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Awards Come Quickly for a Houston Start-up, Solidifying its Success

Press release from the issuing company

Houston, Texas - Bob and Arita Nicholas probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to launch a high-end commercial printing company. It was the middle of the year 2000 and the graphic arts industry was about to enter a downturn that continues to have repercussions. But at a recent awards ceremony, jointly conducted by two of PIA’s top affiliates, the Nicholas’s put an exclamation point on the first 19 months of their success. Their company - BNE Fine Printing - walked away with five major awards, including First Place for Best Printing among medium-sized facilities, and an honor that rates BNE as one of the top six printers in the region, regardless of size. "I remember having a conversation with someone at MAN Roland in the beginning when I was trying to upgrade my pressroom," recalls Bob Nicholas, who is Chairman of the company. "They told me ‘You have no experience. How are we going to sell you a multi-million dollar machine?’ "Then I told them my vision of the future and showed them the soundness of my financial plan," he continues. "I got the press - a six-color Roland 700 with coater. And we’ve been moving forward ever since." And moving forward quickly. BNE’s annual sales are already approaching the $4 million mark. And the 13-employee company is enjoying a spike of new business as a result of its award-winning performances. "Being a young company and being minority owned, you find hesitation on the part of new clients," Nicholas says. "But once you’ve proven yourself by competing and winning against companies that have been around for 25 years or more, the hesitation goes out the door. Of course you have to back that up with the best quality, performance and price on every job you do." In the award competition, which was jointly run by the Printing and Imaging Association of MidAmerica and the Printing Industries of the Gulf Coast, BNE’s work ranged from labels to a promotional brochure for one of Houston’s top designers. Also among the winners was a Harry Potter poster for Minute Maid, a division of the Coca-Cola Company. What all the jobs had in common was that they were produced on BNE’s 41" Roland 700. "The secret to winning awards is having professional craftsmen on your team, and giving them an incredible machine to get the job done," Nicholas says. "My pressroom manager, Danny Wheeler, has worked on them all. But he’s never seen a machine lay down ink with the consistency of the MAN Roland 700." Nicholas is particularly proud of an award-winning capabilities brochure that BNE produced for John Williams, a Houston-based graphic designer who is making a name for himself among many of the Fortune 500 companies that call Houston home. "When you get the printing for John Williams, you have arrived," he says. "The meticulousness of his work and the level of his clientele is at the very top of the business." BNE’s Harry Potter Poster for Minute Maid also called for precision printing, according to Nicholas: "Minute Maid is well known for its demand for perfection. We have done several posters for them, in addition to the award winner. They use what we print for them as point-of-purchase displays, so the colors have to be right on." Nicholas praises his Roland 700’s color consistency and its ability to apply heavy solids. His company also produces in-airport signage for Continental Airlines and must reproduce that company’s dark-blue signature color wall-to-wall on the poster-sized pieces. "We do them all exclusively and we want to keep it that way," Nicholas declares. "So we count on the 700 to make sure that the color is correct and there is no streaking. We’ve also done work for Texaco, with their solid black background, and we didn’t have a steak anywhere." Naturally, a start-up company also needs productivity to compete in a marketplace that is increasingly price conscious. The PECOM console on BNE’s Roland 700 helps the firm streamline its makeready process so it routinely flies from job-to-job in under 40 minutes flat. Nicholas is particularly pleased with Roland 700’s repeatability. its PECOM console stores all press parameters for every job, so they can be recalled with the touch of a button for reprint work. The feature is particularly important to BNE’s Fortune 500 clients, who would rather reprint a job on-demand, instead of absorbing the cost of warehousing extra copies. One of BNE’s major customers likes the 700’s reprint capabilities for another reason. "We printed 65,000 labels for them recently that they needed right away," Nicholas recalls. "Then the delivery company lost the entire load. Fortunately, the PECOM console fingerprints every job, so our press has a better memory than the truckers do. "All we had to do was buy the paper. Our MAN Roland 700 took care of the rest. And most important, the customer still made his deadline." Nicholas is also impressed with his Roland 700’s Power Plate Loading (PPL) system. "Nothing kills a printer more than downtime and makeready is downtime," Nicholas remarks. "PPL is another example of how this press makes every minute count. MAN Roland understands that time is money, and with a power plate loading system you can get back on press in a very short period of time " But Nicholas is willing to spend some extra time when the quality of his printwork is concerned. For instance, he’s opted for a film-based prepress workflow, taking a wait-and-see stance on computer to plate. "We’ve being very careful here," he says. "We’re letting the marketplace drive the demand for CTP. For every client who says they like it, I have someone who says they don’t. And right now my high-end clients are telling me that film is still the way to go." That’s not to say that BNE is resistant to change. The firm is currently targeting packaging markets to extend its customer base in an entirely new direction. "A major bottling company has already asked us for a quote," Nicholas notes. "Our Roland 700 lets us go after those kinds of opportunities because it can handle board up to 40 point and due to the consistent way it lays down ink." Meanwhile, BNE Fine Printing’s award-winning streak is scheduled to continue. PIA has already invited Nicholas to its Premiere Print Awards ceremony at Graphic Expo to receive a national best-of Benny Award. But there’s little danger all the extra attention is going to change the way BNE does business. "While we’re proud of the awards we win and that we’re the largest African American-owned commercial printing company, our focus is always on our customers," Nicholas says. "We don’t go in saying were a minority-owned company. We say we’ll give you the best and then we deliver it."