2020 Women in Print and Promo: Sharon Luka, Ignite Graphics LLC
Ignite Graphics LLC, Elmhurst, Ill.
It’s hard to miss the logo of Ignite Graphics LLC. The rich aesthetic of a clean, blue flame draws the eye of consumers—a deliberate decision made by ownership. As explained on the company’s website, the pilot starts most fires, and one of the hottest parts of a fire is blue. Yes, the company provides hot-ticket items and services, including envelopes, wide format, packaging, bindery, fulfillment and direct mail. But, its logo also represents managing member Sharon Luka’s fiery approach to business.
After spending a decade in the banking industry, Luka took four years off to be a stay-at-home mom. Her husband, Lance, had built a career in print, an industry that intrigued Luka enough to open her own print broker and fulfillment company as a complement to his at a friend’s prompting.
“[I got the opportunity] … about 16 years ago through a great friend who needed print help,” she shared. “I was able to learn the business of print, while at the same time, learn how to run my own small company. All of this was accomplished working from home while raising my two children.”
With 10 years of experience under her, Luka took the skills she had learned and nurtured, and invested them in what became Ignite Graphics LLC. Luka stays busy overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company with the assistance of her management team. Now that she has a strong support system in place, she looks forward to shifting her focus to sales efforts.
What Brings Her Joy Professionally and Personally
I find joy in the business relationships and the success I achieve with my customers, vendors and employees. I truly feel that I am part of an extended family that works together to accomplish finished jobs that [make] all of us proud. Some days are easier than others, but in the end, we did it together. In life, overall, I get the most joy from my husband and two sons. It has been such an awesome journey raising these two and time spent with them now is priceless. It, too, came with challenges, but having the best supporting husband and partner in life made it all worthwhile.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
The key career achievement that I am most proud of is starting my current company, Ignite Graphics. It was a leap of faith and all bets were against us, but we went all in and fought hard. Here we are six years later. We have somehow grown by 15 percent or more each year, and I am quite confident that we will be a strong player in this industry for many years to come. My boys have always been a source of inspiration for me, so having them be old enough to witness this accomplishment from beginning to end was key. They often tell me how proud they are of me. What an outstanding reward all around.
On Working in a Traditionally Male-Dominated Industry
I understand our industry has often been referred to as the good ol’ boys club, but I personally feel as though I have been received by both men and women as an equal. As with anything, as long as you put your best in to learn and work hard, respect will be earned. More and more, I am meeting and developing business relationships with many bright, successful and intriguing women. Networking with these women on social media and other means can help us unite and remain strong and equal to our male counterparts. Continuing to improve my golf game can’t hurt either.
Her Job Advice to Women
The advice I would give to a woman contemplating a career in print or promo would be to go for it. If you have thought about it, that means something has attracted you to it. Play on it and you never know. It can be an extremely exciting career path for many and offers an array of specialized positions. If you enjoy being part of a group project and are a good team player, you will most likely succeed. This industry is still growing, and there is plenty of room for you.
Her Favorite Leader
Who is a good leader? A good leader is someone who can captivate an audience and teach them great lessons. I think there has, and continues to be, many great leaders in the world, and to make light of what is happening today, I am going to reflect on some lessons I learned from a very magical leader:
- Build trusting relationships. These true friends help, guide and empower you. They are always around to help you prepare for the big moments and offer encouragement and support at times of need.
- Align yourself with positive role models and follow their lead. They help us make better versions of ourselves.
- Put your best foot forward and be as beautiful as you can be both inside and out.
- Follow your dreams, take the chance and put in the hard work.
“Have courage and be kind ... Where there is kindness there is goodness and where there is goodness there is magic.” -- Cinderella
Her Upcoming Goals
This next year will be exciting for me professionally, as I am currently working on getting Ignite Graphics certified as a WBE-certified company. I look forward to the new business and networking opportunities that often come with this new platform. I will be happy to join forces with other women to inspire others to get out and become business owners or pursue a career path they too desire. Personally, I am looking forward to catching up with many friends and family that have taken a back seat to my business adventure. It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but was completely worth it.
How She Maintains a Work/Life Balance
Trying to balance work and life during this COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be challenging for sure. Praying that both my family at home and at work stay safe and healthy and doing my best to make sure work continues to come in to support us are my main concerns. Fortunately, my children are young adults, 17 and 23, and are very capable of taking care of whatever is expected of them, which allows me the time to focus on work. The silver lining is having them home together safe and sound. Watching them prevail through these tough times is incredibly motivating and gives me hope for the future.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.