Exclusive Coverage: Print Industry Veterans Launch Start-Up

Long-time friends and industry veterans William Bellefy and Mike Lynch—disillusioned with working for other people and holding a strong belief that when it came to providing quality tech support for print shops, they could do it better—have recently launched Printer In Motion, a tech support and consultancy business based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

They’re hoping to grow the business nationwide, but first things first. They’re learning that as with any start-up, standing out from the competition and drumming up business takes time, Bellefy says.

Printer in Motion provides a full-range of technical support and consulting services for the digital print industry, including onsite and remote support.

It was a less-than-satisfying experience at his last job, working for a huge multi-national company that had sent him to an office in Singapore that left Bellefy disgruntled and seeking something completely different with his career.

“Really, what I was hired to do didn’t work out, which has been the case in many different jobs, where you have what I would describe as a business deal in an interview and the employer promises all kinds of things, but in the end the deal magically changes. Suddenly I found myself doing something completely different from what I’d been hired to do,” says Bellefy.

But those bad experiences lit a fire inside him, he says, and “I came back (to the U.S.) with this entrepreneurial frame of mind that I was going to start something on my own.”

Last summer he and Lynch—who have known each other 20 years—were sitting on Lynch’s back porch talking about their careers and the industry in general—when Bellefy mentioned that he wanted to branch out on his own and start “something,” as he put it. Lynch was intrigued because he, too, had seen some of the same issues that Bellefy had talked about.

The two first talked about starting their own print shop, but their plan soon evolved into what became Printer in Motion.

“We started to look into (becoming printers) a bit more seriously and we realized, well, there’s opportunities to print, but there seems to be a really glaring opportunity and a need for some really high-level support in this area,” Bellefy says. “And we thought, well, that’s really easy. That’s something that we can do—we know that we can deliver.”

While Bellefy’s recent job duties had him playing more of a big-picture consulting and operations management role, Lynch’s experience was as more of a field-support technician, which kept him up to date on the latest machines. Their respective skill sets balance each other nicely, Bellefy says.

The idea for the business solidified when they started talking to some shops Lynch knew in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Bellefy says.

“Just through talking to people it was obvious that they were very unhappy with the service they were getting,” he says, adding that inconsistent technical knowledge and poor communications were the two biggest complaints he and Lynch heard from sign and display businesses.

Since launching earlier this year, Printer In Motion has so far found its clients primarily through Lynch’s connections from the past. Word of mouth takes time, and while they’re confident referrals will come, they know they have to go out and generate new clients, Bellefy says. And, given that neither partner has a sales background, they're finding that “it’s much harder than what we really even imagined,” he says.

“The cold-calling and the sales and all that does not come naturally to us and is the mountain that we are now standing before, and we know, with all its difficulties, we have to somehow overcome,” Bellefy says.

So he says they’re  looking at bringing in a professional salesperson, or hiring a technical person with a strong sales background.

Should they branch out from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area like they hope to, it likely will be through their affiliation with Korea-based digital ink maker SAM*INK. Printer In Motion is the authorized dealer and support company for SAM*INK in the U.S., and Bellefy believes that if he can establish enough ink customers in a given city—roughly 10 to 15 clients to a city, he says—the plan is to hire a technical support person in that city to offer his company’s full range of services to those existing ink clients while pursuing new clients.

In the meantime, Bellefy feels the two decades of experience he and Lynch have in the digital print industry brought them to where they are today.

“For me, (working at former wide-format printer manufacturer) ColorSpan was like getting a master’s degree in the print industry,” he says. “From there I not only learned printing but the science behind it—why it works, why it does what it’s doing, and the cause and effect of different things and different scenarios.”

While its website is not completely built out yet, Bellefy says, you can read more about the company at www.printerinmotion.com.

Got a news tip? Contact Tony Kindelspire