We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Andrew Cipolla. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Andrew below.
Andrew, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Owning a business isn’t always glamorous and so most business owners we’ve connected with have shared that on tough days they sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have just had a regular job instead of all the responsibility of running a business. Have you ever felt that way?
I think every business owner has this thought cross their mind a few times a year, especially when business is slow or difficult. ARC powered by Proforma is a company that relies on businesses to purchase printed material, promotional items, and eCommerce sites. As is the case in most businesses, there are slow times and very busy times. It is during those slow times that the nerves get going and self-doubt arises. You don’t always know when the “busy time” is going to come and when. It is that mystery that leads to the thought, “It would be so much easier if I was just an employee and did not have to worry about whether the project was going to come or not.”
My mind does go in that direction sometimes but then I quickly think back to when I was an employee as opposed to the owner. I remember being under the control of someone else. I remember not being rewarded when I went above and beyond. I remember being laid off when the business suffered. It was back in 2013 when this happened and I decided that day to never be controlled in business again. I chose to start my own business that I had experience in years before…I chose to take the risk. I did not want to have someone in control of my future success ever again. I wanted the freedom to make my own hours and to create something of my own. So, that’s what I did!
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
ARC powered by Proforma started back in 2015. I learned the business while growing up in Southern California. My dad managed several printing plants during my youth until the late 1980’s when he decided to start his own business as a printing broker. Most people have heard the term broker for industries like insurance, mortgages, etc. However, the business of being a print broker has been around for decades. Most buyers think they can do to any print shop down the street to get their project printed. What they don’t know is that plant may not have the proper machines to complete your order so they will often send it out to another shop to complete. Every print shop is a broker too. For this reason, it makes sense to work with a print broker because they tend to have an understanding of exactly where your project should be produced. It really makes the process easier, especially for the person ordering so they don’t have to research different vendors…they have a resource for everything. Brokers use vendors that offer wholesale prices so the broker can make a profit on the orders.
As business for my dad evolved, clients requested promotional products too. It made sense for a print broker to also become an expert in promotional products and the top vendors. Now, most print brokers are also in the promotional item business which makes it even more convenient for their clients. Clients can now work with one main contact as opposed to 5-10 vendors for different projects. This helps with communication and consistency.
About a year and a half ago we teamed up with a company called Proforma. ARC is essentially a franchise of Proforma now which allows us to offer even more products to our clients. The most exciting thing Proforma brings to the table is the technology they developed especially the eCommerce sites. We are now able to provide our clients with everything they could possibly need for their businesses on one site so that employees can order as needed. For example, if an employee needs more business cards, they can go to the internal site, make changes to their cards, and place an order. The order then goes through an approval process and they are done! This saves clients a lot of time and effort.
In the end, my goal is to help my cleints save money and time by taking unecessary work off of their desks by absorbing some of their burdens. Thankfully, the vast majority of my clients a very appreciative of our services.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
I have been in this business for over 20 years now but there was a time when I had another job while I was selling printing and promo items on the side. I started in the business in Southern California working for my parent’s company. I learned the industry from them throughout my life and I saw how one could become successful doing it. That said, it wasn’t my business and honestly, my effort was lacking. I wanted something else. I got an opportunity to join a non-profit organization in Littleton, Colorado. The company is called Rachel’s Challenge which is a anti-bullying program based on the life of Rachel Scott, the first victim at the Columbine shooting back on April 20, 1999. I felt this job would be purposeful, which it was. I was able to do a lot of great things during my time with the organization…traveled, wrote curriculum, spoke in front of thousands of people, etc. Of course, back in late 2013, the organization’s financial struggles ended up being too much to bear so after 6+ years I was let go along with 60+% of the staff.
Obviously, I panicked. What was I going to do? I had never lost a job before. I could either get another job or take the risk of starting my own business. After a lot of thought, prayer, and discussion, my wife and I decided it was worth the risk to start ARC. It took about 1.5 years to really get going but thanks to my wife’s earnings, I was able to build the business without putting our financial obligations in jeopardy.
Sometimes the best things in life come from loss. While it was scary, I am glad everything turned out the way it did. I am proud of what I built and I would not have it another way.
What’s been the best source of new clients for you?
Of course, referrals are always the best way to attract new clients. When a current client goes to bat for you and sings your praises to someone they know, you automatically come in with credibility. The same is true for a plumber, electrician, etc. Once I year I reach out to my current clients and request introductions. Usually, I pick up 2-3 referrals from that effort and it often leads to good business. I show my clients appreciation on an ongoing basis and I believe they feel my sincerity. For that reason, many of my clients are my advocates. They want to see my business grow! I thank them all the time for their efforts in helping me do so.
- Website: www.arcproforma.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arcpproforma
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/arcproforma/?viewAsMember=true