By Kem Martin
“Somewhere over the Rainbow, way up high / There’s a printer I heard of that doesn’t give alibis.”
As they enter their next frontier of professional leadership, Joseph and Robert Cavey are poised to take their company, Rainbow Lithography, Baltimore, to do great things. Moving from a focus on press operation to sales and then to marketing, Joseph has done it all with a preeminent focus on spreading a passion for print he developed as a young man.
The consummate pressman’s pressman, he grew up in the industry, having run sheetfeds at eight Baltimore-area firms before venturing out on his own 16 years ago. Like so many other firms, Rainbow began in the founder’s basement. Its next step up wasn’t much more glamorous, as the firm moved into the basement of a nearby funeral parlor, where “the smell of flowers overtook the smell of the solvents,” Cavey notes.
Then came the job of a lifetime — Cavey’s cousin was starting Hammerjacks, a now-legendary Baltimore rock-n-roll bar that owed much of its early buzz to an aggressive give-away campaign that left Baltimore blanketed in the bar’s bumper stickers. Cavey partnered with his younger brother Rob, now vice president, to handle the increased volume. The pair printed the bumper stickers on the firm’s Multilith, and would soon be producinHammerjacks posters and calendars as well. Suddenly, the little operation became a two-man/two-shift print shop.
“… Where trouble melts like little ink drops / A place where the presses never stop / that’s where you’ll find me…”
Since those early days, Rainbow has moved four times — “all for growth reasons,” notes Cavey — and the tenacity it displayed doing printing for bars has led to a new breed of larger accounts, including investment firm T. Rowe Price, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Baltimore Zoo, Cyphers Agency and North Charles Street Design.
Cavey, who credits his wife, company controller Gayle Cavey, and his brother as key components to Rainbow’s success, has been able to assemble a smart-growing organization that over the years has added full prepress and postpress capabilities. A knowledgeable and veteran staff — including one of Joseph Cavey’s old managers from his pressman career — ensures top quality.
The firm, which had previously run four one- and two-color presses, recently purchased a 20″x28″ five-color Komori Lithrone from local dealer Atlantic Graphic Systems, which has led to increased throughput capacity and reliability for multicolor projects.
The new press opens the door to a wider range of projects, and has prompted the firm’s founder to concentrate on innovative ideas to attract higher-end clients such as the BMA.
Earlier this year, the company got its creative juices flowing with an innovative skit, presented in the BMA’s auditorium at a design-industry function of 500 attendees. Capitalizing on the company’s name, Cavey had composed new lyrics to “Over the Rainbow.” Utilizing a musical soundtrack for background, the firm put on a skit that was the hit of the evening.
It began with an employee’s spouse, Kendra Keiser, taking the stage in full costume as Dorothy, followed by Cavey as the Wizard; his brother Rob as the Lion; Gayle Cavey as the Wicked Witch; and receptionist Tasha Lloyd as the Good Witch.
Shop foreman Mike Steigerwald was the Tin Man and Plant Superintendent Richard Keiser was the Scarecrow. Sales reps Todd Helm and Andrew Brochi — dressed as munchkins — spread through the crowd and gave attendees shopping bags with the company logo printed on them, as well as 4” lollipops with the company card attached.
The presentation, said Cavey, cost about $1,000, created tons of goodwill toward the firm, and to date has netted six new clients.
“… All the smart people go to Rainbow / Why then, oh why can’t I? …”
It was just the beginning for a firm that now touts a full range of multi-color commercial print capabilities. And Cavey, who originally brought in a number of the firm’s key accounts as its lead salesman, keeps having innovative marketing ideas that stress getting higher-end buyers to keep Rainbow Lithography at the top of their list.
Another design-industry event the firm just attended featured a unique giveaway: a set of four different wrapping papers designed for each season of the year. For Rainbow and it’s founder, it represents a new level of marketing savvy. Cavey is used to selling anyone and everyone on the qualities of the firm; the wrapping paper sells the firm’s image with a company logo printed on the reverse side.
Still, the paper, another hit with clients and potential clients, proves the firm is as popular as every within the design community.
“People don’t want to see your samples,” explains Cavey. “they know what you do — you’re a printer. But with this, they’ll remember who we are every time they use it.”
Kem Martin is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.