Deborah spoke to Carmen Rad, Founder and President at CR&A Custom Inc, a wide-format graphics business in Los Angeles, at ISA Sign Expo.

CR&A Custom is a large-format printing business that has been going strong for 25 years, but Founder and President Carmen Rad stresses that the building of the company and its success didn’t happen overnight. However, her entrepreneurship journey seems like it was almost inevitable when you hear her mindset.

With a background in fashion marketing and design, upon embarking on her career she came up against what will be a familiar obstacle to many; an inability to make much money while others profit from your work. “I decided if I was going to be broke, I would be broke for myself!”

Originally, her business focused on apparel, creating promotional clothing items with sublimation printing, before deciding to concentrate on large-format graphics. Carmen still likes to keep her hand in on what’s going on with the evolution of dye-sublimation, marveling at the newly-launched HP Stitch models in the HP booth at ISA as this podcast was recorded.

A long time HP customer, Carmen talks about her recently purchased machine that will allow the business to continue developing new products and working with new media and fabrics. A background in fashion and design gives her a different perspective, beyond just ‘flat’ printing – Carmen says, “this industry has endless possibilities, and HP is a leader in our industry, so why not work with one of the best?”

As a former President of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Carmen is an advocate for women and minority-owned businesses, having been involved with a number of different organisations over the years and discovering the importance of connecting with others who are facing the same issues and having a forum to ask questions and feel safe.

Let’s finish off with some of Carmen’s stellar advice for women who may be interested in following a similar path:

Entrepreneurship is an amazing opportunity, but it comes with many challenges. You will be working more than you’ve ever worked in your life, but you will benefit from the time you put in.

Understand the industry you are in, and get to know the bigger picture.

Understand your numbers. You have to become a businesswoman, and know every aspect of your business. Find experts in the areas you aren’t an expert in.

Education is key – Carmen went back into education and it helped her grow the business. Look at free opportunities such as seminars and events, and schemes to help with business plans and getting started.

Be yourself – Women bring a lot to the table. Let yourself be seen!

See more posts from Karis


karis-copp-print-media-centrKaris Copp is a UK-based writer, journalist and communications expert. With a background as an editor and public relations specialist in the print industry, she now works on a freelance basis covering events, writing on industry news and trends, and working with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppWrites.

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