Setting Up Shop – Know How

Yesterday I met a wonderful French blogger. Mother of 3 beautiful boys and no live in helper! In itself – wow! That’s rare – she’s really passionate about quality kid’s products too. She loves all the French organic, BPA free, educational, classic toys that can last and last.

Needless to say, we got on well. She inspired me to go on and try to keep up the blog even though I may be super busy. Just dedicate a day a week to it – OK.

So today, I thought I would talk about some of the lessons learnt when starting up in Singapore. I don’t know why it was such a struggle to get this knowledge  – was it because I’m not part of any business network or … shop owners here aren’t willing to share their information?  I found it incredibly hard to build up my network of ‘Go To’s for printing things required for a start up.  Had to learn by trial and error and the hard way – using a lot of time for research and discussion. So…. I want to share this information.

Hopefully some of you will find it useful when one day, you may find yourself in a similar siutaution and needing things printed for an event, or veture or just some services your business might want to go into.  You’ll learn the terms ‘MOQ’, Cutter lines, bleed lines, sizing, paper gsm, cotton gsm, offset print vs digital print, mono colour or CMYK multi, oh and ‘self inking stamp vs. pre ink stamp’ … I’m sure they do this to confuse us… the already busy, unsuspecting small venture start up on purpose.  Trust me, when you want personalised items, you’ll need to know all these terms because that’s what everyone will ask you.

  • Business Card Printing

Usually the first thing you’ll get to when you’ve decide, righto, time to introduce myself and my new company venture. You’ll enjoy the card design process – thinking about the colour, logo, fonts and layout. It’s meant to represent your company and YOU. So you’ll want this to be good and cheap since you’ll probably end up printing more in the near future.

These shops, seems everywhere yet nowhere at the same time. The reason I say this in Singapore  – ‘Bras Basah’ is the ‘Go To’ place for nearly all small scale printing needs. The whole building is crawling with school kids and art students. And you’ll find printer after printer – tee-shirts, stamps, business card, banners, posters, you name it. They’ll have a sign saying they’ll do it.   Even when you leave this building and cross over the road to the THE go to place for paper ‘Fancy Papers’ – every stamp shop lay claims to be able to print business cards too. Confusing right?  It seems in that square block alone, the entire printing needs of Singapore can be fulfilled!

Alas, which is best and which has a good price? What’s the data format you need to provide them? What paper quality do they have? Can they do emboss or even deboss?

In all cases, when I asked for ‘cotton paper’ you know those wonderfully thick textured cards, good weight and good texture  – just tells you it’s quality – invariably, the shop assistants looked at me blank faced and say their machines can take up to 300gsm.  Well, what’s 300gsm? So is that a yes or no?

So… nevermind,  I bought a sample and took it to them upon my next visit. They’d tell me … no sorry, they only have one standard paper either in 250gsm or 300gsm which would cost around $22.00 – $26.00 SGD respectively for double sided. If I wanted the paper I showed them, I need to buy it and bring it to them in A3 sheets?? Well, how many sheets do I need if I wanted to print 200 cards? What about 300 cards?  Also, they told me they may not be able to print on it as it’s too thick. Emphasis on they can’t guarantee…… I was left… once again puzzled.  Excuse me? What kind of service is this?…..

OK, on my 3rd visit, I took some samples of business cards that I’d come across in Singapore and enquired about those, one was ‘spot UV’ (the logo has glossy raised finish) and one was emboss (the logo was an emboss).

Few places in Bras Basah actually offers offset print, spot UV or Emboss. You will need to go to Graphics Avenue on the ground floor or one store (forgot the name) on the 2nd floor.

But in all cases, I was told that the minimum quanity is 1,000 pcs and that it would cost $540.00 as it includes a $200 Spot UV fixed set up charge.  That’s pretty steep I thought.  In all cases, no one told me that this Minimum Order Quanity  (MOQ) can be accommodated with a number of different names or messages on the back of the cards – as long as the front of the card where they have the emboss or spot UV is the same.

This left me rather displeased and surprised about how difficult it is to get business cards done in SG. On a trip to Hong Kong, I got talking to a few friends and they had recommended me this awesome resource,  Printing Hero. Their website was comprehensive and their quality was excellent. Their pricing was reasonable too.  I made contact with them and told them what I wanted and was SOO close to closing my order with them http://www.printinghero.com/product

Until I realise the lead time for sending proof over and sending the actual business cards over to SG would cost another 15USD.  For those of you in HK – or will go for a while, highly recommend you use Printing Hero.

I then discovered ‘Drummond Printing’ on Sims Avenue, apparently specialist printers, offset print, in fact all sorts of printing needs that can be customised to the client – sounded good!  I called up to make inquiries and was passed to a chap named Damien. When I spoke to Damien, I was delighted to find someone who understood what I wanted and he genuinely made sense and explained the process of why Spot UV would be more and why he thinks that digital print is as good as offset these days and much cheaper too – depends on the paper used etc.  Wow, someone who can also give good advice about cost saving. So I decided to go with Drummond.

I was so pleased in fact I told my two East Coast buddies S & E about them when I went to their Deli. S&E were kind enough to drive me there and S went with me to meet Damien to talk over the requirements to make sure it was right.

I split the 1,000 business cards with spot UV into 6 different name variations. I also printed 2 lots of A6 matt cards of gift cards to enclose with customers who say it’s a gift and buy the gift option.

All seemed well. A week later, the cards were delivered and they looked good.  Except… wait…the A6 cards were not matt at all. They were on a semi glossy card…  not the texture I emphasised I wanted – to be able to write on it without smudging. Semi glossy would result in smudging the message. So I dropped Damien a note about my dissatisfaction with the A6 card stock used. He was good enough to write back and told me he’d rectify it and re-print. A week later, it was ready :) That’s good business service I reckon.  So those of you in Singapore and wanted to get a long term business card or printing services, I would recommend Drummond Printing.

  • Stickers

This was by far the easiest and most successful for me to sort out. I went to Print Direct (tel: 6337 8330) with my thumb drive and tested it on the spot. I had both the option of the images with a cutter line and without cutter line. The good thing is that Print Direct will apply a cutter line for you if you don’t have it. So fear not those not experienced in Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator for these things. They will send you a sample of what the eventual sticker will look like by email. I dealt with them mainly by email which was easy enough.   They do business cards too but they only have limited card stock at 250gm or maximum 300gsm and only digital print. No emboss, no offset and no spot UV. So I go there for stickers only🙂 Look at how cute they are.

ePloof business card, stickers

ePloof business card, stickers, badges, gift cards

  •  Packaging

When I first asked some shop assistants about this, it’s as if I asked a totally taboo question! No one is helpful… and no one will share this information. They will just tell you ‘I’m not very sure’….. 100% of the times.   In the end I just googled it and found by chance –  Pack Everything – they have a shop in the Golden Mile – small tiny one in the basement. They have a really good website with pretty much all packaging needs of a small shop, tissue paper in reams, brown paper, postal  boxes, courier bags, bubble wrap and small brown bags too.  A lady called Agnes works there. I think you’ll find a lot of the little shops in Cluny Court go there to buy things, bumped into one shop owner🙂 The lady in Pack everything was helpful, and she’ll advise you based on what yo tell her are the customer numbers you are catering for.  Items get delivered to you for free if you buy over $200.00.

  • Printing cello tape with your company name on it

Be warned.. not for the faint hearted – the MOQ is huge in Singapore.  I’m obliged to print MOQ of 300 rolls, each rolls 40ft?…. erh… I’m not Zalora and I’m not buying cellotape with my logo on to sell…  for 3 years! In the UK and US, they will do a minimum quantity of 72 rolls for £162.00 with Defendapack. If you have contacts in the UK, this is an option I think.

  • Business Stamps

Durachop. I think they are fuss free, straight forward to deal with – all you need is your image on a .jpg file. Durachop has offices throughout Singapore but I went to the one just opposite Bras Basah. $31.00 for a small rectangle 17.5mm X 44mm pre-ink stamp which in some stores are called ‘self ink stamps’. Was ready the next day. If you go to other shops, they may ask you to provide a ‘vector file’… whatever that is. Apparently a file format in Adobe Illustrator. And they ask you to send them the fonts too.  Ignore the company you are dealing with and go to Durachop. They worked with the file I gave them and I didn’t have to provide anything else.

Well, I hope you find this list useful. Good luck!

ePloof!

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One response to “Setting Up Shop – Know How

  1. Thanks for the tips, especially on name card printing!

    Cheers,
    Wai Xin

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