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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

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Jennifer Freund is making a growing business out of what some might call dying industries. Freund’s commercial printing business Corporate ImpressionsLA Inc. has been around for nearly 30 years. The North Hollywood-based company has managed to survive and grow, despite consumers’ shift in past years to online marketing. She’s done that by adapting to changing technology, expanding her business’ printing capabilities, acquiring smaller companies and bringing in a whole new business niche. ImpressionsLA’s new niche is music packaging – making covers for vinyl records, long-playing record and CD jackets, inner sleeves, posters, tour books and other materials for music labels in the U.S. and abroad. Freund took on the collectors’ niche by acquiring San Fernando-based Dorado Press in 2009, which had been one of her printing clients for about 10 years. While ImpressionsLA’s new division – called Dorado Music Packaging, and better known as Dorado PKG – focuses on music products of the past, Freund said there has been a resurgence in recent years in demand for old-format records. She added that while it is a small niche, nostalgia keeps it going. “Vinyl now is the only physical representation of the music,” she said. “For audiophiles, it’s support of that band that they’re so connected to, and it also tells them more about the band because it’s the visual image that the band wants to (have). … The longer there’s no physical product in music, the more that gets in-bred in our culture, the longer this will stay alive.” Freund said business is also growing on the business marketing material printing side as consumers realize they need a balance between online marketing and something more tangible, especially as e-mail spam filters become more sophisticated. ImpressionsLA strives to maintain a competitive edge by offering unique finishes and other services on its products, including die-cutting, foil stamping, embossing and special coatings. Since Freund started her business in 1982, she has added digital printing to her offset and letterpress printing, and she has added an art department. She has also had five commercial locations and has made four acquisitions during the company’s lifetime. FOUNDEr: Jennifer Freund Location: North Hollywood CORE OF BUSINESS: Commercial printing, music packaging NUmber of Employees: 28 Revenues in 2009: $2.2 million Revenues in 2010: $3.2 million Projected Revenues in 2011: $4 million Growth through merger The acquisition of Dorado Press has helped Freund’s company grow, even when the commercial printing side took a hit in recent years due to the down economy. ImpressionsLA’s revenues grew from $2 million in 2008 to $2.2 million in 2009. In 2010, revenues rose even higher to $3.2 million. Freund expects that figure to increase to $4 million for 2011. While the acquisition has proven to be a fruitful move, Freund said it was no easy task. “(Dorado Press) was a third of the size of our business, which is a large acquisition to make, and in a field that we really were unfamiliar,” Freund said, adding that her company’s previous three acquisitions were all of smaller printing companies. “The transition is a lot. You have to merge two cultures.” However, she added that her company wasn’t completely left in the dark. ImpressionsLA had some advantage in that it already had the equipment needed for doing its printing since Dorado Press was a long-time customer. “If it’s so different than anything your culture knows how to do, you can imagine it would be a very difficult thing to make successful,” she said. “We had some of the elements of it, and we could tell that story to our new clients, our new customers that were old customers in the division that we acquired.” Georgette Cartwright, creative services director of Vanguard Records, said ImpressionsLA is doing an exceptional job picking up from where Dorado Press left off. The company makes LP (long-playing record) jackets for the music label. “I think it’s gotten even better since the merger with ImpressionsLA,” Cartwright said. “They’ve got a very competitive price and they’ve really got good customer service. The actuality of the work has been really good, and we have no complaints. It’s pretty difficult to find a service that can give you all three.” Humble beginnings Just out of college, Freund got started in her industry by going into business with a small-operation pressman in Van Nuys. She handled the business side, which included sales and marketing. After about a year and a half, Freund decided to go into business on her own in 1982. She became a printing broker who worked out of her apartment, getting orders and making them a reality through local printers. About a year after doing that, she moved into her first location, a shop of about 700 square feet in Van Nuys. She built up her business, building credit and buying her own paper. Eventually, Freund moved into her second location that was about twice the size, trading space in her building for favorable printing prices for a pressman starting his own business. She co-signed his loan for equipment he purchased, and when he later went out of business, she obtained the equipment and the debt. Continued growth Her company only grew from there as she started hiring employees and acquiring more equipment. “We just kept doubling in size,” Freund said. “In the third location, we were up to maybe 3,200 square feet, and then we went up to the fourth location that was 8,000 or 9,000 square feet.” ImpressionsLA now resides in a space of about 20,000 square feet. It was only in the last 10 years that Freund incorporated her business and started acquiring other companies. Freund said a few things that have helped her company’s growth include having better established the business’s identity as a business marketing materials printer and having been careful about what she invested in. “Every investment you make isn’t going to work, and you have to catch the market at the right time,’ she said, adding that business owners have to ask themselves the right questions moving into a new area. “How hard is going to be? How long is that window going to be, and will that product or service still be viable by the time you’ve really been able to integrate your move, your company and culture into that arena?” On ImpressionsLA’s commercial printing side, Freund is investing in expanding her variable data printing capabilities, which involves personalizing each piece of mail in mass mailings. On the music packaging side, she plans to further develop the division and expand to other products.

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