We talked to David McCalib of Printforia about Customized Apparel and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David McCalib: Like everyone else, it’s been unsettling for us. However, my family and I try to focus on the positives around us. Under normal circumstances, we would normally be in the middle of school events, practices, sports games, etc. We appreciate the downtime we’ve been given. With fewer places to go and things to do, we’ve been more present in each other’s lives, and we see that as a blessing. In my spare time, I advise FixTheMask.com, a company that has innovated with an essential brace to improve surgical masks’ wearability and performance.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Printforia.
David McCalib: Over the past two decades, I’ve had the incredible pleasure and privilege of working with some of the world’s most innovative brands and brains when it comes to manufacturing, robotics, and AI. At its core, everything in this combination of disciplines was about efficiency. A lack thereof meant additional cost and waste at every production point—costs that are ultimately paid by the consumer.
Call it kismet, but along the way, I met my now business partner, David McClure, and we started tossing around the idea of Supply Chain ZeroTM, or a zero-waste supply chain. We asked ourselves where we can be most effective in applying our theory—collapsing the supply chain into minimal steps to reduce cost and our carbon footprint. The answer was right there, apparel.
The mechanisms are already in place. Consumers and brands alike are already turning their ideas into digital files, adding them to products, and then sending them out to a sequence of vendors in the supply chain to produce, print, package, and ship. But we knew how to do it better.
At that moment, Printforia was born, and so too the idea that you can have a custom-made product truly on-demand.
How does Printforia innovate?
David McCalib: Our ability to innovate largely depends on the talent we bring on board. We rely on phenomenal individuals who have a healthy obsession with what they do, and we trust them to do it at Printforia. With great minds working towards a single goal, we’ve managed to pick up incredible momentum over the past year. We focus our energy on inventing and simplifying the attributes that never change in the customer’s eyes—delighting the customer with relentless delivery of the highest quality experience with the shortest lead time.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
David McCalib: We’ve been incredibly lucky. COVID-19 hit supply chains hard in the early months, but our entire infrastructure was built to survive scenarios like this one. By minimizing the breakage points in our supply chain, we didn’t face the same problems that traditional retail supply chains faced.
That’s not to say things didn’t change for us. We’re enforcing strict safety rules and taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our employees.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David McCalib: Launching a startup is always scary. Launching a startup in the middle of a pandemic…you might call that crazy. We’ve had to make difficult decisions about growth and how to most effectively use our resources.
Ultimately, we learned that we have an incredible support system around us. Our investors, team, and community truly believe in what we’re trying to accomplish. We couldn’t be more grateful.
The biggest lesson learned is how to see around corners. The ambiguity, variability, and unknown that are present forced us to ask many more questions and dive deeper upstream. It helps to prevent problems downstream that can impact our customers.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you protect yourself and Printforia in the future?
David McCalib: Personally, I deal with stress and anxiety by talking it out. It’s brought me much closer to those around me, and it has also uncovered invaluable moments of truth for me personally and the direction of the business.
There’s no guarantee you can fail-proof your business. The best we can do is innovate better and faster than everyone else.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David McCalib: Everyone, and no one. Because we’re changing the way the supply chain is understood, we stand to be everyone’s competition. However, that means we can also help everyone rise with us.
Your final thoughts?
David McCalib: We are living in historical times and do not have to ask permission to change the world. It’s never been easier to make a lasting impact, and by coming together (even if it’s socially distanced), we can accomplish so much.