Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Paul Baron, serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO of The Wall Printer. Founded in 2019, The Wall Printer is a way to print vertically on drywall, brick, glass, tile, vinyl, cement, or wood. The printer provides for digital image printing, indoors or outdoors, on any surface, with original art or signage.
The Wall Printer says it is the only vertical wall printer sold by a U.S.-based business, with the training, service, supplies, and locally supporting customers throughout North and South America. Wall Printers are in more than 50 markets in the US, Canada, Mexico, Central & South America, Puerto Rico, and The Caribbean.
Here's a video of The Wall Printer in action
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Erin Manning 0:02
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau.
Gary Pageau 0:10
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Photo Finale and Advertek Printing. Hello again, and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Paul Baron, the founder and CEO of The Wall Printer. Hi, Paul, how are you today?
Paul Baron 0:31
Nice to be here with you and your audience.
Gary Pageau 0:34
So Paul, you're a serial entrepreneur, Ken before you got into the wall printer. And before we get into the details of what that is, what's a little bit about your background?
Paul Baron 0:44
Well, I won't bore your audience with Paul was born at a very young age to start from there. But suffice to say I do have quite a varied experience. I like to sum it up by saying I'm industry product service agnostic. I've learned early on the hats I like to wear and a hats I don't like to wear. And while I have worked in the corporate world, I have founded businesses across food service, consumer packaged goods, software and technology, various other service and product based businesses. And I learned early on that what I enjoyed doing was the relationship management, identifying high value customers, targets, vendors, strategic relationships to help grow a company from here to there. So most recently, and since I'm 70 years old, most recently to me is the past four decades. In the past four decades, I've taken foreign products that have either approached me or that I've identified as having low traction when no traction here in the United States, and help those companies identify their audience, find their partners grow revenue, possibly to scale to partner to exit. And I've done that as a hired gun. I've retired several times throughout the years, I've had my successes, I've had my what I like to call the lesser successes, we don't like to use the word failure. But there it is out there for your audience, we have those two. And And again, a better term would be learning experiences for those. But here I am, where am I following retirement about three years ago, continuing to look at and be being approached by people who know my background, I decided I was not going to work for anybody as a higher gun anymore, which is typically what I had been doing commission sales or some type of equity or whatever. But I said, if I'm going to do this anymore, I'm going to own the product and then find something that really knocks my socks off and fits all the boxes to become a successful growth company, and then help other people in their quest for independence, financial or personal, and let them help help them find their passion. I found a vertical printing machine, I was approached actually by a competitor, a German manufacturer that wanted me to market their product here in the United States. And while I love the product, I found it very fascinating. I had never seen anything like it before I could not work out to deal with them that I wanted this I described to to you and your audience a moment ago. And there was no equity opportunity for me. So I left them but said, I've never seen this before. I can think of myself Gary as a as a consumer capitalist, whatever label you want to put on it, somebody who if he sees something and he can afford it, and he finds that it is a solution to a problem, or something of interest. I'll buy it or use it. And and this was a case where I saw a product that I had never heard about or seen before, which raised my eyebrows and said let me learn more. And as I did that now the first thing I normally do is I say to my wife from another part of the house and hey Maureen, come here and take a look at this. Normally when she hears me say that, rather than come to my office and see what I'm talking about, she cuts up my credit cards and hides the bank account. Because she says Oh, here we go again. Paul's gonna invest in something crazy. Oh, you retired I thought you're retiring. I feel like you're retired and and if not, here we go investment in something nuts. So but this time, she was all in when she saw this. And so I did my homework, I found out that there were only about a half a dozen left, literally a handful of manufacturers worldwide. None of them here in North America or South America, because they were based in either Germany, China, Australia, India, they hadn't come across the pond, so to speak, because the product does take a commercial printing machine that does take some hand on training instructions,
parts, inks, everything else that goes along with the printing machines and again, that might speak to your audience a little bit. On the other hand, this is not a photo quality $150,000 flatbed printer that prints signs and posters of the typical tools or the trade of the signage industry. It or photographic Quality, it is near photo quality of printed 1440 dpi, which, unfortunately, your audience doesn't have the benefit of video in this conversation, but they could certainly go to the wall printer.com. And in 15 seconds, you'll see what this machine does and get it. And it is, it is just an excellent, reliable, rapid implementation of any vector digital formatted image onto any wall surface indoors or outdoors. Doesn't wall doesn't have to be smooth, it just has to be vertical, it could be brick, it could be wood, stucco, something like that. It could be a garage door, it can be glass, tile, metal, doesn't matter as long as it's a wall. And we actually have floor printers to print on tile or metal or wood floors. And we print faithful digital images onto these surfaces or substrates. And allow for just another alternative to mural lists and posters and vinyl stickers, and things such as that which also have that places we don't do vehicle wraps we don't do. We don't do curved surfaces. But, but that's really what it was. And it just fascinated me. I kick the tires of all five manufacturers settled on the one that was not only the oldest, but what I considered the best one feature wise, technology wise, had an installed base at the time 2019. When I got into this business with about 500 users with my assistance and support, they've now expanded that to about 750 worldwide. And I've put in the past two years 75 new businesses in place with people owning and operating these machines and exclusive territories in which to operate those businesses. And that's where we are.
Gary Pageau 6:42
So tell us a little bit about the equipment because you know how tall how high up can it go in terms of a wall in terms of because I mean, if you look at the videos, which I encourage all the listeners to go in, I'll put some links in the description to some of the videos. Is there one machine or are there different sizes of machines that are available so
Paul Baron 7:01
there are different machines but only because of the type of inks that use we have UV ink machines, and we have water based ink machines. The water based ink machines require a porous surface like wood or wallboard, sheetrock, something that is absorbent, or porous. And generally an indoor surface of the UV and can go on any surface indoors or outdoors. Whether it's porous like that what I've just described, sheet rock metal, a sheet rock wood, stucco, but it can also be printed onto a plastic metal, tile glass and still be vibrant. The UV ink dries with a heat lamp, so it prints a little bit slower. The water based ink printers have ink that dries in the air. So they're the technology and those printers can print much faster. 20 square feet per hour versus up to 350 square feet per hour. That's the speeds of the various printers, whether it's UV ink, or waterbased. And now as far as the size of the images, there's no limitation except by obstacles. Unlike vinyl stickers, a wallpaper or hand painting, the machine does require about 12 to 13 inches all around it. So it doesn't go edge to edge wall to seal floor to ceiling. It's designed. It's designed for our customers to set their customers expectations appropriately. This is wall art. It is designed to put onto walls near photo quality reproductions, you're not going to see the eyes on the seagull in some big scene of some 10 foot by 20 foot mural. But there's no limit to the height of a machine that you can print. If you think a window wash up, for example on a skyscraper Gary,
Gary Pageau 8:39
right? So the scaffolding type device to lower it right. Okay, so
Paul Baron 8:46
the software that you get, there's two software applications, one that operates the machine, one that lets you stitch images with one image ends, another image could start so you could stitch images, one on top of the other to get unlimited height. All you need is a scaffold and a forklift to bring that printer up. You know, my dad used to call those things rich man problems. If somebody wants to, if somebody wants a 50 foot high mural, my machine can do it. But you have to rent these other products and pass those expenses through to the customer, but it can be done. That's the nature of the technology.
Gary Pageau 9:16
So are you the only source for the inks? Are there distributors? Are there any special inks that go with this? Are
Paul Baron 9:21
you I think Yes is the answer to all of that. We are the manufacturer of the inks. We learned early on that importing inks is an arduous process to go through customs and everything else. So we identified ink manufacturers that work closely with our factory. Our printers use industry standard Epson Japanese manufactured printheads but the inks are formulated specially for these Printex and so to allow the software and the machines to work properly and keep those inks flowing smoothly without clogging and everything else that is the bane of many printing machines. It does require regular maintenance on these machines should have some Any hands on for one to two minutes a day to make sure that the things are flowing through so that when you want to actually do a wall print, the inks are flowing properly. But it's a very simple maintenance process, not unlike what every printer uses little pump spray test, we get those square boxes and make sure everything's coming through nicely and all the colors, but we use five liters. A supply of ink is 60 liters of ink, we use CMYK and white, we are the only vertical printing machine in the world. And there's a patent that I own with the manufacturer that we developed to employ white ink behind images. So you can even print on dark surfaces or glass, and the UV ink will still pop out and be very vibrant. Even even the German printer that first approached me, which costs twice as much as our printer, and no disrespect to anybody in your audience with German heritage. I drive a BMW. I cook with Henkel knives, I value a well engineered product. But just because something says made in Germany does not warrant it costing $40,000 versus the $24,000 that our printer costs. And we in fact printed 1440 dpi, their product prints at 600 dpi. And they do not even deploy white ink we do. So there's a lot of features that we offer, which is a reason why I settled on this particular manufacturer.
Gary Pageau 11:21
So where where is this manufactured at what we manufacture in
Paul Baron 11:25
China? Okay, do we do as I said, we manufacture openings here in the United States, many of the computer components are here in the United States homegrown, we add electric to it to comply with laws in Canada, the United States and South America. Those are all my territories that I own. I own the entire western hemisphere to this company's products, and we add our own. Not not besides the technology aspects I just described, we also have translated everything to the languages of all markets, whether it be English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Canadian, and global learning and training materials and instructional materials, marketing content for people to be able to populate their own social media, or websites. We're not a franchise, we don't reach into people's pockets and take royalties and revenue. We don't require you quote,
Gary Pageau 12:14
what you're selling. I mean, so there is a recurring, there's recurring revenue. Right? Yeah, I mean, you don't need a franchise for that, when you're actually
Paul Baron 12:21
That's correct. And they don't have to, they don't have to, in fact, they're not encouraged to call themselves the wall printer, because most of our customers fall into one of two categories. They're either startups who see this as an innovative solution. And they want to do that, well, there are people like your audience that is in the printing, or photography, signage, industry, and they sees this as additional revenue with something else. I just caution people in the signage and printing industry to understand that this is an inkjet printer that sprays ink onto a wall in large scale sizes, but it and while you can print very fine text. So you could use this to personalize office doors on glass or something like that. Similar to what's being done with little vinyl stickers and things like that. You can do that with all wall printers as well. But it's not designed to be a photographic reproduction area,
Gary Pageau 13:13
you know, at 1440 resolution, if you're looking at a 10 feet away, which is you know, most people you don't notice the difference, right? That's what I'm saying. I mean, if you're gonna go up in with a loop and look at it,
Paul Baron 13:23
yeah, I mean, you may, you may get a slight ban. But again, it's that's something that most people will total, whatever imperfections there are in the use of these vertical printing machines, that spray ink on the walls, whatever imperfections there are, are overlooked by the overall picture. And, and so you pick your audience, the one nice thing about what printing there's no lacking waltz session in these four. Yeah, and there are residences, there's hospitals, there's restaurants, there's commercial buildings, there are schools, these are all individual markets that can be exploited for its need for having Walmart. So you're not
Gary Pageau 13:59
a franchise, but you do your people do have territories, correct?
Paul Baron 14:03
Yep, we're not a franchise. But yes, we offer territories. And what we do is what we do is based on population, we will offer an exclusivity to an area based on their budget. And then our guarantee is that we don't sell to anybody else. We only support them in their growth, they also pay a fee for that. But at the same time, that fee gets them a discount on the price of the machines, because sometimes you could wear one of two hats. When you're a territory owner, you could provide the services, which is really where the margins are, and that's where the real revenue is, but you can also resell the machines to other people in your territory. So we provide the machines at a discount. We also obligate you because we have taken that territory off the market and we won't sell to anybody else in that territory. We obligate you to grow that market. So in a year, two years, five year period of time, whatever the agreement is based on the population, you may then have to buy your first printer a second, third or more printers.
Gary Pageau 14:58
Now one of the things You had happen. You started in 2019? As you know, you had COVID. Come in. Yep. Does Did you see a lot of interest in new people looking to start up businesses during that time period, because that's one of the things that I noticed was there was actually sort of a startup mentality where people listen, I got laid off from my job at XYZ, I want to start my own thing.
Paul Baron 15:22
So COVID was bad for my relationship with my wife at the time. And when I say bad, it was not, never in jeopardy. But when I say bad, I mean that she said, Boy, Paul, November 2019, is when I received my first shipment of machines, and Jack, and then January of 2019, is when the world's shut down, I'm sorry, January 2020, is when the world's shut down due to the total COVID. So there I was, with a dozen machines that nobody's ever seen heard about knows how to use all in Chinese. And there I sit with a warehouse full of them. And basically, nobody who knows what the heck it is,
Gary Pageau 15:57
and there's no events you can present them can't go
Paul Baron 16:01
to trade shows, you can't do anything like that. So but I was all in as foolish or as optimistic as you might want to describe me. And, and so I use that opportunity to build my team, learn about the machines, build the social media and marketing to find out who wants this communicate how you make money with this machine. And lo and behold, eight months down the road, after a couple of million impressions and people seeing videos, and getting a little bit interested in that we were able to leverage that audience you described of people who have been either laid off or working remotely, which turned out to be a really positive for us, because it did, we did find exactly as you said, Gary, people were rethinking their lives and their livelihoods. They were saying, Do I want to go back to the office? Do I want to work for somebody? Do I want to be more independent? Do I want to have more control of my financial destiny? Am I willing to take a risk on something. So we approached all of those types of people, along with just introducing the technology into North and South America. And we identified based on their responses on people who would then come to visit with us when travel opened up, we'll have zoom calls with us, which was great. Most of the first 20 or 30, companies that we put into business with machines never came here and actually kick the tires, so to speak. They it was all through zoom and remotely. But then when things opened up mostly on the East Coast first, because we're based in Wilmington, North Carolina. So we have a very large number of printers in Florida, up through Virginia and Boston area, and then gradually expanded westward to Chicago to Arizona to California, and north into Canada, South into Mexico and South America. We are, as I mentioned earlier, we have about 75 new businesses that have been created in the past, basically 18 months.
Gary Pageau 17:52
So what's the ROI on someone, let's say for example, you have someone let's say, a husband and wife team who come to you and they say, you know, I want to have a business doing this, me and my wife, and maybe somebody else, truck driver or something. And they come to you. And they I don't know if they lease the equipment, or if there's
Paul Baron 18:12
some serious leasing available, we don't provide it directly, but capital equipment.
Gary Pageau 18:17
So for example, typically speaking, how many, I don't know how you measure it, how much how many square feet, you have to paint or how many jobs you have to do before you really start seeing the revenue coming,
Paul Baron 18:28
I get what you're asking. And, and basically, I'll try to put this in as, as simple example terms as possible. First, first off, we tried to set expectations, realistically, I always believe in over delivering and under promising. And when you're starting a new business, you have to understand that the price of your equipment, which is anywhere from 25 to $30,000, let's say the price of a car, although that's probably a very inexpensive car these days, but for the price of a car, and to put into your terms of leasing and cost of money. So that's like a 500 to $600 monthly expense, let's say on a five year loan, if that's what you're going to do, or five year lease, so using that as a basis for cost of money. But understand also to set expectations appropriately. Business is not just a purchase of the machine. As you said you need a transport vehicle, you need somebody to operate that machine, you need to feed your herself and your family. You have to have insurance you have to have, you know, maybe a bookkeeper or you know, whatever, you have to have your own social media marketing in your local market. So all of these normal expenses of business have to be considered to but as far as the machine costs go, then let's look at that $500. If you take for example, a five foot by eight foot piece of Walmart, all right, that's a nice, large mural in somebody's home or office. So that's 40 square feet. 40 Square Feet has about 10 to $15 worth of ink in it. It takes about two hours to print it. And let's say another two to three hours to go to that site wherever it is the optimization, all that stuff. So let's say five hours at $20 an hour to put somebody on that machine. And again, if you're, the machine does not require advanced technical expertise. So you could say $15. Now, but let's say $20 an hour. So of course, $100. In labor, it costs another $15. In ink, let's go crazy, say $125 in costs, okay? $125 in costs, typically, you're going to get minimally. And I use an example of $15 a square foot, because that's what a professionally installed vinyl sticker will go for. And in fact, I know people in that industry, and they are charging 20 $25 per square foot, I still can't get the screensaver on my cell phone to go on without bubbles in it. So I don't know how people put on Wall sized stickers without getting bubbles and lining,
Gary Pageau 20:52
That's for sure. I especially like on vehicles and all that
Paul Baron 20:56
it's a professional art. That's, that's true. And they deserve what they get for it, I'm using that as a basis as a comparable, if I took $20, a square foot for a full five by 840 square feet, that's an $800 Return on about 120 $550 worth of expenses. Let's say there's another throwing even another $50 to $100, for practicing that print before you went to that customer site, and using your pinky and everything else. So say $200. So now on one, five by eight, you've gotten back a net profit of a gross profit of $600. That pays for your machine, one print like that a month pays for the machine. Now of course you've got so the ROI is tremendous. In the services part of this business. It's just a question of, like I said earlier, there's no lacking walls. How many walls? Can you do? You know, how many printers do you want on in your company? To take on multiple roles, multiple jobs. And, and just go ahead and do this one day, a week, five days a week, seven days a week? It's really up to you. There's no limit to the revenue
Gary Pageau 21:58
So so so you got 75 machines and North American South America? Are those split across? What about how many different companies because you certainly have people with multiple machines
Paul Baron 22:11
65 companies. 65 new businesses
Gary Pageau 22:14
Okay, so there's still a lot of opportunity out there for someone who wanted to get in?
Paul Baron 22:18
Oh, yeah, I mean, my business model just to sum it up really easily. The United States has a method to my madness when I took on this business and determined that yes, people can make money doing this was that there's 300 million people in the United States, God willing, after COVID settles down, they'll still be 300 plus million people here. And so that's on a territory size, which all minimum territory sizes are 300,000 population, because we know that will grow to three wool printing machines out there on the streets in a three year period of time. So 300,000 people, that means there's 1000 territories that I can sell in the United States, and that I can put people in business today I have 65. So yes, there's a lot more upside than anything else.
Gary Pageau 23:02
Okay, cool. So where does someone go to get more information on either buying or leasing the machine or learning more about the company? Yeah, just
Paul Baron 23:14
go to our website, www.thewallprinter.com. And there's a Contact page, you fill out a form. So we have an accurate email, we send you information, we'll arrange a zoom call like you and I are having right now. And we'll get to know each other we'll find out if this is something that's a fit, and and then move from there, people can come and visit us. There is no charge, we'll spend a few hours with you to show you the machines. Let you see them printing, they'll let you understand the technology a little bit. But understand this is less a technology, business opportunity as it is a business opportunity. And so we try to impress that upon people, especially those in the arts in the business of business. It's a compliment, it gives you another way to put your art on walls, or to create signage, posters, things like that. But ultimately, it's a business opportunity to either increase your revenue through alternative sources of putting on walls or Greenfield startup opportunity for people who just want to get into something innovative and and don't mind raising their hands taking the risk being the first kid on the block to do something and getting their hands dirty with our with our package. Gary, we even include plastic gloves for that area go.
Gary Pageau 24:27
Well thank you, Paul, for your time and your expertise and best wishes for the future success of The Wall Printer.
Paul Baron 24:34
Thank you Gary, I look forward to getting to know you and your audience better should they wish to reach out to us.
Erin Manning 24:41
Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www.thedeadpixelssociety.com