The following is from an interview conducted with Jeff Groth, co-owner of MJ Creative Printing, simply the best little print shop with outstanding customer service. Located in Livonia, they are steadily growing their business which started out in their home basement.
Making Creativity a Business:
MJ Creative Printing
MJ Creative Printing in Livonia, Michigan is the result of four family members with interests and employment in other fields combining their talents. All split their time between other vocations and running their ever-more successful print shop in this suburb of Detroit.
Who Is MJ?
Jeff Groth (he’s the “J” in MJ) has been the band teacher for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students in Utica Community Schools since 1994. That has been thoroughly enriching for him, but as he has been approaching retirement, he’d been thinking about starting his own business.
Since 2005, Marianne has worked for Verizon, and is currently the Workforce Development Trainer, crafting the in-house training for Verizon employees. She too would like to stay active when she leaves her present position.
Two sons are heavily involved in the business as well. Brett, a graduate from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, labors as the graphic designer. Jon is attending a local community college, but plans on transferring to Eastern Michigan University to major in business administration. Usually both can be found working the equipment, helping customers, or doing prep work for the current order.
What Comes After Retirement?
Reviewing many opportunities, the Groths searched for a business in which the family could immerse themselves. They wanted something that the parents could build and eventually pass on to the sons. Coffee shops, bakeries, a Hallmark store, and others were considered, but they just didn’t seem a good fit.
“I saw so many of my students wearing hoodies, sweats, and all kinds of different apparel with print on them,” Jeff explains. “I figured there had to be a way to make money, a way to run a business from that.” Of course, most schools have sports teams and clubs that promote themselves on clothing. That’s when the Groths realized they could open a print shop.
Out of the Basement
“We started in our home basement in 2010, creating printed apparel for schools,” Jeff recalls. They even filled orders for Jeff’s school, but only for the first year, “I didn’t want to have a conflict of interest.”
Jeff asked his band director friends and colleagues if they would be interested in patronizing him, they did and soon had other departments in their schools ordering from MJ Creative Printing. Two years later they had enough consistent business to move from their basement to a retail store front.
We Don’t Just Make Flyers
While MJ Creative Printing started out as simply a screen printing and embroidery business for clothing, they’ve now widened their scope. They can create promotional products from banners and signs to mugs, mouse pads, and mailers. Business cards, brochures, calendars, and even jigsaw puzzles from photos can be ordered.
“We don’t turn people down when they walk through our door. Whatever the request, we can produce about 99.9% of them. And when we can’t,” Jeff adds, “we refer them to someone who can do the work for them.”
Their best customers are businesses who have uniformed employees, as that almost always becomes repeat business. In August 2014, they landed a contract with a Macomb County fire department, creating all their apparel with the department’s logo.
One of the most interesting orders MJ Creative Printing had was a woman quilter whose cousin won the Nobel Peace Prize. She had gone with him to the ceremony and had photographs of various world leaders and the event. MJ Creative was able to print the photographs onto one of her quilts to create an amazing memento of an amazing event.
Customers are happy with the speed and craftsmanship of the products they purchase. When there are problems, MJ Creative is glad to revise until it’s right. Another service offered is helping with the concept of the project. Jeff reports that “some people don’t realize what they want. And so they come in and talk to us and then we help give them direction so they’re able to get what they asked for.”
Because a graphic designer is part of the staff, MJ Creative Printing is able to offer options for color, design, and other aspects of the look of a customer’s product. Trust is built in offering to help improve what may have been something drawn on a napkin or scrap paper and bringing it to completion.
The Challenge and Satisfaction of Novelty
Jeff is enthusiastic about this phase of his life. “Well, what I like about the printing business is that it’s very creative. I mean my whole career has been creative with music, but now it’s a different creativity through design and color. It’s never the same. It’s always something different that we do on a daily basis. It could be just another shirt but it’s a different design, so every single customer who comes in brings something new.”
MJ Creative Printing is located at 33463 Seven Mile Rd. in Livonia, MI. You can talk to somebody at 248.957.6878