PPI Graphics/Innovative Trends

When the owner of the company Kevin Smith had worked for for 19 years announced his retirement, Smith saw an opportunity to switch careers from sales rep to entrepreneur.

In September 1995, he bought out his former employer and became the owner of two sister companies: PPI Graphics and Innovative Trends, both of Canton. PPI Graphics is a full-service commercial printer and business forms distributor. Innovative Trends sells promotional products such as pens, shirts, caps and portfolios.

Smith knew when he bought the enterprise that his biggest immediate hurdle would be the huge cash infusion the business desperately needed to bring its equipment up to date.

“When I bought the company in ’95, they had not made a capital equipment purchase in 20 years, so we knew that we were going to have to do some serious rebuilding in a hurry — and we did. It’s been exciting,” he says.

Since that time, the entire operation has been rebuilt or replaced. For a total cost of slightly more than $1 million, Smith purchased three new printing presses and a rebuilt bindery and has made multiple upgrades in prepress equipment, including the latest in direct-to-plate technology. Smith also purchased the adjoining building and renovated it for warehousing and future expansion at a cost of about $200,000.

“From the front door to the back, there’s nothing here that is the same as it was in ’95,” Smith says.

So far, those investments appear to be paying off. The companies’ total sales in 2001 were $4 million, and PPI Graphics is ranked as one of the top 100 business forms distributors in the country. The two companies now employ 22, which includes a sales force of eight.

The company’s territory spans from Cleveland to Columbus and east to the Pennsylvania line. PPI Graphics also fulfills business forms orders for offices across the country for local worldwide companies such as The Hoover Co. How to reach: PPI Graphics/Innovative Trends, (330) 454-9444

Connie Swenson