For Carmen Rad, president of CR&A Custom, success wasn’t a linear path. In fact, her path didn’t originally include print at all. “My background is in fashion marketing and design,” she notes, but it was that passion that ultimately led to founding her own company 30 years ago and started her on the path to where she is today.
Originally, Rad notes, her business was created to allow her to create promotional clothing items that the brands she was working with required. Her business focused on textile printing — primarily sublimation — but it didn’t remain that way for long. In time, she began to invest in large-format digital printing equipment, which in turn allowed her to branch out into other markets alongside her partner, Masoud Rad.
“We don’t really do any clothing at all today,” she says. “We did it for many years, but today, our bread and butter are large activations. We do rollouts for brands — we’re a very creative company. Small, but very creative.”
Whether it’s a large multinational corporation or a small local restaurant, Rad notes that her team helps conceive and then create and execute campaigns that can have several moving parts. That is especially true as the events business has picked back up with a vengeance, leading to many of her customers looking for campaigns to help them stand out as they once more get to present themselves to a live audience in a range of different venues.
Originally, Rad notes, she had an all-HP shop, and for many years, those machines worked well for her applications. But she notes that Durst was always the “Rolls Royce” of printers. But it was at PRINTING United Expo 2022 in Las Vegas where, along with Masoud, she decided it was time to make the investment. “We had been building that relationship for over a year,” she notes, “with a lot of meetings and presentations.”
She notes that she saw the demos and was impressed by both the equipment and the test prints they had on hand, so she went home and did a bit more research, watching testimonial videos and making sure to do her due diligence. In the end, there were a few things that stood out for her and ultimately led to a willingness to make that first investment in a new technology:
- She was impressed with the quality of the color the Durst equipment could produce, noting that many might look at a file and not be able to discern small differences, but her clients are exacting, and she needs her presses to be able to produce highly accurate color, every time.
- She found, after doing her research, that there were potential cost savings to be found per print with the Durst, particularly around the inks.
- The energy requirements of the Durst was lower than what she was running, which would allow her to see cost savings on that front as well.
All of that added up to her purchase of the Durst P5 350 HS.
She credits the group effort — from Durst and her partner — for the ultimate success of the business today. “I may have been the founder, but we would not be here today without our different personality types, yet the same work ethics, working together,” she says of Masoud. “The purchase of large equipment is made only after we both agree.”
She also laughs that originally, Masoud said “no” to being her business partner. It was only a few months after the business had made the shift to printing, and when he saw the success she was having right from the start, he joined her to help grow the company into the powerful print shop it is today.
A Passion for Advocacy
And it’s not just her customers who benefit — Rad notes that CR&A is a small, minority, woman-owned business, which she is incredibly proud of. She is active in her community to help encourage and uplift other woman business owners. “That’s important to me,” she stresses. “I am committed to seeing a change of policy for women in business and their workplace. I want to see changes around opportunities for bids, where a small company today is discredited despite having the same capabilities. Technology today makes small companies more limber, and we can produce just as quickly.”
And for her, working with Durst is a pleasure because she can see that they are as passionate about the causes she believes in as she is. “When you’re making a commitment like this — a million-dollar purchase — you have to make sure your values align, and I found that with Durst. It’s not just a printer — it’s a relationship. And sure, when everything is great, that’s fine, but what happens when it’s not? If everything falls apart, how will they react to change? Durst has been around for a long time and is still very family-oriented, and that’s as important to us as the equipment. It’s not just an environment or technology that can destroy or grow a company — it’s the people.”
For Rad, the people she chooses to partner with are just as critical as the 42 people she employs to help run the business. “We’re a great printing company,” she says. “Yes, I am a woman in large-format, and I happen to be a minority, but I’m a printer and have good people to work with. This industry still feels very male-dominated, and some people are surprised when they come to our facility and see the equipment we have. But I see that changing, and now there are more women in high-level positions. Many women are entering the industry, not just for graphics but from a production perspective. We hear about more women being recognized for their commitment to the industry.”
So, while she might be a printer first and foremost, between her advocacy and example — and now the Durst HS350 that expands what she is able to produce — she hopes to stand as an example of just how successful a woman can be in the print industry. She notes that a study done not long ago found that only a handful of women were in the lead roles in wide-format companies in the United States, and she was the only wide-format founder — but she hopes to see that continue to change in the coming years, with partners like Durst helping make it happen.
Compliments and courtesy of Wide-Format Impressions: