We got the chance to have a chat with long time printer, business owner, sustainability superstar, and #ROQStar Partner Dominic Rosacci, owner of Superior Ink in Denver, CO, about his screen printing & automation journey, as well as his experience with ROQ & ROQ’s Culture.
For Pt. 1, we’ll dive into his automation journey to learn more about him, and to shed some light on key points of his business journey that steered him to automate different parts of his production process.
Q: Walk us through your automation journey. Where did you start? And how did your journey investing in equipment begin? Did you start printing on an auto? Manual? Did you outsource? How did that go?
Dominic Rosacci: I did start with the manual. I was still in high school when I learned what screen printing was. People kept saying, “you need a screen print press” – I had no idea what that was. So I bought a caps press when I was still in school, and was on a manual press printing for a brand of my own for the first couple of years, and then started producing for other companies, so we added a second manual. And then we invested in some M&R equipment – some early stage M&R equipment. We had a 1996 Gauntlet and had that for a year, and then we added a Challenger. And that's kind of how I got started with automation, initially.
Q: How many years had you been manual printing before you got an automatic?
Dominic Rosacci: I would say about 4 years: two years of printing my own brand and then two years of starting to slowly produce for other companies until the volume was just getting to be too much to do it by hand.
Q: How many ROQ presses do you have today?
Dominic Rosacci: We had four, which we swapped out for three because we got an OVAL, which is pretty sizable and our footprint only allowed for three. So we have a P18 (YOU), P26 (OVAL), and a P10 (YOU).
Q: Which did you invest in first: pre-press (CTS/LTS) or post-press (Auto Reclaim)?
Dominic Rosacci: We started with CTS with the Douthitt back in 2018/19. So, we started with that first and then we pretty much got the auto coater and the In Pro (auto reclaim) around the same time. We just kind of pulled the trigger on both.
Q: And how many automatic presses did you have at that point?
Dominic Rosacci: We had two autos when we got the CTS and we had three autos when we went with auto-everything pre and post press.
Q: How has your production changed by automating with ROQ?
Dominic Rosacci: It's changed immensely. I mean, anytime you're working on old equipment it sounds great because it's a reasonable price, and then you really get in the trenches with breakdowns and incompatibility and it's super costly. So, I think making the switch to ROQ just elevated across the board. It's just made things a lot easier and I usually say, anytime you buy new equipment as opposed to used, it's kind of like a car: you're going to have way less issues, you're going to streamline things overall. In terms of automating with any brand it's beneficial, but with ROQ, there's definitely exceptional things that have made it a pleasurable experience for sure.
Q: When do you believe the perfect time for a print business to automate their production is? And what advice would you give to a printer that aims to scale sustainably with printing automation?
Dominic Rosacci: The time to automate is when the production by hand is taking over your life and it's starting to cut into personal time and valuable time with family. I mean, It should be very recognizable. If you're overworked and you're constantly stressed and you're never hitting deadlines, it makes perfect sense to automate. And I think looking back, equipment is one of our cheapest expenses. They’re expensive, but in terms of running a business, you're overhead and your payroll is always going to surpass your equipment. Even if you buy new, it's going to be the cheapest thing based on the return of the investment that you spend the money on. So, make the switch sooner than later. You'll thank yourself. That's my advice.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self? And what, if anything, would you do differently?
Dominic Rosacci: Business is a series of taking risks, but if you truly believe in yourself, take the risks. Take the risks early on instead of trying to mud through difficulties, like, automating yourself is going to save time, it's going to save labor costs, it's going to save headache, and more importantly it's going to free up valuable time for you to live your life and not let your business live your life for you. And advice on what not to do… That's a packed question right there. This is a very blanket statement and it's said a lot but trust your gut, trust your intuition. If you're on a journey of self-employment, you are the leader, you're the captain of the ship. It's good to have mentors and outside influence but you’ve got to trust yourself and what's important and what you think is the right thing to do because 9 times out of 10, it will be the right choice.
More on Dominic: Along with owning Superior Ink, a full package wholesale screen printing and design company in Denver, CO, Dominic is also co-founder of the sustainability focused tee shirt brand Allmade Apparel, and has integrated eco-conscious decisions into Superior Ink’s process and operation to help offset their carbon footprint, earning Superior Ink the first and only certified green apparel business title with the City of Denver. Go Dominic! We’re proud to Partner with like minded businesses like Yours, that take action for their passion to make our world a greener & healthier planet.