Youth-driven and street connected, Josh and Laurence of Proof7 are not your typical â€œmiddle aged fat guyâ€ printers. At 23, both partners are, in addition to printing, involved in fashion (Proof7 Clothing), event promotion (Newborn Events) and creative production (Solstice). Branded as the â€œcool guysâ€ of printing, Josh and Laurence print for some of the top creatives in New York City, from the KDU to Trump, and are making serious moves in other realms as well.
â€œItâ€™s not printing that we are branding, it is an understanding of design.â€
Format: Please discuss your respective histories as they relate to your current careers in business, fashion, etc.
Josh: I come from a family of printers, my grandfather was a printer and so was my father. They both made strong relationships in this community over generations and I worked with them growing up when I wasn’t in school.
My grandfather was whatâ€™s called a print broker and my father took the relationships he had made after Gramps retired, bought his own presses, and started a nice little business.
In terms of what I formally attended school for, I was a business major but failed math so many times I switched to the communications school. I became fascinated with media and propaganda and became very interested in publishing and print. I also studied marketing as well as advertising and initially wanted to go in to one of these fields after graduating. This was all halted by the reality of New York City and the very competitive job market that I didnâ€™t want to deal with. I wasnâ€™t gonna kiss someoneâ€™s ass to get a low paying desk job. I don’t work well with bosses, so I became my own.
After school Laurence and I, who I met while attending college, took space in my fatherâ€™s office and started our own print company. We literally went out and branded ourselves as a young, hip, in the know, specialty print house and we walked into several ad agencies, art galleries, corporations, and venues and pitched our clients on being young hard workers, on top of our game and on point with everything we do. We work all hours and then some when the client needs us.
Knowing that we are young in an industry going extinct we find it easy to run laps around these older shops and the truth is that as young consumers we are interested in the brands we work with and the products we produce. We look to be more than a print shop and even transcend boundaries to get creative with our clients and create the most premium product that is feasible.
Laurence: I have always just grinded. Sought out ways to make something happen – often times out of nothing. Proof7 is the manifestation of all ideas, relationships, previous experiences and resources interacting seamlessly. We are a versatile company, aside from the world of production and print, we have aligned with the KDU on various publications including the Royal magazine, we publish our own bi-annual art book the Solstice, we are on the third season of our Proof Seven clothing collection and are constantly expanding. We have an event production company, Newborn Events, that is creating innovative events and artist showcases and are constantly expanding as opportunities present themselves.
My background is a lesson in adapting and innovating. I love change and challenge. I have watched schemes that seemed like dreams become a reality. I loved hip-hop and came to school in NYC to study politics and started an online radio show the SubConenction. To make it in NY you need to make dough in NY so I started working on the New York Mercantile Exchange. I was one of the youngest gold and silver options trader, up at 6am, trading till 2, school till 9. Then I linked with Josh and we started our event high end event service that catered to some of NYC’s most elite modeling agencies and venues. We started giving out promotional t-shirts to models and friends as a means to get our name out, this would later become Proof Seven clothing. For three years I gave up on sleep, and set the goal that when we wrapped school we would go all out on Proof7 and make it work, and that’s what we’ve done. Taking one phone on one desk into what has now become the go to print company for NYC’s most prestigious creative agencies, brands, and corporations as well a diverse and multifaceted design conglomerate.
Format: Being a relatively new company, how have you been able to develop connections to print for brands like Universal and Trump?
Laurence: Every relationship we have is because Josh and I have made it our mission to always deliver. No matter what it entails if we commit to something we see that it follows through. Deliverables may be the most important measure of a company and person there is and we do whatever it takes to live up to our word. This translates if a company like Universal or Coke, or Trump can be insured that when they need something we will get it done. We are immersed in the world design so unlike traditional printers we actually get design and have an interest in seeing our clients continue to push the limits. Their success is ours. One of the most shocking things we discovered when we really started to do business was just how many people fall through or flake on what they say they are going to do. This helps to weed out weak characters and shows you who you can depend on, overtime you find yourself surrounded by the most reliable and competent people and companies. This is what propels growth.
The world of print is transparent because what we deliver is tangible. A million things can go wrong. We make sure that they don’t.
Format: From the outside looking in, printing does not seem like a particularly exciting industry. What do you enjoy about it?
Josh: The truth is printing is not a glamorous business but I make it work for me. I chose projects that I want to work on and take on clients that I respect and can learn from. For example my partner and I are in fashion as well. I am fascinated by fashion and love style. I have chosen to work with several fashion brands that I respect and offered my print services. In turn Iâ€™m producing their materials but also getting insight and a better understanding of their business. I am making connections and forming relationships with people who have similar interests to me even though my print business I production and theirs is style.
The other great part of print is that everyone needs it. Everyone needs paper and that includes artists and photographers and models, stylists, musicians, and in many fascinating people that under no other conditions would we have the opportunity to meet with.
So hereâ€™s a day in our life: running across the street from our office to a retailer (Rival owned by pro skateboarder Vinny Ponte) that holds our clothing brand and bumping into George Clinton. Listening to a five minute long free flowing poem from the mind of a genius and godfather in music than running back upstairs to the office to do an episode of My Super Sweet 16 for MTV cuz some new artist under Jermaine Dupri’s label needs invites for his big birthday party and MTV thought it would be dope to have a cool print shop and printers to film. Everyday we are meeting and working with people who inspire us and because print is not our only business we also get the opportunity to vent our passion through fashion, publishing, and events.
Laurence: Printing sucks. For real, ask anyone that deals with it. Deadlines, processes, matching colors, die problems, shipping, its one big sick headache – but it also means that we are the conduit for some of the world’s most talented creative so there is a balance. There is lasting value in what we are creating. In a time before the printing press a book would have the value of a piece of property. Printing changed modern world, an in a world that is increasingly overrun with online media and news stories and hype that break from blogs the value and premium of a printed artifact as become more relevant than ever. I can take pride in assisting in Steve Stoute’s Translation Marketing landing a new client through creating a two week job in 24hours, or producing Recon’s new look book and blowing their accounts away with it, or creating the Ford Models new season’s comp books. It is this pride and the constant interaction with the elite of the design, fashion, and art worlds helps to balance the tedious and mundane.
Format: How have you managed to brand Proof7 as a â€œcoolâ€ printing company?
Josh: Really it has not been hard. If you go out there and really look, typically printers are middle aged fat guy who donâ€™t give a shit about design or what is going on in the art community. We happen to actually be interested in relevant things and this reflects in our work. When we set up a meeting with an ad agency and they are expecting two suits to walk in and it turns out to be Laurence and I walking in with fitted caps and sneakers on people adapt their thought process and all of a sudden printing is not this nice neat little idea. We live outside the box and as opposed to being sucked in to an industry we are making an industry work for us. Plenty of people do the same thing, but itâ€™s the unique minds who shine and as young entrepreneurs we take advantage of every resource and situation we are put in.
Laurence: Itâ€™s not printing that we are branding, it is an understanding of design. If we were only printers we could just have a website and some templates and cake off but what we do is work with clients to achieve something distinct and push the boundaries. Itâ€™s not because I wear a fitted in a meeting, itâ€™s because Iâ€™m the demographic that agencies are looking to appeal to. Itâ€™s really cyclical. We print for designers, designers create for Proof7, Proof7 distributes designers materials to clients, clients hire designers, we produce events with designers and artists, our clients attend these events. All distinct yet all interacting, feeding of each other and at the heart of it is creativity in the design and the hustle.
Format: What is Proof7â€™s biggest challenge in the printing industry?
Josh: Proof7’s biggest challenge is constantly building when print is going extinct. Of course there will always be a need for print but few printers will remain in New York City over the next three-to-five years and not only are we solidifying our stance as a young company but we are continuously challenging ourselves to grow in a declining market.
Laurence: The lack of understanding of the basics of print and production. There is a dramatic distinction in the worldâ€™s of printing. There is the shit that is in the back of magazines and on websites that offers amazing prices, this type of printing sucks. It’s called gang run and essentially it just means that everything runs together and there is no oversight or room to make adjustments. This is not what we do! However, the advent of the digital industry has created a dangerous desire for people to want to spend as little as possible and then find themselves disappointed with sub par quality. Our best and most successful clients are the ones that accept the premium of costs on producing top tier projects. What we strive to do is convey the reality of the each print job and work with clients to match their expectations with their budgets.
Format: Proof7â€™s tagline is â€œOur Money Grows on Trees.â€ To what degree are you conscious of issues like deforestation, etc. when making business decisions?
Laurence: I can understand clients increasing desire to utilize recyclable products and materials. For all of Proof7’s materials as well as for Proof Seven Clothing all of our products are made from recyclable materials or organic products. Proof7 printing is FSC certified, meaning that depending on the clients preference we run with all recyclable papers, soy inks, and practice stringent recycle standards.
Format: Proof7 also runs Newborn Events and designs clothing. How come you have decided to pursue so many avenues in addition to printing?
Josh: Proof7 was actually an events company in origin, prior to Laurence and I starting the print company we formed a company in college and essentially created a concierge service for the fashion community. We had many strong ties to the fashion community and specifically modeling agencies. Printing 90% of the comp cards for the agencies in Manhattan gained us access to several point people and bookers at agencies who needed royal treatment and that is what we provided on a small scale. We would prepare everything from transportation to dinner and then drinks or a lounge would be arranged. We would be paid by venues for directing these pretty people (models/fashionista crowd) to their establishments and we created quite a roster of connections and future clients.
It never hurts to be 19 and 20 way over your head learning the ropes in a very big city. This prepared us for future ventures and especially for intimidating situations such as business deals where we have to hold our ground with experienced businessmen who have been practicing for years.
More Info: http://www.proof7.com/ … http://www.proof7.com/p7nyc/ … http://riottt.com/user.do?uid=445 … http://formatmag.com/category/blogs/proof7/ … http://www.theroyalmagazine.com/ … http://www.newborn-events.com/