Dilip Parthasarathy, Owner and President of Image Direct, LLC., came to America as a student, but has always held a deep-seated passion for printing. It was this passion that encouraged him to seek opportunities in the industry, eventually leading to his purchase of Image Direct in March, 2018.
Tell us the story of your involvement with your business.
I’m the president of Image Direct, which does direct and print mail. In March of 2018, Image Direct, a 24 year old company based here in Frederick. I was raised in a printing and direct mail family and wanted to continue our legacy here in the United States. In 1950, my grandfather started a printing plant in India, and my father and brother now manage it. I came to the U.S. for my Master’s in print management as a student, and was in IT for a few years as a consultant in supply chain management. Printing has always been my passion, and I was looking for an opportunity to make an impact here. The opportunity to acquire this robust manufacturing business came to my attention, and I became the proud owner last year. Usually small businesses are hit or miss, so I wanted something which had already been established, but upon which I could improve the processes and create a richer environment for my employees.
What has been your experience with owning a business in Frederick?
I recently got certified as an MBE—as a Minority Business Enterprise owner—and I’ve started to get bids for Frederick City. We are bidding on a few jobs, so that gives us a lot of opportunities to grow. It is only a matter of time until we are engaging with them. Everything is a process here.
Being in Frederick is perfect for businesses such as mine since it is so well located in proximity to the Baltimore and DC area markets, which have the ideal mix of non-profit organizations and government agencies that are driven by direct mail communications.
What are the easiest and hardest parts of being an entrepreneur and owning a business?
There is a difficulty in finding experienced equipment operators and other tradespeople in our area. This drove us to establish a training curriculum for new hires with little to no experience.
And what is easy? Having a business and working for myself. I don’t think anything in life is easy. It requires responsibility and dedication. The thing is, you have to be responsible all the time, and for me, every day is a new day. There are challenges in every business related to finance, staff, and production. But definitely, when buying a business, you acquire all the good and bad parts and it takes time to stabilize.
What has prepared you for the difficulties of owning a business?
My family owns a printing and packing business. I have been working since the age of 18 with my dad at his print and packaging plant, which has made me feel empowered. My formal education in printing has been instrumental with implementing new, innovative technologies.
With experience both in and out of printing, I was fortunate enough to have acquired a well rounded mix of skills which will help me lead this company to higher growth and increased profitability.
What are your goals for the future of Image Direct?
We currently outsource project components valued at over two million dollars every year. Currently the plan is that we bring the capability to produce those outsourced components in house. To facilitate this growth, I require a 200% larger facility, an investment of 2.5 million dollars.
Have you had any challenges specific to being a minority business owner?
Definitely. Being young and with an accent provides me with some hurtles to overcome, but I am thankful for those who have decided to continue their business relationships with me and my company as well as those who have thrown their support behind us in a transparent effort to improve the stability and growth we all seek. We provide all that is required when it comes to quality, job skills, and the delivery of an economically produced and market competitive product. But at the end of the day, it is up to the customer to make the decision to work with us based on the products we can offer, not any other factors
Do you have any advice for other people who are considering buying a business or starting their own?
I believe in knowledge. It’s a powerful tool. By going to school you will be stronger at the fundamental level. Secondly, exposure comes through experience. Try to acquire the broadest range of skills you can before jumping into the entrepreneurial arena.
What would your advice be to potential minority business owners who are looking to get started on their own venture?
Go to trade shows to observe and get educated on new trends. Seek out advice from the experts in the field. Always take guidance from subject matter experts.
Before spending your time and money, determine the market saturation and find out what will make you, your company and your product unique.