Alkesh Shah, owner of Iselin, New Jersey-based Allegra Marketing Print & Mail, started in the print industry while still in school.
He joined a small Sir Speedy franchise during his four years of college and learned the business from the bottom up.
"My first day included hand collage, black-and-white booklet pages and gluing some memo pads. Not only did I like the humming noise of the printing press and all the hustle of helping the customer, but I also enjoyed meeting new people from all walks of life," he explained.
He was hooked from then on. Here, Shah further discusses his thoughts on the industry.
Print Professional (PP): Tell us about your background.
Alkesh Shah (AS): I grew up in [the] state of Gujarat in India and attended a vocational printing trade school during 11th and 12th grade. I immigrated to the United States before I finished. I was fortunate enough to start a high school career in Elizabeth, N.J. where I was able to take graphic arts classes during both my junior and senior year to keep my interests alive. After graduating from school, I was initially looking at a career as a computer programmer, but I joined the year book club at Kean University during my first year of undergraduate studies and soon realized that this was it; it was my passion. Kean University happened to be one of few universities which had a B.S. in Graphic Communications along with a minor in Printing Management.
PP: What is the best business advice you've received?
AS: My college professor became my mentor and suggested that I should try the sales side of the business after getting the basics of all production and back-end operations. That guided my path while working in the print shop and it ranged from bindery to copier operator, customer service to accounts receivable and payables, desktop publishing to the prepress area. The most important thing my boss told me after graduating was to start my own print shop instead of doing my MBA and trying to climb the corporate ladder. During the early '90s, it was unheard of hiring a salesperson for a small quick franchise-like operation.