Starting a new printing business as the recession started to bite in 2008 was a brave move. But Mike and Mark Hipperson saw an opportunity to serve clients who were requiring an on-demand print service with commercial quality. So they set up 2M Print in Tavenham, on the outskirts of Norwich, UK, starting with an HP Indigo 5500 sheet fed digital color press. Today they employ 13 people.
"Although we came from a litho background we saw our future in digital printing," says Mark Hipperson. "We knew what our customers required; they needed the flexibility that we could offer with short run, on demand printing, greetings cards, book production and personalization. A key area of development was towards photo publishing products, offering a niche product range with applications in the consumer, corporate, and educational markets. The service is offered through a dedicated website, www.2mphotobooks.com.
"Last year we became a partner in the Taopix Photobook software solution," says Hipperson. ‘This has given us a major push working closely with partners and affiliates. It has also given us the ability to develop an affiliate licence partnership whereby we build an online ordering solution for them with products branded to their requirements, but produced by us."
The Taopix Photobook solution offers end user customers a range of products defined by 2M Print, in a downloadable application for Macintosh or Windows computers. This can then be run offline by the customer before uploading the completed (and preflighted) item, complete with photographs, to 2M’s site. The software allows branding by the print user: 2M calls its own consumer service Smiley Hippo, but will add customers’ own branding through its affiliate program.
The service has proved so successful that the company put in a second HP Indigo 5500, specifically for photobooks. 2M Print is currently handling in excess of 1500 books per week.
"Photobook production is driving the expansion of our business and now accounts for 50 percent of our turnover," says Hipperson. "We are processing several thousand orders a month, which are mostly for one or a few books. It’s been a challenge because we started in a recession but we always knew the potential was there. Orders may be small in volume but there are a lot of them. Now we are motoring and we’ve got some big expansion plans for the future."
Taopix has recently released new software called Portfolio, which 2M is due to adopt in the near future. This new solution has many new, innovative features designed to increase profitability for photo finishers and enhance the overall end-customer experience. It also supports links to social media, such as FaceBook and Flickr – an element that 2M Print intend to utilise.
"Having our products featured on numerous social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, provides us with a new route to market," says Hipperson. "Taopix has recently introduced social media links with its latest Portfolio software, which offers new features like’ Tell A Friend’. We are constantly spreading the word that whether you are a consumer, a school, a company, a retail partner or affiliate, we can supply you with customized photobooks, albums, and tender bid publications or short run heritage hardback books."