Amy C. Waninger welcomes Donna Merchant, Vice President of Sales at Diversity Press, to the show this week on See It to Be It. Diversity Press is a leading provider of offset printing, direct mailing and inventory fulfillment services to all size companies throughout North America. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Donna and more!
You can connect with Donna on LinkedIn.
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Amy C. Waninger (04:46): Welcome back to See It To Be It. My guest today is my friend, Donna Merchant. And Donna is a lifelong printing sales professional. Her passion is helping companies small and large, with their print and marketing needs. Whether they need simple business cards, or complicated die-cut cut pieces, or signage, or logo apparel. She is all about making other people’s business, her top priority. And Donna works with Diversity Press, they’re a certified minority business enterprise. She’s local here in Indianapolis, where I live. And Donna, welcome to the show. I’m so glad to have you.
Donna Merchant (05:24): Thank you, Amy. I’m so happy to be here.
Amy (05:28): So one of the things I love to do I have somebody on that I know prior to the interview is talk about how we met. And in the pre-show chatter, I was saying, I don’t remember how we met. But I think we met on LinkedIn. Is that correct?
Donna (05:43): That is correct. And I think you had just released a book and just your responses, and you were just a neat person. And I thought I would like to meet her. So you and I communicated back and forth. And I thought I would like to let you know about another networking group I belong to. So I invited you, and now we see each other every week.
Amy (06:14): That’s right. And so it’s funny to me because I keep thinking, well, I met Donna through BNI, but you were actually the one who brought me to be BNI, in the first place. And so, for those who don’t know, BNI is Business Networking International. It’s a global organization, truly global organization with over 10,000 chapters around the world. And we get together weekly, and we basically, compete to give each other business. Like the goal is refer as many people to each other as possible. And Donna and I, thanks to Donna, I joined her Chapter and we’ve actually in the last, well, since October first of last year, our little Chapter of BNI has referred over four and a half million dollars worth of business, back and forth, which is just incredible. I mean, we don’t have that many members, but compared to some of the larger chapters, but it’s just a small but mighty group. And I’m so grateful to you for helping me. I kind of consider myself a networking expert, but you really helped me take my networking to the next level, as a business owner. So thank you.
Donna (07:23): You’re welcome. And you became such a valuable member of our Chapter. You just jumped right in and fit in. And we all appreciate you being a member.
Amy (07:35): Well, thank you. I am so glad to be there and I’ve met some amazing people like you. And it’s nice to know when somebody says, gosh, I don’t know what to do about X. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to get great, for example, a great business cards. I can send them to Donna. And then, it’s nice to be a resource for people in that way. I talk about the power making connections all the time. And this is like a really great way not only to do that, but then also to track the progress of it. Which feeds a whole different, what’s the word I’m looking for? Almost a neurosis that I have about tracking and cataloging things.
Donna (08:14): Benefit accountability as well, is a good word for it.
Amy (08:18): It is. So Donna, I want to talk about you and your work, and I think I asked you this once, How did you get into this work? Did you, when you were a little kid, did you think, oh, I want to work in printing? But for you, that was actually true.
Donna (08:33): Yes. Yeah, we went way back on that. As a child in junior high, the girls would have an elective which had to be home-ec. And we would make an apron semester one and cook semester two, but the boys had, called shop and they learned how to run a printing press. And I asked my teachers, I said, I don’t want to do home-ec. I know how to cook. My parents have taught me how to cook, but I want to know how to run a printing press. And they’re no, that’s for boys. Well, why does it have to be for boys? So that always stuck in the back of my mind. And I have brothers and they would come home and show me all these cool things they printed, and things in shop. And I thought, why not me? So anyway, that was when I started thinking about that, about printing would be a cool industry and just the ability to create items.
Amy (09:42): So, your company, and I had this misunderstanding about your company. I thought you were kind of a print broker, or you worked on very small jobs. In my mind, printing is you go to the UPS store and you have them run off a bunch of copies, but what your company does is like large scale printing for small businesses, but all the way up to big enterprise work. Can you talk a little bit about sort of the breadth of services that your organization provides at Diversity Press?
Donna (10:13): Yes. we are one of the largest printing plants in the Midwest. We are under the umbrella of Priority Crafts. We are based out of Speedway, Indiana, and some of the services we offer includes catalogs mailings. We have the latest technology in the printing processes – the printing and the mailings. We also do large format, meaning we can wrap a building in material, in decorative material. Let’s say we do a lot of work for a lot of the universities, not only in the Midwest, not only in Indiana. So if you see a lot of large wraps of buildings, we can do that, verbiage. Also vehicles such as everything from a car for a fleet, to vehicles, to buses we can design output and install that on at the location, or we can have the person bring the buses in, and we can install it at our location. We are 3M certified as well. We do hold many certifications, guaranteeing our quality that we put out. And our employees in, we are state certified, Diversity Press as a minority business enterprise. We are owned by an African-American who you know is very much involved in the business.
Amy (12:03): I was thinking about all the things that you touch, that have branding on them. And I was thinking, oh, if you can touch somebody’s branding, Donna I can handle that. But I didn’t even think about something like a building wrap. And so, now I’m thinking it’s more like, if you can touch it, Donna can put a brand on it.
Donna (12:21): Yeaaasss. That is a good idea.
Amy (12:23): I mean, that’s huge. Because I’ve seen these buildings that are, I know downtown in Indy they’ll have stuff like when the Final 4 comes to town. Or what is it, the NFL combine something, I don’t know sports talk but there’s all these big events that happened in downtown Indy. And the buildings have like these gorgeous vinyl wraps on them, to welcome everybody, and let everybody know you’re in the right place. This is the city with your event. And it just never occurred to me like somebody does that.
Donna (12:54): Yes, it doesn’t just show up and wrap itself. But there’s a lot of steps involved in it. And before it gets to the point of, the wrap is on the building, there’s proofs, there’s tweaking on everyone’s part. So it is an art, it’s really exciting. My staff contacts me oftentimes, and they’re very passionate about what they do. And they’ll call me and say, Donna, come over here to my press area, I want to show you this exciting job I’m running. So, we’re like kids in the candy store, and high-fiving because of just the perfectionist, mystic nature of my staff, and myself. So yeah, I love it. So whether it’s a building wrap, or a vehicle, or bus wrap, or catalogs, or posters the various finishes on the catalogs, it’s just really exciting. I just love to wake up in the morning and go to work.
Amy (14:02): So, tell me about what you do there, because you don’t actually run the printing press?
Donna (14:06): Yeah, no, I don’t. I have a very basic knowledge, and originally, when I started years ago, I did shadow and watch the pressmen run it, but it’s always evolving, and we’re always investing in getting new presses. And kind of like cars, the new technology comes out every year. But what I am, I am vice president of sales at Diversity Press. So basically, I meet with companies and I let them know of our services, and I find out what their services are, perhaps their pain point of what is not currently, what is working. And just finding out if it’s a good fit for them to do business with me.
(14:59): Many of my customers are all of my customers are very loyal, and they have been with me since day one, since I first started in the industry. So they are very loyal to me and as a result of that loyalty, they refer a lot of businesses to me, because I have been able to show them the quality of what we do. So they are comfortable putting their reputation on the line to refer other businesses to me.
Amy (15:35): So what kind of businesses do you typically work with? Is it typically schools, or are there all sorts of industries that you work with?
Donna (15:43): There’s all sorts of industries? Yes, I do work with the educational communities, such as schools, lower, the elementary schools, to high schools, to colleges. I also work with religious organizations. I also work with industrial, manufacturing, entertainment, such as sports corporations. So yeah generally, in the arts as well, it’s interesting because now the arts is starting to gear up again. Which is exciting since COVID of last year, they were greatly affected. So it’s great to see that the arts industry is getting back in full swing.
Amy (16:41): That’s just awesome. And it must be such a fulfilling thing, not only to see your work around town. And I know you work nationally, internationally as well.
Donna (16:56): Yes, I do.
Amy (16:56): But you do have a lot of local clients, I know. And it must be not only fulfilling to see your work around town, to see the signage and the big banner displays and like the skywalk wraps and all those things that you have out there. But also to know like how integral your work is to the growth of the community, or the comeback of the community, and different industries within the community as we rebound from COVID.
Donna (17:23): Yes, it is exciting. And do you know, many customers; and I really feel included when they contact me and they would like us to brainstorm, to react to [inaudible 00:17:39] regenerate their business, and their logo, and things like that. So yes, it is very integral and to the community, important. And I do enjoy seeing my work. Whenever my family and I are out and about, I will show them some of the work that we have done.
Amy (18:01): That’s awesome. So you’re like, I did that skywalk, and I did that bus, and I did this and this, their business cards and their brochures. And it’s so neat, so few people I think that I work with on a regular basis, do anything that’s really tangible. That you can pick it up and show somebody I made this. And I am so glad that there’s still a place for that in our economy. That there are people that are so committed to ensuring that things are not only branded, but beautiful, because it’s like artwork when you’re walking downtown.
Donna (18:35): Absolutely.
Amy (18:37): So how did you get into this role? So I know like early on you were like, oh, I want to work at the printing press, but how did you find your way into Diversity Press specifically?
Donna (18:49): Well I did study account. Well, when I was in high school, I was good in accounting. So my parents suggested I study accounting and go into that field. And I worked in the accounting field or several years, and I realized I, that really wasn’t me, but I wanted to do a career change, and sell something everyone needed. And from my perspective, everyone needed printing, and I wanted to sell business to business. So fast forward, I started working at a small printing company and Diversity Press offered me to come on board.
(19:34): And when they gave me a tour of the facility, that is what sold me. They had heard about me in the community and about my how I treat my customers and my reputation, which proceeded me. And I am very passionate and I’m very particular about my customers, and I wanted them to have a new home. So touring it. I thought in the mission of Diversity Press, I saw it was a good fit. So I came on board. Originally, I started off as a sales assistant, and I became an account manager, now I’m a vice president of sales. So, I’ve been a lifelong learner in the printing industry, and so, I just grew with the company.
Amy (20:35): It is so much fun to hear somebody that’s so passionate about their work. And the impact that you’re having on businesses then, that are able to put their brand out there and be seen, and really represent themselves well, really matters. Is there any job that’s too small for you? Because it sounds like there’s no job too big, if you’re rapping buildings.
Donna (20:57): Correct. We do have jobs that are, we do work on the smaller part as well, such as business cards. You know, we have called small presses that can handle stationary. And we also do digital printing. I would say a job that would not fit us is, might get calls maybe one a week, a person may need 10 copies of their resume. And, I would recommend, ymaybe a quick print place that they could walk in, wait at the counter for it to be copied, that would not fit us. Something that they need done immediately and while they wait for it. Because, generally, a job that comes in our system, even if it’s 100 business cards, will take about seven to 10 business days, because, it’s all the steps to get that job scheduled, and designed, and proofed. It takes a while, with the other jobs going on.
Amy (22:09): But for a lot of your clients, you’re not just the best option in terms of quality, but you’re also saving them a ton of money?
Donna (22:14): That is correct. Because of our latest technology and our process, and our lean system. And just our processes make the jobs go through quicker and more efficiently.
Amy (22:31): And who is your typical point of contact in the companies that you work with? Is it the marketing folks? Is it like a director of operations? Who do you typically connect with?
Donna (22:42): Typically a person that has marketing in their title. So marketing manager, vice president of marketing, that person that is in that creative role, would be my person.
Amy (22:57): Got it. So, Donna, I want to ask you about something else if I can. If it’s not okay, we’ll cut this part out. You told me recently that you used to be a competitive salsa dancer.
Donna (23:10): That is correct.
Amy (23:11): And this has nothing to do with your work, but I’m fascinated, because I didn’t know that was a thing. Can you talk a little bit about that? And how you got into that?
Donna (23:19): Am I what? How did I get into it?
Amy (23:21): Yeah.
Donna (23:21): Yeah. Years ago, one of my customers who was very shy, very quiet, told me that, we would talk on Monday and she said, well, I went out salsa dancing. And she told me that several times, and that was before I was married, and before my life took off, and I did not have much of a social life, anyway. And she would tell me she had so much fun. So finally, I mustered the courage to ask her, can I go sometimes? She says, absolutely. So she told me where she was going. And I was happy just to sit on the sideline, and be a wallflower, and just watch all of this amazing artistic ability on the dance floor. And I saw my client get on the dance floor, and I just saw her personality, and her creativity just blossom. And I was just mesmerized. It was like watching a movie, a dancing movie in front of me. So then people start asking me to dance, and I’m like, I don’t know how to salsa dance. I’m happy just watching.
(24:41): So then I thought, well, maybe I should, this may be something. I’m always interested in pushing myself in new challenges and learning new things, new skills. I thought I could never do that. So I started taking lessons, and then I start growing, and it was like different levels. And I progressed to the top level. So I was asked to be part of a salsa dancing troop, and I quickly accepted that. And so, I would travel to all over the world, the United States, and also Latin America, and I would dance all over. And also, I taught salsa dancing, and I had two students who had little or no previous dancing experience. So it’s my passion. I enjoy it. My family, I have a husband and a son, and they joke and say, they feel like they live in a musical, because I always have salsa on and I’m always dancing every day.
Amy (26:04): That’s great. Now, does your husband dance with you as well?
Donna (26:07): Well, he was one of my students. We were dating actually, and the way that he could see me was, he would have to come to my class. So he became one of my students. And so, he knows how to dance, but he’s a little bit more shy. So he does not bust a move or just dance for the fun of it like I do.
Amy (26:34): I love that. If you want to see me, you’ll come to lessons. That’s a great.
Donna (26:37): Yes.
Amy (26:38): That’s as great anti-pickup line. [inaudible 00:26:39] figuring out like he really wants to be there. That’s awesome. So I have to ask though, were you intimidated at all going to Latin America to salsa dance?
Donna (26:52): No, because I have been to a salsa dancing conferences, or they were called Salsa Congresso. And that was when I like go travel all over the world, and I would dance with people that did not know English, or people from Northern Europe. And no, I just really enjoyed it, their skills. So no intimidation. I’ve danced in the Caribbean, like in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. And with children, I’d been to the neighborhood dancings, to park neighborhood parties, street parties, and the whole community opens up. And children with dance with me that were very good, and 90 year old men. And it was just amazing, it’s fun, it’s lively, it’s very positive.
Amy (28:05): Dance can be such an equalizer and it’s so therapeutic. I think we were talking earlier, before we started recording, we’re talking about just the stress of the last year. And just kind of this need to just have some sort of release. And we talk a lot, in this program about community. And I would imagine you find a lot of community there as well, don’t you?
Donna (28:27): Yes, I do. It’s very cathartic, for me, and I’m sure for the other people in the community.
Amy (28:34): Donna, I want to thank you so much for being a guest on, See It To Be It. Iti s always a pleasure talking to you and now I get to do it every week, which is even better. And where can people reach you if they want to wrap their cars, wrap their fleet, wrap their building, get 10,000 business cards? What’s the best way for them to reach out to you?
Donna (28:56): There’s a couple of ways Amy. They can reach out to me on my LinkedIn page, and it’s Donna Merchant. And I am at vice president of sales at Diversity Press. They can also reach out to me by email, which is dmerchant, which is M-E-R-C-H-A-N-T, at Diversity, which is D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y hyphen, press P-R-E-S, as in Sam, S as in sam dot com. So it’s email@example.com.
Amy (29:35): Wonderful. And I know you do work all over, and your work is phenomenal. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Donna (29:41): You are welcome.
Amy (30:29): Wasn’t Donna fun? I knew that she salsa danced. I didn’t know until today, that she had actually competed and traveled all over the world doing it. But what I really love about this interview is how passionate she is about getting things right for her customers. And really creating quality products that feel good, and look good, and represent her client’s brand so well. I know Donna has a phenomenal reputation, not just in her industry, and not just in our community, but nationally as somebody who does amazing print work. And the scope and scale of what she does just always amazes me. I learned something new every time I talk to her.