POMPTON LAKES, NJ---There is no question that Cheryl and Joel Finger have their designs on success. As owners of Graphic Innovations, a full-service graphic design company based in Pompton Lakes, the couple has had their share of successes as entrepreneurs since they started their business in 1986.
After receiving their degrees from the School of Visual Arts, they started as freelance graphic artists in the early 80’s and eventually worked together at an ad agency. When the agency lost a major client, Cheryl and Joel were let go. They continued to work together, eventually forming a partnership in business and later in marriage. Cheryl is the president of the company and Joel is the creative director. “Joel came from the corporate side working for Mercedes Benz and I came from the ad agency side,” said Cheryl. “We both have different styles, yet we each bring something to the table; it works for us.”
Cheryl has always been the one to market the company’s services to potential clients. “Marketing to prospective clients and getting client referrals were all we really needed,” said Cheryl. “That all changed quickly for us when there was a sudden downturn in the economy three years ago. We found that we had to ask ourselves some tough questions. Questions like where are we? And where do we want to go? We opted to stay in the game.”
“We realized that corporate work was changing and that we were losing ground there,” said Cheryl. “So we looked at different revenue streams and we started to look into government contracting.”
To help them sort through the maze of different government contracting programs, Cheryl turned to the New Jersey Small Business Development Center’s (NJSBDC) Procurement Center located at Rutgers University in Newark. The program receives funding from the U.S. Small Business and the state of New Jersey in order to help small business owners who have questions on how to obtain government contracts. It was there that Cheryl met with center director Stephanie Burroughs who provided Cheryl with some guidance and advice on how to get started.
One piece of advice that Burroughs provided Cheryl with was to get registered on the GSA Schedule. “Becoming a Schedules contractor involves significant investments of time and resources,” said Burroughs. “I tell all our clients that their first step is to think it through and to ask themselves the following questions: Do the products and/or services you offer fit with a Schedules solicitation? Can your pricing structure compete with current contractors on GSA Schedules?
For Cheryl and Joel, the answers to those questions were a resounding yes. In order to expedite the process they hired GSA consultant Bob Griffin of Keynote Connections of Dobbs Ferry, NY to make sure they got on the GSA Schedule. “By working with Bob, we were able to get on the GSA Schedule in 10 weeks,” said Cheryl. “We are now on the GSA Schedule 541 with ..erervices Administration and are able to compete for federal contracts in our field.”
The move has certainly paid off for Cheryl and Joel. “Being on the GSA Schedule has allowed us to receive three contracts from the U.S. Department of Justice,” said Cheryl. “The contracts called for us to do photography work of the different departments under the Department of Justice. One contract was quite an elaborate set-up at the Brooklyn Court House involving 150 Department of Justice employees.”
Cheryl and Joel hope it is just the first of many contracts that they receive as a result of being on the GSA Schedule. Today, the firm offers its government and corporate clients a wide array of graphic arts services from their boutique design studio that includes logotypes, branding, illustration, photography, advertising, newsletters, annual reports, point of purchase materials, website design/development, environmental graphics, digital graphics and flash design. Some of Graphic Innovations’ clients include Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Glatt Air Techniques, and Ridgewood Dentistry to name a few.
“We help our clients by bringing extensive industry experience to the table without the high price tag of a large agency” said Joel. “Savvy buyers are thrilled to find the high quality work and personal service that have become synonymous with the Graphic Innovations name.”
According to SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone, the GSA Schedules program offers great opportunities for small businesses. “The U.S. government is the world's largest buyer of products and services,” said Titone. “Nearly $200 billion a year is spent on purchasing everything from complex space vehicles to janitorial services and paper clips; so why not graphics arts services? Being on the Schedule makes it easier for federal agencies to do business with small businesses like Graphic Innovations.”
“The process can be daunting, but our partnership with the New Jersey Small Business Development Center’s Procurement Center enables us to offer the proper guidance that small business owners like Cheryl and Joel Finger need,” said Titone. “The real credit belongs to them for taking the necessary steps to get on the Schedule and for positioning their company to compete for federal government contracts.”
“Our strategy going forward is to actively seek teaming partnerships with other small businesses who will afford us the opportunity to work and compete for additional federal contracts,” said Cheryl. “Sometimes teaming and subcontracting can lead to receiving additional contracts, as the government likes to award projects to those who provide total solutions.”
It’s a great strategy for seasoned entrepreneurs, who have their designs on success.