Visual Impressions embraces challenges

Visual Impressions Inc.
6600 W. Calumet Road, Milwaukee
Industry: Apparel
Employees: 100
www.visualimp.com

Milwaukee-based Visual Impressions Inc. has found its niche as a contract apparel decorator focusing on the ad specialty industry, and is always willing to embrace a challenge in its business.

“We offer traditional screen printing, which is what most people are familiar with,” said Marshall Atkinson, chief operating officer. “We do embroidery; we do digital printing. We also do specialty printing where we’ll brand items like Keurig coffee makers or Bose speakers or soccer balls. We print on some goofy stuff and it’s really fun to figure out… A lot of our clients turn to us to help resolve those challenges. We kind of do things that a lot of people won’t touch or don’t want to or don’t know how.”

Co-owners (and brothers-in-law) Jay Berman & Todd Richheimer

Visual Impressions was founded in 1990 by two brothers-in-law, Jay Berman and Todd Richheimer. The company employs 100 people at its 100,000-square-foot facility at 6600 W. Calumet Road in Milwaukee, where it has been located since 2007. Roughly 75 percent of its employees work in production, and 25 percent work in the office, Atkinson said. The number of employees has remained steady since 2007, and Atkinson said many have been with the company for more than a decade.

Brian Marquez (left) and Lorenzo Stewart operating screen printing machines at Visual Impressions.

“We have a lot of people who have been here 10 to 20 years,” he said. “It’s a good place to work. We really don’t have a lot of turnover, which I think says a lot about the company. It’s kind of a big company, but it has a family atmosphere. We work really hard on our company culture.”

Sandra Salas operates embroidery machines at Visual Impressions

Another aspect of the business the company has worked hard on in recent years is sustainability.

“We have a huge sustainability program here,” Atkinson said. “We do a lot of recycling. We’re always looking for better technology to help use less energy… When we talk to people in the (ad specialty) industry, they’re always looking for a green supplier.”

Atkinson said the company last year achieved an important certification as a sustainable printer from the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership, and has participated in the City of Milwaukee’s ME2 and ME3 sustainability initiatives and received grants through those programs.

Visual Impressions also participated in the Scale Up Milwaukee program last year, which Berman and Richheimer said was very beneficial for the business, especially in terms of the long-term growth plans for the company.

“It really opened up our eyes and made us put a plan in place,” Berman said. “It was a really great exercise for us.”

Berman and Richheimer also launched “Ink to the People” – a crowdfunding website designed specifically for custom T-shirts – as a startup that operates within Visual Impressions.

“We really believe that over the next three to five years, that “Ink to the People” will be a major part of our business,” Berman said.

Two Boston-area college students used the website to raise funds for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, making “Boston Strong” T-shirts. Berman and Richheimer stepped in to help with the efforts.

“We discounted their pricing and asked if we could help them along with some of the marketing,” Berman said. “Long story short, 65,000 T-shirts later, they raised $1 million for the ‘One Fund’ and donated every single penny.”

Dan Shafer covers manufacturing, health care and technology for BizTimes Milwaukee. Send him news at dan.shafer@biztimes.com, call him at (414) 336-7123 or follow him on Twitter @danshaferMKE.

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