What can be achieved with 3D printing has to be seen to be believed; but for Janah Kingi and Rowan O’Brien, the problem is getting potential clients to understand how powerful the technology can be .
If you want a wall in your home that looks and feels like roughhewn timber, or a kitchen splashback that looks and feels like real bricks, even a table that looks like elephant skin and feels rough and leathery, The Print Tank’s UV inkjet digital technology can do it for you. This new technology can print on a wide range of materials and produce textured printing giving a ‘3D effect’ and bringing the image to life. But it can be hard to explain to clients.
Janah Kingi says they are currently working hard on developing the company’s website further as it’s very difficult to show the 3D product online.
“A 2D flat image doesn’t give the printing work we do justice on a website; you need to see it to believe it.”
Janah and business partner, Rowan O’Brien, launched The Print Tank early in 2015 after attending a trade show in Australia and seeing the UV inkjet digital technology.
“We were completely blown away by the capabilities and wanted to be the first to offer this to the New Zealand market. We decided to take a shot, invest in the printer and bring it to New Zealand,” says Janah.
Other companies can print smaller textured surfaces, but The Print Tank can print onto big or heavy surfaces and handle materials such as glass or marble.
Janah had been working part-time for Rowan at his business, Tauranga Laminates, for two years before they founded The Print Tank.
“We both got on well and with Rowan’s manufacturing knowledge and my design skills we thought it would make a great partnership.”
Originally from Hamilton, Janah has a background in architecture and design and a Bachelor in Architecture Technology from Waikato University. She’s worked as a draftsperson, project manager, and creative designer.
She and her husband moved to Tauranga with their two boys, aged four and six, about three years ago and love the lifestyle.
“There’s a lot of growth happening here, the influx to the area has been significant so the business development opportunities are great.”
Rowan is from Dunedin and has a background in materials and manufacturing. He moved to Tauranga six years ago after purchasing the laminates company which provides custom manufactured benchtops using laminated products.
“We also both have a strong passion for textured printing and embracing new technologies,” says Janah. “Having a business partner like Rowan is invaluable as he has a wealth of knowledge in the industry. We effectively bounce ideas off each other and bring different views to the table, but with the same goal of delivering a unique, quality product to the marketplace.”
They funded the business through a combination of investment from both partners and through the bank, and currently have four staff.
For some small business owners, running a business can be stressful, but for Janah every day is an amazing learning experience.
She says while there are challenges, she loves the stimulating environment.
“I’m continuing to learn something new every day. There are a few people that truly inspire me in business and blow my mind with their wealth of knowledge.”
One person in particular is business development consultant and business owner Ian Featherstone. Janah also works closely with Tauranga-based graphic designer, Michaela James. “She has become a wonderful mentor to me on both a personal and professional level.”
And Janah is very proud of the work the company undertakes, pointing to a successful cafe fit-out at Grace Hospital in Tauranga.
“We worked alongside extremely creative interior designers who really wanted to push the boundaries and it was loads of fun having that creative freedom to experiment with our printing. We are now working on the hospital’s reception fit-out.
“We’ve also produced some quirky and unique printing for our customers – including printing a photo of a family on a rock as well as printing a photo of a tree-feller on a log of wood as part of a birthday present.”
But there have been hiccups too, including a contract with a glass company to do an installation in a house where the glass was wrongly measured and damage was done to the customer’s house in the process.
“In this situation we had to take the blame and fix it. This involved visiting the customer personally to apologise, re-measuring, re-ordering and fixing the installation as well as sending a big bunch of apologetic flowers to the customer.”
Janah says she learnt from this to be cautious about contracting work out “as no-one looks after your business like you do”.
Constantly working to deadlines is another challenge, especially with a large job.
“But we have a really efficient team of people working for us and great systems in place to ensure all deadlines are met.”
In growing their business the partners are working hard to get their name out there. They show their product at meetings with people in the design industry such as creative architects, interior designers and manufacturers.
Looking ahead ten years Janah would love to see real growth; “for us to go nationwide, employ more staff, continue to embrace new printing technologies, and for The Print Tank to be known as the No.1 printing company with a point of difference”.
As a mum Janah admits being in business can be a juggle and a balancing act. “
My husband works in a corporate role so quite often the onus is on me to do a lot of everyday things with the kids, so it can be challenging at times. But it’s about being organised and prioritising your workload.”
Her advice to someone thinking of launching a business is to be patient and accept advice from people who have already established a successful business.
“Ultimately, you need to be passionate and believe in what you are doing. At the end of the day, the blood, sweat and tears are worth it and it’s incredibly satisfying when your hard work pays off. That’s an amazing reward in itself.”
So, what does she wish she had known before starting the business?
“To just be patient and if you work through one day at a time; things will fall into place.”