For DeWitt native Michael Brady, coming home turned into an opportunity to own his future. In 2001, Brady was considering leaving his Wall Street career after 10 years and returning to Upstate New York to be closer to family and friends. The 9/11 attacks accelerated his timetable and Brady left with a desire to make a positive difference in his hometown. In Syracuse that winter his father introduced him to the pharmaceutical label market through a long-term client, a local pharmaceutical manufacturer. Brady recognized a need for a nimble label manufacturer to service the pharmaceutical market. In March 2002, Brady set up HP Mile, Inc. to manufacture labels faster, better and cheaper specifically for pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
Brady landed his first customer when one of his father’s contacts took a purchasing job at a medical device company in California and needed help with their labeling issues. After that, HP Mile’s business grew steadily each year. The Syracuse startup initially rented a 2,000-square-feet location before Brady purchased the current location on Fayette Street in 2009. That same year, HP Mile attained its ISO 9001-2008 certification after meeting strict quality control audits and protocols required by the pharmaceutical industry. The certification attracted larger customers such as national contract packagers of pharmaceutical products.
“When we start a relationship with a customer, they give us a try,” explains Brady. “Typically customers will do an initial audit and then audit every two years, so the lead time to get a new customer is lengthy. We’ll tailor our processes to each customer’s individual needs and usually end up earning all of their labeling business.”
Brady first heard about the SBA Emerging Leaders program in 2010 from his small business banker at First Niagara Bank, and realized the targeted training and emphasis on rising to the next level would be a perfect fit for his plans for HP Mile. Since participating in the Emerging Leaders program in 2011, HP Mile has increased the number of employees from 12 to 18 full-time workers and the number of labels printed nearly doubled from 58 million to over 104 million a year.
“I’ve met the revenue goals I set in the program. Overall it taught me an awareness, to take time to work on the business, not just in the business putting out fires,” adds Brady. “I also switched to a much smaller CPA firm where my company can have individual attention and benefit from their strategic advice.”
An integral part of Brady’s strategic growth plan from Emerging Leaders is a commitment to investing in the latest technology available. At the 2012 Label Expo in Chicago, Brady purchased a digital label press that improved his company’s ability for quick turn-around on short run labels and eliminated a significant amount of waste. The bigger and more sophisticated machine required Brady to reorganize his manufacturing floor design to better use the existing space. In 2014, Brady bought two video inspection machines that are mounted on the printing presses. This technology compares printed labels to the PDF original while they are being printed, providing instantaneous quality control during production and greater efficiency.
“Our new inspection process will save us thousands of dollars a month in wasted material because it allows the press operators to correct errors on the fly, rather than running entire rolls and weeding out any imperfections afterward,” explains Brady.
HP Mile expanded its product lines in 2014 after an existing customer asked Brady about a similar label product that was no longer sold by their supplier. Brady saw a new business opportunity and remembered an Upstate New York company had manufactured the adhesive-backed onserts before closing down a year earlier. He contacted the retired owner in New Jersey, purchased the mothballed equipment and then hired the owner as a business development consultant. Brady then bought the building next door to his current facility and set up production as HP Mile Packaging.
Today, HP Mile manufactures labels for customers throughout the US, including New York, California, and exports to Canada and England. Labels of all shapes and sizes are made in the 12,000-square-foot plant, ranging from medical devices and specimen sample kit labels to Advil, Robitussin, Dimetapp and other drug labels. With Brady’s consistent leadership, high quality customer service and new product opportunities, HP Mile will continue to make its mark on the label industry.
Brady’s plans for the future include keeping in touch with his Emerging Leaders classmates: “I made some great friendships with people who are in similar situations. To this day, our class still talks and gets together. Even though we all have different businesses, we all share similar challenges,” said Brady. “It is great to have a group of friends to share ideas with, rather than going at it alone.”