Greg Muzzillo, founder of Cleveland-based Proforma, never planned on being a bigwig in the printing and promotional products industry. In fact, a career in print merely was an afterthought. Friendship, a bit of cash and a soup diet were all it took to get there—or so the story goes.
After graduating from college in 1977, Greg and his college fraternity brother/roommate embarked on separate journeys. Greg got his first taste of the corporate world when he joined the staff of a big 8 CPA firm as an auditor. Meanwhile, his friend went to work for a small print broker. Neither got off to a great start, and they decided to combine their respective talents to launch Proforma.
"He didn't like his boss. I didn't like auditing. But we figured he knew the industry and sales, and I knew accounting," Greg recalled. "We could eat Campbell's soup for a year, so we each put in $100. We bought some business cards, stationery, an answering machine and a used file cabinet and started knocking on doors."
Proforma has since grown into a $312 million-plus organization.
In 1986, Greg developed the Proforma franchise model—a network of independent distributors working together to build strong supplier relationships. He views the Proforma owners as an extended family, so it only seemed logical to bring his own relatives into the mix.
About 20 years ago, Greg bought out his former partner. Today, four of Greg's family members work for the company. His wife, Vera Muzzillo, and her brother, Steven Hillegass, work for the Support Center. Vera serves as Proforma's CEO, while Steven runs the Mergers and Acquisitions group. Together, Muzzillo and Vera have 10 children—most of them have worked at Proforma over the years in internship positions, meetings and event support. Currently, two children, Greg Muzzillo, Jr. and Theresa (Muzzillo) Mueller, are in their first year of business as Proforma franchise owners.