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Michael Nova on Building a Leading Label Printing Business

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Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Michael Nova on Building a Leading Label Printing Business

In today’s conversation, we’re speaking with Michael Nova, the dynamic CEO of Nova Custom Label Printing. With a fascinating journey that includes overcoming personal adversity and steering a business through challenging waters, Michael’s story is one of resilience and innovation.

Nova Custom Label Printing, a New York-based company, has carved out a niche in the custom label and sticker printing industry, offering a diverse array of products and services to a clientele that includes giants like Google and L’Oreal. From material sourcing to marketing strategies, and from addressing sustainability in the industry to providing exceptional customer service, Michael shares his insights on running a successful business.

We delve into the challenges he’s faced, the industry trends he’s witnessing, and his advice for new entrepreneurs, while also exploring his vision for the future of Nova Custom Label Printing.

 Michael Nova

Introduction to the Business

Michael, can you start by giving us an overview of Nova Custom Printing, and what motivated you to start a business in custom label and sticker printing?

We provide branding and marketing solutions to clients nationwide. That means everything from designing creative packaging options to custom signage for events and retail, to manufacturing unique custom printed products to propel businesses forward. The company started in 1995 when, as VP of an event planning firm, I quit my job to start Nova Music Productions Inc. That company served local musicians with business services, and I grew the business through word-of-mouth. As we were growing, we were being referred to companies outside the music industry, and today, as Nova Custom Printing, our business is 95% outside of the music industry, and more geared towards startups and major corporations.

Overcoming Adversity

You mentioned coming back from the brink of blindness and near bankruptcy. Can you elaborate on this experience and how it shaped both your personal life and business approach?

As both an entrepreneur and a musician, I wanted to make a difference in the world with a creative project called, “X: The Human Condition”, as an exploration of the human condition through music and film.

Everyone I presented the project to the music industry told me it would be impossible to complete. Since I couldn’t secure funding for the project otherwise, I funded it myself because I felt it was my mission in life. Unfortunately, as a first-time director/producer, I was faced with numerous roadblocks to overcome. One after another, setbacks led me to find myself in a difficult financial position where I was faced with near bankruptcy. At that time, I became seriously ill and almost lost my vision permanently. I was literally in a dark place, and the prognosis was not good.

But I proved the experts wrong, eventually manifesting a miraculous comeback both financially and healthwise. I learned the value of gratitude and appreciation for the small things in life that I didn’t recognize while I was driven to complete the project. I wanted to share my story with the world to inspire others to never give up.

So, I created the website RiseUpEight.org based on the concept of the Japanese proverb, “fall down seven times, stand up eight.” The Phrase that I felt appropriate to me was “fall down seven times, rise up eight”, because when we are faced with adversity, we don’t just stand, we rise above our circumstances to do what we need to in order to overcome challenges in life. For this reason, my personal slogan is, “Never look at adversity as the enemy, look at it as your ally”. I say this because it creates a strength within us that serves us to become the people that we are meant to be.

As my health and vision improved, my business grew to higher heights to where it is stronger than it ever was before. I released the “X: The Human Condition” project to rave reviews, and the RiseUpEight.org website is now a worldwide forum of people sharing stories of overcoming difficulties in life.

Meanwhile, my vision is now back, health stronger than ever, and the business has grown exponentially. At Nova Custom Printing, we strive to be of service to our clients as valuable partners to support their success by providing unique solutions to their business challenges.

Building Resilience

What strategies or mindsets helped you maintain resilience during those challenging times, and how have you applied these to running your business?

There are always ups and downs when you are an entrepreneur and running your own business. Businesses always run hot and cold and you never know what’s around the corner. Phone could be ringing off the hook one day and the next day nothing, so you have to prepare yourself for the down times. During those times, work on your business. Catch up on paperwork, implement new procedures that can help your business run smoother. There is always something to do to improve how you run your business when the phones are silent. I think my experience with overcoming adversity helps me keep things in perspective. Health is most important, so if you are overworked, you can’t stay healthy and that’s stops your business cold. That’s the last thing you want so you need to concentrate on your health first and foremost.

If problems arise, and they certainly will, just realized that it’s part of running a business. Adversity and being an entrepreneur go hand in hand. Problems pop up every single day that you need to take care of and you will find yourself acting as a fireman putting out fires every day but that’s part of the job description.

Client Acquisition

Serving high-profile clients such as Google, Amex, and L’Oreal is no small feat. How did you go about acquiring these big clients, and what advice would you give to new entrepreneurs aiming to work with large corporations?

Most of the business we receive this through word-of-mouth. What we try to do is become invaluable go to vendors for our clients, and they know that whenever they need something important done quickly, they can turn to us because we specialize in rush orders. We developed a strong reputation for being the fastest in the industry in arguably the fastest city in the world, New York City.

Material Sourcing

Where do you source the materials for your labels and stickers? Have you faced any challenges in ensuring consistent quality?

We source materials mainly here in the USA, but occasionally overseas if there are problems obtaining specific materials here stateside. We always check from material quality before printing any order so we haven’t faced any challenges in that area, however if we do find material that is not up to snuff, we immediately led our vendors know so that they can replace them if they are faulty.

Industry Trends

What current trends are you seeing in the custom label and sticker printing industry, and how do you stay ahead of the curve?

We recently wrote an article on this subject.

Certainly there is a move towards sustainable, biodegradable and compostable labels.

We are finding that more and more of our clients are moving towards these types of labels and more sustainable materials. We are constantly looking at new ways to innovate in sustainable ways. How we stay ahead of the curve is doing research on the industry and what the new developments are.

Marketing Strategies

How do you market your business, and which channels have been most effective for you in attracting new customers?

Our number one channel of marketing has been focusing on positive word-of-mouth from our existing client base. Since the inception of our business in 1995, we have been focused on customer service and how we can be of service to our clients, not as just a vendor but as a partner in assisting them with unique branding and marketing solutions to their business challenges. We speak with each client about their needs and how we can best fulfill them both before and after each job is completed. In this way, we have developed long-term relationships with our clients. They in turn refer us to other clients and that is how we build our business over the past nearly 30 years. We don’t do any advertising

Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service is crucial in this industry. Can you share some of the strategies you use to ensure customer satisfaction?

We focus on the long-term satisfaction of our clients rather than focusing on making a quick buck. In this way, we are honest with our clients and if something goes wrong, we let them know up front and stand behind our work to the point that if anything does go wrong due to our error, we do whatever we can to set things right. Our attitude is we would rather lose money on a job to keep our clients happy then take the quick buck and tell them that there’s nothing we can do. Even in the situation where the client makes the mistakes, we tried to give them a break on the next order to help them out. In this way, we view ourselves as partners with our clients to help them reach their goals.

Each step of the way, we are communicative with our clients so if there are any delays or questions at any time, we quickly reach out to ensure that our clients are aware of what’s happening at all times.

Lastly, we are available to speak at any time with them, as opposed to some companies that have automated systems where you can’t reach a human being. Similarly, we offer custom solutions to their problems, with no out-of-the-box answers. This will never be the way that we do business because we always treat our clients as individuals not as numbers.

Challenges and Solutions

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in running your business, and how have you overcome them?

The pandemic in 2020 not only cost us business, but caused many of our vendors and clients to go out of business. It was a difficult time, but instead of sitting on our hands and worrying, we got to work in revamping our website during the downtime. We also overhauled our systems to make ourselves more efficient. All of this improved our business tenfold and allowed us to serve our clients more efficiently.

Advice for New Entrepreneurs

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own custom label and sticker printing business?

It is a very competitive business so I really wouldn’t advise going into this at the current time, however you are passionate about this business, I would say find a niche where you can offer something that no one else is offering or offering in such a way that improves what everyone else is offering. Finding a niche is the key to any business success. Our niche is that we specialize in the fastest printing within New York which is the fastest city of the world. With us being able to manufacture labels within hours, clients can come to us at the last minute and have their needs fulfilled quickly and efficiently. This makes us an invaluable partner to them, and they know they can trust us with their work and with their tight deadlines.

Future Plans

Where do you see Nova Custom Printing in the next 5-10 years, and what plans do you have for growth?

As a sports fan, I’ve always taken the same approach that coaches take in coaching their teams which is, we take it one game at a time. Similarly, we build our business one day at a time, one client at a time. We just keep forging ahead, with the goal of improving our business 1% each day. In this way, we can continue to move ahead, reaching more and more clients who we make sure are satisfied and will refer us to others.

Key Learnings

Reflecting on your journey so far, what would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in running your business?

I was lucky enough to have several mentors, Russ Paladino and Lyle Benjamin. Both of them taught me not only how to do business, but the specifics of why, what, when, where and who. As a result, I learned to focus in on each client as an individual and be of service to them in whatever way they need me to help them. Each client has unique needs, so I do my best to help them in whatever way I can. Sometimes that means reaching out to vendors that I’ve never worked with before two deliver something unique to my client. It might be something that we currently don’t offer, but because the client has a need, I will look into the possibility of us being of service to them in this capacity. As a result of doing this over many years, we’ve been able to expand our list of vendors that we can turn to in order to fulfill any clients needs. We are constantly expanding what we can offer to our clients, whether that be specialty items or something that is not easily available. In the end, it’s all about being of service to the client and making sure that they are 100% satisfied.


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Michael Nova on Building a Leading Label Printing Business