Today we have a special interview with the founder and CEO of one of our impressive Maker partners. Sara Gould heads up In A Flash Laser, Maker for Zazzle’s customizable iPad covers and brand new flip flops.
Tell us a little about you!
I love cats. I have two of my own, and in the summer I volunteer for the local SPCA by fostering kittens. They’re usually around 4-6 weeks old and need to be socialized and fattened up before being spayed/neutered and finding their forever homes. This year I’ve been bringing one to work with me the last few weeks. It’s so fun! When I’m not being a workaholic (rare these days) I like to kayak, hike, fly power-kites, and play roller derby among other things. Winter vacations are usually to Colorado to go skiing. I’ve also been known the play the saxophone. I’m deaf and have had cochlear implants since 2009.
I’m from Upstate New York and studied mechanical engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Starting around age 15, I told everyone I was going to design roller coasters for a career. I’d actually never been on a coaster before when I decided that, I just loved the physics and engineering!
In A Flash Laser is such a unique company! What is your background that led you to starting your own company? How did the idea of custom laser printing and engraving come about?
The roller coaster idea didn’t really pan out, and after working 7-8 years in the corporate world I was ready to do something more engaging. My partner talked all the time about businesses to start. He read an article that resonated a lot with me: it was about opening a Hackerspace or Makerspace, a place with equipment like laser cutters and 3D printers that is rented out to members of the space.
As I worked on the business plan, it didn’t seem like our small city would support a for-profit venture like that. I wanted to quit my job, not take on more work, so the plan got scaled back, and scaled back, until I ended up with a single laser, bought with cash and kept in our garage, taking orders mostly online. I set up a website at iPadLaserEngraving.com around the same time that the first iPad was released and started getting requests to engrave them from companies all over the country. I think timing can play such a large role in whether a business is successful or not, I was definitely lucky. There are a lot of people who own lasers now, so I’m always looking for ways to be unique and stay ahead of the competition.
My new engraving customers wanted cases as well as iPads, so after laser engraving cases for a while we added color printing capabilities. Our specialties now are unique products, one-offs, quick turnaround, and things that other shops don’t want to try or can’t figure out. People ask if I use my engineering degree, the answer is: every day.
You’re both the founder and CEO – what’s the best part of being an entrepreneur?
I love wearing all the hats. As the business grows (believe it or not, I currently only have one part-time employee, my mom helped a LOT last year for the December rush), I’m able to focus more on the parts of the business that I want to do and delegate or outsource the rest. I like that it’s always different, there’s always something new or some problem to solve. There are infinite possibilities to expand and offer new things. It can be hard to decide what to work on next!
Can you tell us a little bit about the printing process for the customizable In A Flash Laser products available on Zazzle?
Though the company is In A Flash Laser, our printers for the iPad covers and flip flops on Zazzle are actually inkjet printers. They use UV light to cure the ink immediately after it is printed. The ink bonds amazingly well to the polyurethane of the iPad Covers. It took a lot of trial and error to get it to stick to the Flip Flops though!
If you were to design your own custom flip flops, what would they look like?
Roller coaster flip flops might be cool. I tried to make flip flops that had different animal feet or paws on them, but I’m definitely not an artist, I’m very much in awe of the designs for sale on Zazzle! Mostly, I’m thrilled that the soles I printed last summer are still looking pretty good a year later. I wear them almost every day.
Do you have any tips for creating designs for In A Flash Laser products on Zazzle?
The iPad Covers are so great because they’re a nice large area and we can print the whole thing. Aligning the artwork to the folds is popular with our corporate customers.
The Flip Flops are more of a challenge, figuring out what fits into that shape, what people want to step on. Choosing the strap style and color is a lot of fun though. We heard some of the artists wanted to match the colors of the pink and blue straps. After some test prints we’ve found that the pink straps are very close to C:1 M:92 Y:4 K:0, and our blue straps are a bit darker than: C:96 M:69 Y:0 K:0. I’m always happy to talk to artists or customers who have questions!