Way back in 2006, Dave Roper decided to break away from being employed by one of the industry’s largest screen printing equipment manufacturers and go it alone. Now 12 years later and after many years of growth, the company known as Dave Roper is rebranding. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey speaks to the man himself to find out more.
Dave has been in the screen printing industry since he left school at the age of 16. He worked for a local silk screen printing shop while he learnt the trade, before eventually moving into T shirt printing.
At the age of 21 Dave wondered if there was more he could be doing with his life and embarked on a journey to travel Australia for 18 months, taking his print skills with him.
On his return to the UK, Dave moved to London and managed some of the largest print shops in the capital, which he did for seven years. At his peak, he managed 60 staff and oversaw the running of four automatic carousels.
At the age of 27 Dave was invited to Africa to work as a print consultant at a print shop in Nairobi, which was tasked with printing T shirts for the Olympics. The print shop employed around 200 people and made the garments as well as printed them. Dave says the city was a very alluring place and while there he learnt a lot about himself.
After a year he returned to the UK, back to London. One particular day, which sticks in Dave’s mind is when a sales guy turned up trying to sell new equipment. “He read straight from the catalogue, without even looking up and I thought that’s no way to sell a machine,” said Dave. Dave contacted Geoffrey E MacPherson, the company the guy worked for, to find out what was going on, and as a result of this conversation he was recruited as the UK sales manager. Through his contacts Dave got MacPherson the agency for M&R in the UK and Europe. After around five years of selling equipment, the travelling bug got the better of Dave and he left to teach snowboarding in Andorra. When news of his departure reached M&R’s CEO Rich Hoffman, Rich called Dave and asked if would reconsider his plans and become European sales manager for M&R, covering 22 countries.
Dave agreed, but in 2006 he decided enough was enough and decided to found his own company selling equipment and screen printing consumables. “I thought I was honestly going to die in an airport. During my time for M&R I tripled their European sales and met a lot of people, but I just couldn’t do the travelling any more. I hate travelling now and prefer to holiday in this country to avoid it,” he says.
So Dave Roper was born. Dave started working from home with a laptop and an old Audi A3 with 200,000 miles on the clock. He would travel the country helping and selling to customers, becoming the official UK agent for M&R.
Two years later Dave bought his first unit in Kidderminster. This measured a tiny 3,000sq ft and as Dave says: “It was huge to me at the time! I used to have great fun running around it.” A part-time receptionist was employed to answer the phone while Dave was out on the road.
Over the years, the company grew and Dave began to take on more staff. Three years ago Dave bought a unit twice the size of his first one, directly opposite and moved in. This now gives the company plenty of warehousing and office space, as well as an area which Dave uses to teach those who are willing to learn.
Now Dave employs 11 people. The most recent addition to the team is Dan Cooper, who has been employed as an on the road salesman, a nod back to the old days. As Dave’s wife keeps reminding him: “The company is bigger than just me now.” This is the main reason for the rebrand to Screen Print World. The company has grown beyond a one man band and the name change reflects this.
“I tried to change the name several years ago, but the design agency persuaded me not to saying I could become the Eddie Stobart of the screen printing world, but in this day and age you have to have a name that says what you are doing on the tin. No-one is going to be searching for my name in Google when it comes to screen printing, but they will search for screen printing,” says Dave.
The name change came into effect on November 1 and day to day customers will see no difference in the service or products they receive from the company.
“It’s looking very exciting for the future,” says Dave. “People have asked if I’m retiring or if the business is being sold, but I am very much looking forward to working for the next 10 to 15 years. Especially during the next five when digital technology and screen printing become even more entwined.”