Updated: Aug 15, 2020
"We realized we could really change the business landscape of our community, because we could actually get the same quality materials that these people are charging obscene amounts for, and actually balance out the cost of it.”
It’s More Than a Pen
Have you ever looked at a branded pen and wondered who made it? To be completely honest I’d never thought much of it until I sat down to talk with KB Brown, owner of Northside-based printing company Wolfpack Promotionals. An entrepreneur at heart, KB understands that the most successful businesses are those filling an unmet need. Back in 2014, he’d purchased pens from printing giant Custom Ink to promote his other business. About a week later, his company’s name and logo had been completely rubbed off. That’s when he saw his niche: a local print shop that offers a high-quality, personalized printing experience.
“Even now most of our promotional products are for companies. Some of the non-profit organizations, they come to us for their swag... but it’s still hard even now, locally, for promotional products.”
While KB’s vision for his business was clear, like all businesses they ran into their fair share of challenges. In addition to the typical challenges all new business owners face, they also had to deal with the belief that a print shop is basically a t-shirt shop. While they do sell some garments (like their Alpha Wear line of printed t-shirts and sweatshirts), the real money’s in promotional products. Rather than wait for a hundred people to stop-by and buy a $20 t-shirt, they secure contracts from local companies and non-profits. In a world where success often means who you know, securing these contracts hasn’t been easy. While running Wolfpack out of his house, KB focused on making the connections he needed to grow his business. His big break came when a friend of his learned the Minnesota Swarm lacrosse team was looking for someone to do their printing. From there, the quality of his work began to speak for itself.
Their Building, Their Block
When they decided to rent a space for their business, they initially set-up shop in Northeast due to the lack of available vacant lots in North. Their rent wasn’t cheap though, so they were looking for alternatives. That’s when Marcus Owens (NEON’s former President) suggested they move into NEON’s space as a member. Raised on the Northside, KB had always wanted to open a storefront in his neighborhood and used his time at NEON to determine the viability of his business.
After doing some market research he was pleased to discover that there weren’t any full-service print shops in North Minneapolis.
“What we’ve found since we’ve been here is that no one wants to do any real work with businesses in North Minneapolis. We can barely get them to deliver stuff. I’ve had Amazon refund me because their delivery drivers won’t come over here.”
He’s passionate about owning a community-centered business and takes pride in where it’s located. This doesn’t mean operating a business in North is easy. Not only does he have to fight the mindset that you have to leave North to buy what you need, but Northside business owners have to deal with deliberate underinvestment that continues to this day. As KB explained, there’s still a reluctance to invest in North Minneapolis businesses. While they’ve been doubling their sales for the last few years, they need access to loans and other types of capital to bring their business to the next level.
“Printing Made Easy”
I lost count of the number of people that stopped by during our interview. Wolfpack's gained quite the reputation for giving the same amount of time and care to all print jobs. One woman came in to get KB’s input on her t-shirt design, and he walked her through the placement of the wording and the font. It’s this face-to-face interaction that keeps people coming back. All you need when you come to Wolfpack is an idea: KB has a knack for pulling an idea out of a client’s head and creating the perfect design. Rather than submitting your information online and hoping for the best, Wolfpack looks through each order form. If they see something wrong, they’ll fix it. It just makes good business sense: when your products look good, Wolfpack looks good.
“I think my favorite part is pulling something out of someone’s head, an idea they have that we then print, and it being exactly what they were looking for.”
KB also has a soft spot for small businesses and loves playing a part in helping them grow. With business promotion often the last priority for a new business, KB wants Wolfpack to be an accessible resource for Northside entrepreneurs. For KB, the more businesses in North the better. He remembers a time when you didn’t have to leave the Northside for anything, and he knows the community deserves to have goods and services within walking distance of their homes. He wants West Broadway to once again be a vibrant commercial corridor, full of a diverse array of local businesses that make the Northside a destination.
Written by Anna Schmiel (NEON Community Engagement Coordinator)
Photo Credit: Anna Schmiel (NEON Community Engagement Coordinator)
To reach Wolfpack Promotionals call (612) 888-5174 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For orders please email WPPorder@gmail.com. They are located at 2038B West Broadway, Minneapolis, MN 55411. Hours are 10am to 6pm Monday – Friday.
For more information about their services, please follow them on social media or go to their website.
Shop their Alpha Wear line at: https://your-company-name-c72c0b0a-56f5-4e7a-a1e5-be762715e094.printavo.com/merch/alpha-wear-apparel