Expo 411: Reunited and It Feels So Good
The PRINTING United Expo — October 18-20 in Atlanta — is quickly approaching, and attendees are gearing up for a week of learning, networking, and inspiration. As a lead-up to the Expo, we are sharing a series of Q&A interviews featuring attendees from a variety of backgrounds sharing why they are attending the PRINTING United Expo, what they hope to learn, and what excites them about the upcoming event.
Gene Hamzhie, Owner
FireSprint is a wholesale, trade only sign printer, printing signs and other graphics for the design, advertising, and printing industries that has been around for 16 years. 98% of its business ships out of state. The company was formerly TargetOmaha prior to 2011, and it is a consistently growing company.
WFI: What made you decide to attend this year's Expo?
Hamzhie: We started going to the SGIA show in 2012 and we have gone every year since, including of course, since it's become PRINTING United. For us this is the show to go to. It's where all our friends are. It's where all our vendors are. Everybody goes to this show. Everybody needs to go to this show.
WFI: For returning attendees, what brings you back?
Hamzhie: We're a company of 30 and we're taking nine people with us, so we're taking a pretty significant portion of our group. We have some people who we take every year because they're involved with various vendors and things like that. But then we always try and get a few new people to bring them to the show. The neat thing about the PRINTING United show is it shows the scale of our industry. It really helps people. We have a lot of FireSprinters that are new to the industry and being able to see the PRINTING United show helps them understand how big print really is. Print is kind of a “sleeper industry.” If you're not in the print industry, you don't realize how big it is. So, taking our new FireSprinters to show gives them an idea of scale of the industry. I think it works really well and inspires them and excites them to be part of printing.
WFI: What products, brands, or services are you most looking forward to seeing?
Hamzhie: We are always looking forward. The big guys — Durst, Fuji, Canon, and HP that have whole sections of the show — are great to see, but what I really love about the PRINTING United show is there's so many little 10x10 booths full of companies I've never heard of before. Every time I'm exposed to new companies there are new opportunities. These little companies are great to see, and I would never see them anywhere else. I'm familiar with what the big guys are selling and it's nice to go talk to them. We have friends at all those vendors that we like to go and talk to. It's like an old family reunion, but I think for me the real value of the show is walking up and down the back aisles of this show and seeing the new up and comers and the small companies that have a product that solves a problem for our industry that otherwise I would have never heard of.
WFI: How do you plan and make the most of your time at the Expo?
Hamzhie: First, we hit the show floor. I have my tennis shoes on and I do the whole show floor. I try to do it multiple times while I'm there. I think the coolest thing about the PRINTING united show is that it's like a big family reunion. We talk to these people all year long on the phone and e-mail and there's not a lot of personal connection. Then you go to the PRINTING United show and you actually get to see them face to face. You're shaking hands. We share a meal. Those kinds of things really help to bring the culture together and bring the people together. After about five years of attending, it started to really feel like a family reunion to me more than anything else, so we have a blast and we love going.
WFI: How do you hope attending will impact your business/career moving forward?
Hamzhie: We're always looking for new technology, new opportunities, and upgrades to what we have. The Expo also helps to facilitate and foster existing relationships, really making them strong, and then finding new relationships. I think it's all about connecting with our peers and creating great long-lasting relationships.
I've heard this before about the printing industry, that it’s a little bit like the mafia. The only way out is to die. I say that tongue in cheek but really that's what it seems like. Once people get into it, it's so vast and it's so awesome. There's so much to see and do that there's really no reason to leave it. Even if you become disinterested in one side of it you can go to the other side of it and know there's new opportunities for you there.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.