Essential Print Services

Derby-based businesswoman, Yvonne Gorman, has been the driving force behind Essential Print Services since April 2011.

The business is located on the prestigious Pride Park in Derby and pride themselves on making professionals look professional, by offering competitive prices, exceptional customer service and spectacular print.

The company is one of the most positively reviewed, non-ecommerce printers in the UK, proving that small businesses can make a big impact.

From business cards, brochures and leaflets, through to folders, flyers and promotional items, Essential Print Services can handle conventional full-colour printing, to the most bizarre print requests and deliver orders throughout the UK.

Heavily involved in the local business community, Yvonne has been crowned Small Business Saturday UK Hero for the sixth year running. In 2019, Yvonne was the runner up of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and in 2016, she won the accolade of ‘Inspirational Woman in Business’. Most recently, this year, Yvonne was awarded the prestigious ‘Francesca Kemp Award for Small Business’ at Small Business Saturday UK’s special online event celebrating brilliant small businesses across the UK.

My pseudonym is the Print Evangelist – someone enthusiastic about the print industry, a print perfectionist and someone who sees creative potential in all print projects.

It takes many years to become a Print Evangelist, but with over 20 years under my belt, working in a male-dominated industry, I think I can safely call myself just that.

I started as a graphic designer the day after my final exam at secondary school. I chose not to pursue the conventional academic route and landed myself an apprenticeship at a local public relations agency. My father, Dave Gorman, worked in print all of his life until he retired fifteen years ago. I never intended to follow in his footsteps and work in the printing industry, but, it is lovely to have that unique common ground with him.

Throughout my career, I have worked for several agencies and printers where I had a hands-on approach for print work and influenced the sales strategy. With Essential Print Services, I have put all those years of experience into practice. I started Essential Print Services in 2011 to provide quality printed collateral that helps businesses grow and prosper. To find the best solution at the best price possible and to do all this with exceptional service.

My father was in the printing industry all of his life and although he retired from printing several years ago, I never intended to follow in his footsteps. I saw it as a male-dominated, dirty and harsh industry.

When I was younger, my Father would bring home off-cuts of paper, board and colour books, which I converted into something creative. Seeing the colours and textures sparked off my imagination. At school my favourite subjects were English and Media Studies, which was where I enjoyed learning about the advertising industry. I am also highly organised, resourceful and have a passion for efficiency so, put these elements together and I suppose it was evitable I would become a graphic designer.

Growing up, running my own business never crossed my mind. None of my family or friends ran businesses of their own. Becoming a business owner was never an aspiration of mine.

What changed?

In my twenties, I began networking. I represented other people’s ventures and took my role seriously. I felt privileged to represented someone’s small business. I enjoyed seeing the positive results that came directly from my hard work. My enthusiasm showed because people would ask, ‘do you own the business?’ I lost count the number of times people told me I would be great at running an enterprise, and I would discard their comments as being ridiculous.

Over ten years ago, I became a co-director of a promotions business with plans of a buy-out. I had the sole responsibility of their Derby office. I used my established network to build a reputation and brand. Two years in, communications broke down. I plucked up the courage to approach my co-directors to organise an exit.

During discussions, I spotted an opportunity, and I recalled the comments of others. I seized the moment and suggested  I could run my own business. Astonishingly, my co-directors agreed and terminated my contract with immediate effect. Within 24 hours, with limited funds to support myself and no guarantee where the next order would emerge, I was running my own business.

I had faith that my peer group was correct in their presumption that I was ‘entrepreneur material’. If I was going to take a leap of faith, now was ‘the’ time to do it.

Within a week, I had a limited company, an office on the prestigious Pride Park, a logo, a website and I was fulfilling orders. Hand-delivering the first consignments was a proud moment.

I mustered every ounce of resourcefulness, efficiency, resilience and creativity.

During the first twelve months, I was the receptionist, salesperson, marketing, graphic designer, production manager, delivery driver, accounts department and customer service but, achieved a profit. I employed my first, full-time staff member after one year and went on to create four full-time positions.

I am proud that I have built a business that remains cash positive. It has never relied on loans or used an overdraft facility. Although I took advantage of the Bounce Back Loan I have not touched a penny of it.

My focus and determination are to raise the standards of printing and improve the reputation of the industry, starting at a local level.

Using my design experience, I want to ensure that every file received is checked thoroughly. I have designed a unique 12-point artwork-check process.

I passionately believe that all printed collateral should help clients promote themselves, so if I think another product would have a more significant impact, I mention it. I want to delight clients when they open their parcels, so I designed a delivery pack, which contains jelly beans and quirky stationery items, which I change regularly.

The strapline, which has remained unchanged since 2011; smarter, better, fresher print, encapsulates the print principles, that I believe, has helped me maintain a successful business.

In the first couple of years, my main challenge was taking time off away from the business. I felt incredibly guilty to spend time away from the business, even at the weekends when most of our industry shuts down. It began to have a negative effect on my relationships. I knew I needed to find help and even though I was sceptical about life coaching, I paid for several sessions to explore the reasons why I was feeling the way I did.  Those feelings still creep in every now but the difference is that I know how to deal with them.

The latest challenge is the pandemic. My business has seen a huge Downturn in sales. I estimate that by the end of this financial year, I will see my sales reduce by £250k. I have never had to make someone redundant before so another challenge was getting to grips with doing it the right way (legally and morally). One thing I wasn’t expecting is the emotional turmoil of seeing my business in free fall and having to make such a tight knit team redundant. One friend described what I was feeling as grief; I was mourning the loss of my business and team. 

But, my business is still going and by staying connected with peer support groups, I’ve not had to go through this alone.

I believe the legacy from COVID-19 in the business world will be kindness and compassion. Its highlighted that people are going through tough times and we should be supportive of one another.

If someone has impressed you or they’ve done a good job, let them know their business or job is worth fighting for. Small acts of kindness go a long way, especially during these challenging times. Spending just a few minutes to write a positive review, check-in with someone or to post a LinkedIn recommendation can make a huge difference to someone’s mindset. It could mean the difference between fighting to keep their business alive or shutting the doors for good.

Another positive is that people have been forced to change the way they do business and the majority of cases have been positive, making business more streamlined and profitable.

My main driver to continue in business is to see that the items I have printed are working hard for my customers. To achieve this, I discuss my clients’ requirements and help them plan what they need. I often suggest ideas that clients have not even considered. When I hear; “that’s a great idea. I’ve not even thought about that!” It is music to my ears.

As an advocate of the local business community and a Derby Ambassador; I wanted to build a sustainable business which could help charities with free, or heavily discounted printing and business support. We have supported the same charity for the past seven years; Me & Dee Charity. As well as this, we help other local initiatives on an ad hoc basis.

As well as running Essential Print Services, I volunteer for several initiatives. I am one of several Small Business Saturday UK Heroes, which has resulted in two visits to Downing Street and being featured in Forbes Online.

I am a Director of Marketing Derby; an inward investment agency for the City of Derby, whereby I utilise my extensive network and this is yet another voluntary role.

I host a free, monthly networking group on behalf of the Federation of Small Businesses.

As a personal project, I started the East Midlands’ first ‘Happy Café’ run in conjunction with a worldwide charity; Action for Happiness, which aims to increase the happiness in the world by bringing together like-minded people from all walks of life.

When customers buy print from Essential Print Services, they are not just supporting a local business but, they are supporting the local community too. The ethos of ‘giving back’ has been in the company’s DNA since it began in 2011. For us, it’s not just about profits and creating jobs; it’s about giving back and helping others to thrive too

Outside of work I am committed to my professional development and have an obsession with learning. I regularly attend seminars and always have a business or marketing book to hand.

I love hosting events, parties and dinners; one of my favourites was a huge garden party in 2018 for the Royal Wedding. We created a wedding reception in our back garden, we showed the ceremony on a big screen, guests wore wedding attire and partied the afternoon and night away.

My three top tips for someone starting a business would be; find a network of people who you admire and you can learn from. Meet up with them regularly and make it clear what you can offer in return because you never know when you’ll need their help or advice and visa versa.

Have faith in yourself. There are times when sales take a temporary dip, a team members leaves or a job doesn’t go to plan and I must have steadfast faith in myself. Hold tight and ride it out.

Ask. Pick up the phone and ask. Ask for your dream job, ask for the business, ask for help.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

The one person who has impacted my life is my first boss; Donna Hill. When I left school I had no idea what I wanted to be. I knew I loved creative writing, being organised and stationery so, a job in administration was the peak of my ambition at the time. Despite having a passion for learning, I had no desire to go into full-time college or University; I wanted to learn on the job and I looked for apprenticeships.

I attended several interviews, most of which offered me the job but nothing felt right. That was until I saw an advert for a PR Assistant as a local public relations agency. I had no idea what the job entailed but Donna interviewed me, offered me the job and the rest they say is history.

Little did I know at the time but this first role would provide the first step on my career ladder in the creative industry. During my late teens, my personal life was turbulent but having the sanctuary of the office with a Donna as a mentor and seeing, first hand, all of the things she was achieving, steered me on a different path. If I had chosen one of the other job offers, I honestly do not know where I would have ended up. Thank you Donna.

The one key leadership lesson I’ve learned is delegate! In the first few years of business I was convinced that no one could do tasks as well as me; no one could do ‘it’ the way I do it.  Even though I had staff at the time, I would feel constantly on edge in case they made a mistake. Well guess what, we’re only human and employees will make mistakes but, so will I. The more I delegated and gave staff responsibility, the more they shined and showed me what they were capable off, which in turn, helped me trust them.

One of my biggest achievements stemmed from delegation; I had my first ever ten day holiday abroad last year and I had no telephone calls, no emails and no Whatsapp messages. For the first time in eight years I could totally switch off and enjoy time with friends and family while my team kept the cogs turning. When I returned, sales had exceeded expectations, positive reviews were posted online and within an hour of being in the office, I was caught up with workload. Being able to leave the office for periods time with little disruption is many entrepreneurs’ holy grail and I had achieved it through solid processes and giving my team full autonomy.

Essential Print Services