Jose Ramirez is a veteran of the commercial printing business. It’s what brought him here from his native California back in 1984. Even so, Ramirez never imagined he would own a printing company.
Today, Ramirez owns Moss Printing, which he bought five years ago. With a total of four employees, Ross keeps Moss’ two locations humming.
Q: What does Moss Printing do?
Moss is a midsized commercial printing company that does both digital and offset printing. Offset pricing is based on quantity while digital is based on a per impression price.
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“Besides regular printing, we do direct mail, catalogs, wedding suites that includes the invitation, envelope and reply vehicle, personal printing, and we print envelopes,” Ramirez said. “We can do varnishes, coating, foil stamping, blind embossing and dye cutting.”
In addition, Moss produces signs, banners and posters. One area Moss has not gotten into is three-dimensional printing.
“I haven’t seen a market for that yet,” Ramirez said. “We have had customers ask about it … but when you buy a piece of equipment you have to have the business to pay for it.”
Moss’ customer base is both retail and wholesale, with lot of business-to-business accounts. All the paper Moss uses is recycled and they recycle any spoilage, as well. Moss prints with ink that is soy-based.
“Our inks won’t melt because they are laser compatible and biodegradable,” he said.
The company donates any extra materials to Growing Futures Early Education Center in Overland Park, which serves low-income children with Head Start programs.
Q: What was your previous experience in the printing business that led to your buying Moss?
When Ramirez came to the Kansas City area in the 1980s, he was focused on being a good employee.
“I was always a worker, I was never a owner,” Ramirez said. He was a member of the Teamsters and worked for Browning Ferris. Ramirez later became a sales representative for a printing company on a commission-only basis. When Ramirez got laid off, his former boss sent him some commercial accounts and that’s when he went into business on his own, forming Sky Graphics and Printing.
“I bought the equipment from a business that was folding,” Ramirez said. When Moss’ assets were for sale, Ramirez decide to buy them.
Q: How did you handle cash flow issues?
“That was tough,” Ramirez said. “When I took it over in 2010, I took out a loan to buy it. I really bought the customers. I liquidated some of the equipment I had and put it towards paying off the loan. I am one of the few printers in Kansas City that does not carry a paper bill for my warehouse.”
Ramirez decided to run his business using the practice of cash on delivery from customers and suppliers.
“I asked them instead of billing them if I could do cash on delivery. … After I finished the job, I would go pay my paper supplier and the pressman and what was left over was my profit.”
Said Ramirez: “I don’t want to be in debt. Doing this keeps me in check and the company in check.”
In those early years on his own, Ramirez had to send out some jobs to subcontractors. After a few years, Ramirez was able to purchase more printing equipment and handle those projects internally instead of outsourcing.
“My role is to bring the work in and my employees get the work out,” he said.
Q: Why did you open a second location?
Ramirez said business has continued to steadily grow at the Mission location. As a member of the chamber of commerce there, he focused on reaching as many of his fellow business owners as he could. Then he began to look beyond for growth opportunities.
“In Merriam there are like 1,200 business and I thought, ‘I can capture that business,’” Ramirez said. “I already had everything in place in the first location, so a second location is pretty much gravy.”
He opened the Merriam location earlier this year.
“I put the second press over there and it has all the high-tech capabilities but the second place does not have offset equipment on site, so I send it over to Moss 1 in Mission,” Ramirez said. “As business increases I have room to expand at Merriam.”
Q: Competition: Who is it and what is it like? How do you counter it?
“The big box companies are the ones that are the competition … but I can lower my prices any time I want and those big box stores can’t,” Ramirez said.
He tries to counter competition by offering options they can’t.
“We can do things other companies can’t do like large-format printing — we can print 12 by 18 inch or a 13 by 19 … and we can print on really heavy weight stock and a variety of textured papers,” Ramirez said. “We can push our machines pretty hard and we do.”
Moss offers quick turnaround on jobs and a high level of customer service.
“We do the work for them and they are not paying any extra for us to do the work for them,” Ramirez said. “At those stores you have a self-service price and a full-service price.”
Internet printers have had some impact on Moss’ business, but Ramirez said his company could compete with them.
“The difference between us and the Internet (printers) is you’re going to get it faster and pay shipping. But we can provide you with artwork or we can create the business card for you all for the same price with no shipping costs.”
Ramirez uses a variety of channels to market Moss’ services, including social media as well as more traditional options such as direct mail.
“We also do networking,” he said. “I am on the board of the Northeast Chamber (of Commerce) and they know Moss printing. In 2012 we were named the Small Business of the Year out of 10 cities.”
His best marketing tactic?
“Taking care of our customers is the most important thing,” Ramirez said.
There are challenges to running a printing business, Ramirez said.
“Keeping prices down when supply costs go up,” he said. “I have to buy in larger quantities, so I ended up making my profit on it about six months later.”
Q: What does the future hold for Moss Printing?
“The sky’s the limit,” Ramirez said. “We have the systems in place, we have the applications and we have a great crew.”
The man who thought he would only be a worker bee is enjoying life as a business owner.
“I never thought I would be the boss (but) I love it. I am able to give a little bit to my employees so they feel empowered and happy,” he said.
IN A NUTSHELL
COMPANY: Moss Printing
ADDRESS: Two locations: 5406 Johnson Drive, Mission, and 5853 Merriam Drive, Merriam
TELEPHONE: 913 362-9292 (Mission); 913 677-9630 (Merriam)
WEB SITE: www.mossprinting.com