Skip and Shannon Novakovich began Esprit Graphic Communications in downtown Kennewick in 1989.
They’ve long been active in the Tri-City business community, as well as involved in local charities over the past 30 years.
They’ve received numerous awards over the years—including Kennewick Downtowners of the Year in 1994, and Skip was Kennewick Man of the Year in 1999, as well as Tri-Citian of the Year in 2011.
But as the years passed, the Novakoviches looked for ways to slow down.
“We’ve had quite a few people come to us want us to sell (Esprit),” Skip said. “We’ve always wanted the right fit.”
And this summer, it finally happened, when Tri-Citians Westin and Janet Mick agreed to buy Esprit.
In a letter the Novakoviches sent out to clients, friends and vendors, they explained:
“Over the past few years, we came to the realization that we needed to plan for the future of Esprit, and how Esprit would continue to partner with our vendors to serve our loyal clients and the communities we love. To do this, we felt Esprit needed younger, more aggressive and more progressive leadership.”
The longtime owners were initially skeptical when the Micks approached them.
But that soon changed.
“Slowly we developed a confidence that we had met the right people to build on our successes far into the future,” Esprit’s letter to customers said.
“Everything really seemed to flow,” Janet said. “Skip and Shannon were willing to meet with us and make this as smooth a transition as possible.”
The two parties signed all necessary documents July 9, and the Micks took over officially Aug. 26. The Micks are leasing the building but have first right of refusal on a future sale.
But the Novakoviches are staying around a while to help with the transition.
“We bought it in July, but we’ve had such a busy schedule that we wanted them around,” Westin said, who says to just call him “Mick.” “We’ve got them consulting for us 30 hours a week through September. Their office will be in the back of the building. Janet and I are always seeking wise counsel.”
And that’s OK with Skip.
“The cool thing is they want to keep us around,” Skip said. “Now I don’t have to get here so early. I can come in around 10 a.m.”
Printing is in the Novakoviches’ blood.
“I think it’s the fact we can help people promote their business, and we can do a good job,” Skip said.
“I like the artistic part of the job,” she said. “It’s fun to take a client and sit them down and listen to their ideas and then create.”
The sale of their business allows the couple to slow down a bit. They’d like to spend more time at their vacation home in Eastern Oregon.
“It needs to go to another level and to people with more energy,” Shannon said.
That would be the Micks, who plan to transition Esprit into a Minuteman Press franchise by the end of the year.
“There comes a time,” Skip said, “when you realize people can do things better.”
Here is what Esprit offered under the Novakoviches: annual reports, booklets, brochures, calendars, catalogs and newsletters, consulting, graphic design, printing services, finishing services (such as binding), variable data printing and mailing services.
Through their connection with Minuteman Press, the Micks plan to continue these offerings, plus add the following: creative design; business cards, fliers and stationery; advertising, direct mail and brochures; promotional products; large format printing, such as posters, signs and banners; apparel, such as shirts and hats; branded packaging; and vehicle wraps.
The Micks spent two weeks in New York training with the Minuteman staff.
“We learned a lot about marketing and updated software,” Mick said. “We’ll have a number of consultants at our disposal. Skip said he and Shannon wished they had that option when they started.”
In 30 to 60 days, people will see the changes on the outside of the building, too.
“And when we answer phones, we say we’re doing business as Esprit and Minuteman Press printing,” Mick said.
By the end of the year, the business will be called Minuteman Press of Kennewick.
“And it becomes the largest printing business in the area,” Mick said. “The staff is very excited.”
Currently, the business employs 10 full-time staffers. They all will stay on.
“As a new owner in the printing business, I think it’s great to get in here with an excellent staff that’s already here and maintaining that great customer service,” Janet said. “There are 100 different things we can print on.”
The business also will become the second Minuteman Press franchise in the Tri-Cities. There is one in Richland.
For the Micks, acquiring Esprit and becoming franchise owners is a dream come true.
“I lived the corporate life for 35 years,” Mick said. “I was never home. Janet and I wanted to do something together.”
They looked at fast-food restaurant franchises and even the possibility of becoming home building inspectors.
Just this year, they started publication of a monthly magazine called West Pasco Living.
“We’re trying to get into the community,” Mick said. “Janet grew up in this area.”
The couple plan to start another magazine, focusing on Kennewick, within the next few months.
But Esprit/Minuteman will hold the majority of their concentration.
Minuteman Press is the No. 1 rated printing and marketing service franchise as ranked by Entrepreneur magazine. It’s been that way 28 times and 16 years in a row.
The franchise’s investment can range from $74,904 to $157,259 when leasing equipment, according to the Minuteman Press website.
Franchising began in 1975, after the company was started in 1973 by Roy Titus and his son Bob.
There are 970 Minuteman Press franchises in North America, Australia, England and South Africa.
“By (rolling the organization into a Minuteman Press franchise operation), we will have a better cost structure and expanded product offering,” Mick said.
And expect the Micks to maintain the same community involvement as the Novakoviches.
“I grew up in the community,” Janet said. “Mick will be out in the community. Get our name out there.”
Mick agreed. “One thing Janet found out about me: I like to socialize,” he said. “But we also want to take this business to another level.”
And they’ll do it with the Novakoviches’ blessing.
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