Fineprint of Basingstoke. Top Quality, Cost-Effective Print Services for Businesses of All Sizes

Fineprint - celebrating the first 20 years

In early January 1994, during the cold winter nights, Mike Woolhouse had a brainwave (some would say a spin out), he made a decision to start a business, not just any old business but a printing business.

This was an easy choice as he had been in `the print` all his working life - beside working as an apprentice carpenter for a year in 1972 (were all he did was make `brews` all day).

He got a job in the printing industry working in the bindery, moving to the press halls, then managing a print department. This was followed by selling into the print industry.

In 1989 he began a career in Further Education as a lecturer of printing studies at Berkshire College of Art & Design and under the leadership of Jim Burden, the head of the department, he progressed onward & upwards in a job that he loved, what could be better than teaching youngsters a career that would see them through life.

Alas, the print industry was changing and (primarily) due to the recession of the early 90's the print industry went into a spiraling decline and the first thing to go was apprentices.

Although Mike could have continued with his career at the college it would have been in a non-teaching role, hence the decision to start up on his own.

So here we are, January 1994, in the middle of a recession, what better idea than to start a new business from scratch..!!

Mike's first problem was where & how to buy equipment. At the time various auctions where abundant where printing equipment was being sold (due to lots of companies unfortunately going bust so he started to buy print & finishing equipment using the savings both Mike and his wife Linda had put aside for a rainy day.

The next problem was to find a small unit to operate from and after contacting local commercial property agents to see if there were any units available. He was shown a couple that were available but the rent, rates and length of lease expectations made any move 'out of the question' and after contacting the local council to see if they had any small business 'start-up' units available - which there wasn't - he thought his business idea wasn't going to happen.

Being a bit despondent and talking through the problem with a very good friend he was delighted to learn that there was the possibility of moving into a small production area of a large local company who were moving their main production facility, due to the un-helpfulness of the local authority and the current recession.

The sub-let unit didn't come without problems as the main lease of the site was with McCorquodale (a huge printing corporation) who had previously had their print work's on the same site and they had written a 'restrictive covenant' into their lease prohibiting any print or paper conversion businesses moving onto the estate, however, after a legal battle and the tanacity of local solicitor David Sylvester the problem was resolved and the lease was signed.

So Mike had some equipment and a lease on a unit but still no name and after a lot of deep thinking (and sleepless nights thinking about it) Mike & Linda decided on Fineprint, after all this is what they wanted to do - Print Fine (but that didn't sound right).

It was late May and the equipment was moved into the unit and powered up - already to start business, Mike had handed in his notice at the college but couldn't leave until end of the summer term, after that he could concentrate fully on the business.

The next hurdle was funding. Although Mike had already used most of his (their) savings buying equipment and paying for solicitors, working capital was still required.

Mike had already put together a business plan so he presented it to the (at the time) four major clearing banks to seek an appointment to discuss a business loan.

Knock-back number 3 arrived, Lloyds and Nat West were not interested but Mike managed to get appointments with Barclays and (at that time) Midland Bank.

Turning up to Barclays, booted & suited and full of eagerness ready to promote the new business venture, Mike met with the small business advisor, this person had obviously not read the business plan (he'd had for a week) as his first question was:

'So what business are you going to start?'

'Erm, a printing business, the same as the business plan you've had'

'Oh, printing? I don't think we could give you a loan to start a printing business' goodbye..!

'Thank you for your time - not'

Next was the Midland Bank where Mike met with Graham Bournes the small business advisor (who became a very good friend and is now a pilot) Graham had studied the business plan and made comments on how the figures could be improved and suggested crunching the numbers and re-submitting a revised business plan - which is exactly what Mike did.

During the second meeting Graham asked what security Mike could offer against the loan - the answer was 'nothing' (Linda had clearly stated that their house was not to be used as security) and all their savings had been invested in the equipment etc.

As this was a time of recession the government had launched an initiative to help people start up small businesses and they developed the Government Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme. Graham informed Mike that this would be the best way to go - it worked and Mike got the working capital funding he needed to put the final piece of the jig-saw in place.

So... when do we start trading? after a few (too many) drinks Mike & Linda decided on 4th July 1994 - Independence Day - how apt.

Now 20 years further on - 4th July 2014 - here we are, still going strong (after another bloody recession) and still loving what we do.

In the last 20 years things have changed massively within our industry and lots of other things have happened - but these stories will come later.

Obviously we couldn't be here without the help, encouragement and support of many people and businesses associated with the industry but most of all we wouldn't be here without our loyal customers.

Thank you one and all and here's to the next 20 years.