Building a Business Letter by Letter

Michelle Brownridge doesn’t have a license to print money, but she’s working on a plan that, she hopes, comes very close. Brownridge is a letterpress artisan who gave up her day job in communications last year to pursue self-employment as a specialty printer. She knew one of her first goals had to be to make contact with similarly skilled entrepreneurs. That was a challenge in Saskatchewan, where there’s very little letterpress expertise to connect with. “There are no other fully equipped printmaking studios in the province,” Brownridge says, “or artists doing what I am doing, aside from those who I work with at Articulate Ink, who I can go to for professional development, advice etc.”

That’s where a Creative Saskatchewan Business Capacity Grant came in. The grant allowed Brownridge to attend the Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI) Conference in Portland this past spring. The international gathering of printers offered the perfect opportunity to build the kinds professional relationships that are essential to commercial success.

“I met Brian Bagdonas who runs a print shop in Portland called Stumptown Printers,” Brownridge says. “Brian is an expert in letterpress, offset printing and type casting. He invited me to his shop, showed me how to operate a Linotype machine, and we discussed fine commercial printing.” Amongst many other connections Brownridge made at SGCI, meeting Bagdonas may have been the most important. “Visiting Brian and Stumptown Printers was an extremely valuable and inspirational experience,” Brownridge says. “Brian agreed to act as a resource for me if I ever need any technical support in the future. Now, I’m in the process of learning how to operate high-speed automatic letterpresses. I’m confident that our experiences and connections made at SGCI have played a large role in our ability to move forward with new business ventures.”