 of them came back as bad addresses. Alas, I did get one call from a local attorney, Ben Glass, who happened to also be a marketing consultant.

He was interested in getting postcards designed and printed. When I went to visit him, I told him how the recession was killing us and we were being forced to slash our prices. Ben explained how that is completely the wrong approach, and that we need to do better marketing, not lower our prices. He gave me several books and DVD’s on successful marketing. I tore through them and realized how pitifully we really were managing our business, and what a miracle it was we didn’t go under sooner.

A change of attitude…

Our whole attitude changed. We became determined to turn the business around, and began implementing BIG changes.

For one, we took our future out of the landlord’s hands by getting the h-e-l-l out of that shopping center and into a brand new place 1/2 mile up the road. We thought it impossible before, but by God’s grace, we got the money, mustered up the courage to sign a lease agreement for the new location, and moved there in February of 2009. Six months later, superstar designer, Kim McCann joined us. She is still with us and rocks every project that crosses her desk.

On the move again…

The New SpeedyAbout two years into our lease, I realized we really didn’t need a retail location. We had become so adept at direct response marketing (targeted, direct mail marketing) that we didn’t need roadside visibility and walk-in traffic. In fact, we found walk-in customers to be a big pain as they were often D-list clients (high expectations, high price sensitivity, low dollar transactions). With help from consultants and mentorship from Ben and his Mastermind group, we began restructuring our business to cater to a target market and focused our energies on our top clients. We found the courage to say NO to many things in order to make way for better things. It wasn’t easy, but it worked. We doubled our sales in less than two years, and work was steadily coming in. In fact, we were often swamped and desperately needed help, which was an altogether different challenge. More on that later.

Hey baby…

Bahar and Micah 2012In 2011, we welcomed our son, Micah, into the world and experienced much cuteness and funniness in our lives. During that time, I scaled back the business and my work to focus on our new little guy. (Read how we did this).

Finally, our lease was coming to an end and we were on the hunt for a new location. We wanted to move into office space. (Towards the end of the lease, we kept the doors locked and removed all our signage so walk-ins would stop bothering us). Although office space was MUCH more affordable than retail, we had a lot of requirements: big production room, ground level floor, easy access, etc. Nothing fit the bill. Also, we wanted to purchase and not rent, so that limited our options even more.

Wisdom from above…

One night, a thought suddenly came to me that blew my mind and answered SO many prayers. You see, we’d been trying to move to a bigger home for a while. But it was not financially feasible for us. Sitting in the living room of our small house, I suddenly realized our home would be the perfect space for a home office. We could move ourselves to a bigger home and pay rent there, and move the business to our current home. In essence, we would become our own landlords for business space, and rent a place for personal space. Perfect!

Here we are today…

New OfficeWe LOVE our new home office and our new living arrangement! We finally decided to DROP the Speedy Printing name since we were no longer just a print shop, and we certainly weren’t speedy (and that name gave a low-budget, cheap printing connotation) and become Zine Graphics & Print. We are now focusing exclusively on helping information marketers and Great Legal Marketing attorneys with their marketing, design, publishing, and printing needs.

We all love coming to work, we love our clients, and the work we do. We’re so thankful first to God who is always acting on behalf of His children, and second to you, our clients who trust us and invest in us, and allow us to partner with you in your success. Thank you.

Category: Useful Cool Fun