This article orginally appeared in the October 2021 edition of Big Picture Magazine. Reposted with permission.
By: Adrienne Palmer
AP: Your nomination form states you went from a leadership position at a Fortune 100 company to PTA President to starting a sign and graphics business from scratch. And that you’ve taken the business to double-digit growth every year, including its fastest growth year in 2020. Can you discuss your transition from corporate life to running your own print business?
GK: I spent most of my career in corporate America working in the automotive industry and for some of the largest distributors in the country. This gave me exposure in increasing levels of responsibility to supply chain management, administration, manufacturing, and the creative and vendor management side of product management. Then, at the ripe old age of 37, I found out that my first baby was coming, and everything changed. I decided to step off the corporate track, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, to become a full-time mom. I never realized how much my identity was tied up into my career until it stopped. A couple of years later, my second child came and by then I was in the Mom groove.
Fast forward a few years, and I started to think back to those things that I really enjoyed in my past career progression. So, I started a sign and graphics business. It literally had the best parts of my career path all in one bundle.
The sheer volume of work (and maybe a bit of fear) as you are launching from a greenfield operation to a full functioning business should never be underestimated. There is so much to learn and so many moving parts – it can be overwhelming to say the least, but I can’t say that anything in the corporate world (at least for me) was as fulfilling as creating Image360 Woodbury.
AP: How did you take Image360 to double digit growth every year, especially during the pandemic?
GK: One can never underestimate the personal contacts people make in their lives. A lot of the people who I met through volunteering at my kids’ school are now my largest customers. It’s important to foster all those relationships all the time. If you are kind and helpful and are sincerely interested in what they do, they will remember you. I think that one philosophy has been instrumental in our business growth from the start up to where we are today, almost nine years later.
The pandemic – well, we had a lot of good projects in the hopper and clients that proceeded with them, thankfully. We kept working and our clients knew that they could count on us to be there for them. Of course, we also produced the COVID graphics and sneeze shields, but it wasn’t the dominant part of our business. It wasn’t easy, but we have a great team of smart, passionate people.
AP: It also states, “Gina has always focused on growing the business in the areas of experiential design and interior design. Her work in this area has led to numerous, one-of-a-kind displays and designs for organizations in the Twin Cities. She is a perpetual student, always studying materials and the facets of design so that Image360 can present unique solutions to all clients.” How has expanding your application offerings affected your business and the relationship with your customers?
GK: Expanding our offerings and being willing to jump into the unknown has made us feel comfortable in literally all parts of our business. We don’t shy away from difficult things, and we are continuously learning. Every time we work with a new client, we learn something new and that continuously builds on our knowledge, whether it’s using new materials, new ways of looking at design, or figuring out how to produce something you haven’t done before. The more you know, the more comfortable you are taking risks and trying new things. I think that’s exciting for clients and one of the reasons they like working with our team.
When you are working on experiential design projects and making a space meaningful to employees and clients, you are constantly thinking about how the area will make you feel when you’re there. These types of projects are so much fun and so interesting because it really forces us to understand the client in ways that a routine project would never allow. And understanding the client gives you that opportunity to grow those connections. It’s all full circle.
AP: What does it mean to be a woman in the wide-format digital printing industry?
GK: This is an exciting time to be in wide-format print no matter who you are. Since the construction trades tend to be very male dominated, we certainly appreciate the opportunities that our numerous women-owned business certifications afford us. However, at the end of the day, all businesses like ours must deliver a creative, high-quality product on time and at a fair price regardless of who they are. Our focus is always simply to delight the customer.