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VOL. 41 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 08, 2017

Ulrich family finds blueprint for printing success

By Mike Blackerby

Updated 9:48AM
Print | Front Page | Email this story

Carol Kelly, sales manager and daughter of owner Peter Ullrich

-- Adam Taylor Gash | The Ledger

It’s understandable that Carol Kelly has printer’s ink in her blood. After all, she’s a member of East Tennessee’s First Family of printers, and she was recently nominated for a Big Wig award through the American Advertising Federation-Knoxville for her outstanding work.

A job transfer brought Kelly’s father, Jim Ullrich, to East Tennessee in the late 1970s.

After just a few years in Knoxville, Ullrich balked when he was told another move would be needed because of work. “His fondness for this area and the Knoxville community kept him here,” recounts Kelly, one of seven children in the Ullrich clan.

“After visiting a business expo, he decided he wanted to go into printing. He went to California for a week to learn how to open a print shop. So, in his desire to put down roots, he started Ullrich Printing in 1979.”

Almost 40 years later, the print business Jim Ullrich founded is now called Ullrich Print Plus powered by Proforma, an international printing, promotional products and packaging agency.

Production manager Kyle Bindle uses a loop to scrutinize the details of a job.

-- Adam Taylor Gash | The Ledger

The company offers myriad print and graphic services, including full color digital printing, black-and-white high-speed copying, process and spot offset printing, bindery, mailing services and professional and marketing mentorship.

The Ullrich company also offers a range of wide-format services, including posters, mounting, banners, tradeshow booths and accessories, including static cling and custom wallpaper.

In 1997, when Jim Ullrich decided to retire, he sold the business to his youngest son, Peter, who continues today with the second generation of company leadership in the family.

Kelly accepted an offer to come aboard six years ago and heads up the promotional division and outside sales efforts.

“That’s why, for over 35 years, we continue to do what we do,” she explains of the importance of a family business.

Owner Peter Ullrich

-- Adam Taylor Gash | The Ledger

Eight questions for Kelly:

Ullrich Printing appears to be a classic family run business. Your brother bought the business from your father 20 years ago.

How many brothers and sisters do you have and how many of them have worked at the family business over the lifetime of the company?

"There are seven children and everyone at one time or another has worked there. My sister Ann still works there."

Carol, can you give me a little background about yourself – work experience, schooling, personal interests, etc.

“I attended Farragut High School and the University of Tennessee. Worked for my father and then went to Whittle Communications.

“When I was laid off from (Whittle), I went to JP Hogan Advertising Agency. I left there to raise two kids. I had various part-time jobs as my children got older.

“I went to work full time at Bearden Middle School in 2004 and then my brother, Peter, asked if I would come back to the Print Shop to head up the promotional division and outside sales. I did in August of 2011.’’

Talk about your current role in sales with the company. What is a typical day in sales like for Carol Kelly? I imagine it’s more competitive than ever.

“My day is different every day. I attend many networking events. Most of my business is referral based. I like building relationships with my clients to help find the best ways to help grow their business with print, promotional and wide format print.

“I spend much of my time researching the perfect products for my clients.

“I am the president of the American Marketing Associate Knoxville, a Knoxville Chamber Ambassador and a Visit Knoxville Ambassador.

“I am also a 2014 graduate of Intro Knoxville and involved with Junior Achievement.’’

The printing business has changed dramatically since 1979. Talk about some of the differences and challenges that have emerged in the industry over the years.

“Yes, I worked before computers, cell phones and digital presses.

“We are always needing to grow and widen our knowledge to better serve our clients. This year we joined Proforma. We are now Ullrich Print Plus powered by Proforma. We continue to be owned and operated locally and provide the same great services, only on a larger and improved scale.’’

What makes a good salesperson in 2017? What makes Carol Kelly a good salesperson?

“To listen to the needs of your clients, offer incredible customer service every time, find clients that are a good fit for both you and them, have a system (and) follow up, follow up and follow up.’’

Have client needs changed?

“Yes, mostly when it comes to time. We live in an age of instant everything. We are a custom print shop. Instant is difficult, but we do whatever we can to help meet our client deadlines.’’

What is the next “big thing” around the corner in the printing business?

“I think 3D printing will work its way to the promotional items. Virtual Reality – show experience – not just touch and feel objects. Different types of finishes of printed pieces and more personalization.’’

Given the changing nature of the business, will Ullrich Printing Plus and Proforma be around in 2029 to celebrate its 50th anniversary?

“Yes.”