My origin story of discovery with Bruce Ackerman is pretty simple. I was a Territory Manager at SanMar. At some point I started hearing from my customers that they were using this new system called Printavo for running their shop. After a few notations, my curiosity got the best of me. So I did something that defied all the odds…I emailed Bruce. Now I have made a few outreaches to other industry folks prior to this, but rarely did they ever reply. I would think my @sanmar.com might count for something, but I think it actually hurts more than helps, with the recipient thinking “why is an apparel company contacting me? I already have my trade show uniforms established.” In this case, Bruce replied, and I knew something would be different.
I setup an intro call and shared my role and intrigue. I felt that while I know this industry pretty well, I also am fairly versed in the tech space as well. Who knows? Maybe I could even act as a bridge-gap to help escort the two worlds together.<insert foreshadowing sound> Bruce was extremely nice and open about his company and goals. I was fascinated by a younger guy, with industry roots, building a “simple” platform on the fluffy clouds in the sky.
Even with this relatively early perspective, I had already experienced people, sometimes from the tech sector, who tried to bulldog their way into our industry, with complete failure. Some of my own accounts, had cashed in their 401k, bought some equipment, and fumbled forward with the echoes of “how hard can this be?” loudly ringing through their heads. Some of them failed to realize what a wonderfully chaotic mess this industry is. Bruce was looking to organize some of that chaos, but in a clean, simple and meaningful way. I liked his plan. I liked his focus. I liked his modern approach.
It was not until I joined the Decoration Relations Team, that my engagement relevance would heighten in focus. In my current role, one of my areas of study is staying tuned in with contract decorator correlated software/tech companies. With a drive to help contract decorator’s grow their business, and that model being based around efficiency, and good tech being good at efficiency…there is a connection. Now with a bit more of an official excuse to connect, I reached out and we started Phase Two of our relationship. This lead to some more great chats and even a podcast recording.
Flash forward and I was fortunate enough to attend the 3rd annual Printhustlers event. I was not going there with any hard core agenda, but more to gain insights into this event concept. There has been a recent increase in networking/training events such as ThreadX & ShirtLab that really seem to be providing value and connection for decorators. I think these concepts, well produced, bring like minded decorators into an environment to learn from experts, but also meet peers to stay connected with.
The location was at a great venue, with comfort enough for the estimated 100+ people attending. I took more notes than I have typed in quite a long time, which correlates to the amount of noteworthy information being spoken out of someone’s mouth. While there were a few dud presenters(will always be), the vast majority were extremely insightful and had solid presentations. I particularly liked Max Hellmann sharing his success with Live Event printing, learning more about Steven Farag’s insane rocket blast into the industry, David Kelbaugh’s wisdom on “Brand” and of course the comedic genius of Mike Michalowicz.
While the keynote speakers were quite a well-spring of knowledge, the real treat for these types of events are the attendees. How often do you get to be in a room full of peers and have the opportunity to network and connect? Not often enough. While I certainly fell short of shaking everyone’s hand, I did meet quite a few faces. Some knew me as the apparelgeek, others wondered why someone from SanMar was even attending. While I was excited to meet these print ninjas, I made sure to encourage them to also “work the room” and save contact info. It can be invaluable to have a connection with another like-minded decorator, that you can stay connected with to help with challenges and great ideas.
From Rick Roth’s opening life lessons presentation to my first experience soaking in the wisdom of Mark Coudray, the event was an overall great success. I hope to be able to attend more things like this in the future and will hopefully run into more fellow Geeks and Hustlers!