3D printing services require a lot of convincing clients about quality, practicality, value worthiness of products. Tom and Tracy Hazzard visit the first UPS Store franchise to offer 3D printing and talk to owner Burke Jones and 3D print specialist Michael Karagavoorian about the ins and outs of offering 3D print services, what it has meant for their business, how it has brought customers into the store and how they manage the challenges of new technology expectations. Their visit to the San Diego, California area UPS Store was eye-opening in terms of how such a small space can provide such expansive 3D print services. The proof of their success is in the recent expansion of 3D printer and 3D scanning services and the busy traffic to the store.
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What Can Brown Do For 3D Printing? With Burke Jones And Michael Karagavoorian Of Kearny Mesa UPS Store
We visit the first UPS Store franchise to offer 3D Printing and talk to owner Burke Jones and 3D Print Specialist Michael Karagavoorian about the ins and outs of offering 3D Print Services, what it has meant for their business, how it has brought customers into the store and how they manage the challenges of new technology expectations. Download the WTFFF 041 Show Notes (PDF).
Our visit to the San Diego, California area UPS Store was eye-opening in terms of how such a small space can provide such expansive 3D Print Services. The vision it took for a franchise owner like Burke Jones to decide that offering 3D Print Services would not just be a marketing attraction but could really be of service to his community is impressive. The proof of their success is in the recent expansion of 3D Printers and 3D Scanning services and the busy traffic to the store. This Kearny Mesa UPS Store has become a valuable resource to the community and to other UPS Stores and businesses as they expand into 3D Printing as well.
We’re wrapping up on 3D print services. We had our fabulous interview with UPS Store in San Diego.
I like where this question is going.
These are the readers that we want. This is what gets me up in the morning and makes me not stop thinking at night. The question is, “I’m a small local business, should I get into 3D printing?”
That depends a little bit on what your local business is, but if you are reasonably certain that the customers, you’re bringing into your store would have a need for 3D printing or that can enhance what your business is in one way or another.
Adding those kinds of products can enhance that.
In terms of being a small business and a local business, I personally would think absolutely. There are a lot of great things that 3D printing can do for you.
That’s one of the thing Burke Jones from the UPS Store is mentioning to us. How much publicity and the local press showed up in his shop when he offered it. This is a hot press topic.
I know newspapers are old school but you may have a local newspaper or even local television media in certain parts of the country that are often looking for relevant local business stories. 3D printing is such a hot topic. It would not be hard if you’re up and running with it to get some local media attention.
One of the things to be cautious about is making sure that you’re ready for it. They got 72 million unique visitors to their website about it and they have the power of the UPS Store behind them. That’s probably a little exaggerated.
UPS was doing a big marketing push on it. To their credit, without a lot of business, UPS made some noise about it and got a ton of attention. While it may not be at that scale in your local business, it may be hugely relative to you.
It may feel the same way too. You don’t want your website crashing. You don’t want the machine not working. You have to be prepared. You have to have great objects to show off what the capabilities are. You better have your brochures ready with your service costs and/or object print costs, whatever it is you’re going to offer. Think about the opportunity to get people coming in your store to ask you questions. They might email you a file to have you check it out but you’re going to eventually pick up the phone. They’re going to come into the store to pick it up. It’s going to be a chance for you to have a customer interface.
Not only that, but you’re also going to bring in new customers at some point who are looking at you only for 3D printing services. If you have other things that your business is selling or other services or products to sell them, you’re now bringing new customers into your store to leverage what you’re already doing.
The more people you bring in to the store, the more of your current stuff you sell because they’re like, “I forgot that was here. That’s great. I’ll buy that right now.”
It’s a convenience factor.
That’s a compelling reason to consider it. That being said, are you capable of handling it? It requires skilled labor. It requires design skill. There are a lot of what-ifs behind that.
If the machine is not going to run itself, you’ve got to have somebody capable of doing it. What we’ve learned from some of the people here in California doing it and especially at the UPS Store, forget the fact that UPS is making it available and the media has done many blitz about it, they’re getting real jobs from real people and they’re profitable doing it.
Look at the case for the scanning. We wanted to get ourselves 3D scanned. We drove all the way to LA for it because there was nobody here in Orange County doing it.
That’s about an hour and a half drive.
It’s not the worst thing ever but we sought it out. Burke was saying the same thing. People are coming from LA down to his store because there’s nobody offering that who they can go and see it happening. They can do it online but that’s not the same thing because a lot of people want to learn, “Is this good for what I want to make? Is this good for what I want to do? I want to try this out.” It’s a test. They want to see it in person. It’s great to get a personal interface there. It’s got me thinking that we need to offer a contest. A contest has been started. We’ll leave it open for 30 days. Come and pitch us your business idea. We’re going to offer free mentorship to whoever it is that’s thinking about offering 3D print services or 3D print products.
You don’t have to set yourself up as a storefront to offer services. It could be any business involving 3D printing.
Maybe you’re on Etsy shop already and you want to offer 3D print as a part of your Etsy shop. It doesn’t matter what format your business is. Maybe you want to offer a design service. Anything surrounding 3D printing, we’re here to help and mentor you. Remember, Tom and I have been doing business on our own, on and off for years. We have a lot of unusual experience. We know how to price things. We know how to choose a printer. Plus, we’ve been doing this ourselves. We have a lot of in-depth experience in the long learning curve. If we can help you jumpstart that learning curve and this is what you want to do with your business, you’re going to get your return on investment faster.
I would want to do it if I was interested in getting into the business. It sounds like, “Great, get some good advice.”
The contest will be launched and that will be up on our website at HazzDesign.com. Check it out. It’ll be in the blog area and probably right on the homepage. Don’t forget, if you have questions or anything else, you can check us out on HazzDesign.com or anywhere on social media.
We’re always @HazzDesign on social media. We’ll look forward to hearing from you through voicemail, email, tweet or something.
Thanks for reading.
The house was from a different store. I don’t have direct contact to the customer. I’m emailing to another store and then they’re talking to the customer.
We talked about the fact that you guys are a resource for the other UPS Stores.
That’s right, being the first store.
How often do those kinds of things come up?
A couple a day. The big model I told you about with our new Fortus to its test, that was from another store. I estimated the price and sent it back to them. They then talk to the customer and I’ve yet to hear back from them. We get daily queries all the time. Those turn into actual work maybe a quarter of the time.
How do they do that? Is it over the general UPS website?
We have our 3D print. They send it directly to me. I sit right there by the printers and I manage the email all day long because that’s the avenue of choice, send an STL. I can estimate from that and credit card application through email and fire up your print. Sometimes you can get it back that same day.
It’s always a challenge. We face this all the time as designers and 3D print designers it’s even harder because there is a learning curve. Every time you do a new project or a new item, it’s different. If you were to let them use your design services, how do you gauge how long something is going to take?
I’ve been doing it for a while.
It’s based on the complexity of what?
The house for instance, I would have to sit there and call all of the measurements out of their model. What I did was I emailed back and ask them for the original SKP file because if I had the SketchUp model, I could go from there, fix it and I’d be done.
It would be faster.
If they did email me back the SketchUp file and I dove in there and got it reconciled in fifteen minutes, I just print it because the house is a big sized structure. It would be worth our while, and any simple thing. One of our client prints scapulas and bone density will create a hollow in the CT where there’s not a hollow. The scapula is a solid piece of bone but it’ll print out with hollows. It’s an easy thing to repair those hollows and make it a solid looking bone. For his application, which is instructional, he wants it just as the scan comes out.
That makes sense because then he can educate on why these things aren’t working.
Apparently, it also got a deformity and stuff. Absolutely no manipulation of the model whatsoever is one extreme. Another extreme is somebody working on his new diddly-wop and he’s not quite sure that’s going to fit or this is going to fit or what do you think or what not and how’s the orientation? Is it going to be stronger this way or that way? All those little manipulations, if I’m going on an email or a phone, I can do them on the fly, change it, manipulate the model, change scale, any of those things. They’re just whippy snap things and there’s no charge on that either. You keep growing on that nothing to this little minimal change or scaling change too. What about if I reorient the whole thing and then put parallel slashes and on and on? If you don’t charge, it’s going to destroy you in the process.
We went down to Fab Lab San Diego and they were great at pointing out how many kick-starters have come through with 3D print support and things like that.
We send people there and we send people to the library. Sometimes they’re not ready for our machine or they don’t want to pay. They want to learn more. They want to learn it rather than have a part printed. Sometimes they just want a part printed. One of the things you asked Michael that he answered partially, he went operational in terms of we get an STL file and this happens. One of the things that happens first is that people that answer the phone because typically, they call. We have to decide, “Do they have a file? Don’t they have a file? What type of file do they have?” Throughout that conversation, where in the process are they?
You had to educate your whole staff.
Everybody knows enough to get the phone call to the right place because sometimes they have a file that’s ready and sometimes, they have an idea on a napkin.
They’re starting a little bit early.
Sometimes it’s a little old lady that lost one of her earrings. It’s all over the map, which is interesting that we’re in a place in our evolution where they’re even thinking like that.
We find that all the time. I’d been to a couple of meetups and events across the coast and up the coast and it’s been interesting that you have such an age range too. You get these kids doing it and high school, junior high school and then you get retirees. In the last one, we had quite a few retirees at the meet up we went to and they’re fascinated.
Classic car guys and train hobbyists, all kinds of stuff. For me, it’s super neat. Michael loves 3D printing. He’s here because he loves 3D printing and hopefully, it’s a job where he thrives. To me, my art is the business model of it. How can we help people expand their knowledge and how can we provide a service that’s going to help them go through that?
That is your business. Your business is a service provider.
There are somewhere between 55 and 60 UPS Stores in the country that have uPrint and they’re all in that process too. We’re ahead of the curve in terms of experience. Hopefully, we’re in a place where we can support those stores in supporting their community and learning more about 3D printing. They’re getting their files right and ultimately printing out some parts and going through whatever evolution they’re going to go through.
Lessons learned, so they don’t trip up.
Some of those people buy machines that are inexpensive desktop type machines. We’ve had people and we’ve referred them. They’ve ended up buying Fortus.
Do you mean customers or other UPS stores?
Customers. The stores that are interested in it have a specific route they have to go through.
UPS has a program.
There are 4,700 UPS Stores in the country and all of them got phone calls and continue to get phone calls about 3D printing. When we were the only store, we couldn’t manage that many calls. Most of them never made the call here. They vetted themselves out. Now that stores around the country have printers, they’re starting to go in their community and search that out. We had people driving from LA. Wherever they were coming from, they would pass probably 50 or 100 places that had 3D printers in order to come here because of the brand. To UPS’s credit, I’ve been in this business for years and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the brand and for their commitment to help small and micro-business people.
That’s an interesting thing because we hope that the focus of our show can help that small and micro-business like you where you say, “The future is changing in the marketplace. There’s more competition. I’m not getting as many customers as I used to. How do I change my business to be more focused on my community?” Anything you can do, if that’s 3D printing, that would be great.
The way I grow our stores is to be of service and add value to our customers. I could tell you what I think that is, but if that’s not how you add value to our relationship, then what I’m seeing has no value at all. I have to listen as much as I have to talk because otherwise there’s no point.
It sounds like your customers are saying, “3D printing across the country,” that’s good.
It’s growing. There have been lots of challenges because sometimes, especially from a retail perspective, it’s new. Some people think they’re going to plug in the printer and people are going to start banging on the door wanting parts. As we know, there’s not. There are so many variables, what the customer is and what does that customer look like? Do they want to talk about 3D, which is interesting? Do they want to learn about 3D or do they want to have a part? Any of those are fun but there are challenges with all of them.
What do you think is on the forefront for you? You’re obviously expanding different machines, but what about services? What about educational seminars or things like that? Are you guys looking at doing that?
There are many meetups and many maker type events. We go to those and I speak at those but I do it as a support to the bigger picture, not at all money modelwise. Honestly, for us, in the beginning when we had all those reporters and all those customers and people driving 50 miles to come here and see it print, it was a whole. There was no money and there was no time.
A lot of people will find that when they first start 3D printing because you get your 3D printer and it takes you quite some time to learn how to use it. To manage your expectations and your misconceptions about how long that’s going to take is important.
My hope and my intention is to build support for our UPS Store network and anybody else that wants to come in and have the conversation. I want to be able to support our other stores in other cities to be able to fix the files, identify who’s the customer, what kind of customer are they so that they’re not wasting the customer’s time? That’s frustrating too. We all have the same 24 hours in a day.
You point out something critical. Your business is service. If your business is service, anything that you can do to be faster and better at that and not disappoint, it helps the brand as a whole and the local businesses.
In terms of the education, other than the stores, these franchisees and the Michaels within our network should go out, go to those meetups, talk it up, network and all that. It’s not so much for the money in the store but for the general understanding. He’s got a unique experience in terms of sitting up here, vetting on all those phone calls, all those different parts and all the different solutions. For the first two years, we were it. Now there are other stores that are at the beginning of that process and those customers are hungry for more information. People like you are going to be able to provide that. Here we are talking about it together. It is working and it is moving in that direction.
We’re going to have a little bit of an internal service bureau that supports the whole hub and spoke for our network. There are 60 stores. There will be some stores. We have two machines. Ultimately, we will have different materials and be able to get those parts out to the other stores. A lot of the stores don’t have the retail space to have more than a uPrint. That uPrint is perfect. It’s a great machine. It takes a small footprint on a counter. I’m a little bit more entrepreneurial. Hopefully, there’s some opportunity for us and an opportunity for them to provide the service to their community.
We have a couple of schools that bring classes up every semester. They’re mostly young kids. They’re mostly middle school kids. We give away a free print of the most printable file. It’s cool if some of the schools and the teachers see that and start to plant that seed. The whole thing for 3D printing that’s cool for me in the beginning and even now it happens is I have parts in my car that I show people, especially older people. You can see a creative part of their brain begin to activate that was completely dormant before. When they realize that you can take that thing, that electrical energy in your brain that’s an idea and within a short period of time, with a Michael in your life, you can have a physical hard part in your hand. That is amazing if you’re old enough to know and see the progression of life on life’s terms.
That’s one of the things also. We’ve been talking to a lot of entrepreneurship groups. One of the things is that they’re not taking enough advantage of the resources available to them elsewhere. They think, “I’ll buy a 3D printer. They’re only $3,000. I’ll do this and I’ll figure it out myself.” They’re wasting time where they’re never going to become enough of an expert trying to get a prototype out when they should be using services.
Just because you go to Staples and you buy a Brother printer, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a printing company.
Spend your small resources as an entrepreneur in the right places where you add value and use the resources for everything else.
I agree and that’s what we do here. That’s the only value we have because it’s just a commodity of melted plastic and a shape. That has little value. The value is in the relationship and the what and the how to get that from your gray matter in between your ears to a plastic part in your hand. Also, there are many different machines and many different understandings of what their tolerances are. To have a Michael here having all those discussions with all those people and physically, on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis, see the limitations of other machines versus these machines. I could have a bank of $3,000 machines. We could have 30 of them in here for the price of those two machines.
That was a great interview. The one thing I want to mention to our readers is that I had this horrible cold while we were there that day. I didn’t do much of the talking. I was recording and doing some video, which hopefully we’ll have some shots of in a companion video piece at some point here. It still was fascinating.
We learned so much.
We did learn a lot. You learn about service periods. You hear about them and you read about them but seeing one in action and how they’re doing it in such a small square footage of space in their business.
That was the thing that shocked me the most. When you see the video part of it, you’ll see it’s your average size, small little mailbox store with a little bit of mailboxes, PO boxes. Our local UPS Store that we use is about the same size.
They were smart. Burke is the owner of the store and he put all the 3D printing equipment and even the workstation for his employee that processes the files and runs the machine right up front in the window for everybody to see who walks by.
I bet they get a lot of questions and stuff like that all the time. The thing that excited me the most about the whole interview and visiting them and everything is how viable for a small business this is.
He’s invested some significant money in it. UPS as a corporation, is putting a lot behind it as well.
It’s all the more reason why you need to be a part of a network or services or call into our show. Let us help you because you don’t want to be out there on your own alone doing this. The fact that there are networks and that they’ve got that going on is such a benefit for them. When they have a problem with something or maybe their skilled labor doing the file downloads or running the printer run into a problem, they get to ask each other. They have their knowledge base and that’s great because they’re going to come up with the same problems again and again. That’s important that that shared knowledge is going to expand their businesses all together much faster.
It helps every potential customer of a UPS Store. You know that even if your particular UPS Store is a little bit new to it, they’ve got resources to help figure out potential problems and they’re probably going to do their best.
You’re not out there alone.
The other thing that this whole interview and experience talking to Burke at the UPS Store pointed out to me is that if you have a local business and 3D printing is something you’re considering. If you do it and you reach out to local media and local resources, there’s so much interest in 3D printing. You’re probably going to get a lot of exposure for your business and attention to your business that you might not otherwise get.
You better be prepared for it. You better make sure your website is up and can handle the traffic.
That’s a good word of caution, be careful what you wish for.
Seventeen million unique visitors are a lot to a website.
Think about it. One of the most difficult things for any business these days is how are they going to reach people? How are they going to get exposure? How are they going to let people know they’re there? In 3D, there’s a lot of interest around 3D printing.
You got to get people back in your store.
Not that it should be the only reason you go into 3D printing. There has to be some relevant reason why it’s of interest to you or of interest to your customers. If it is, then don’t be afraid to try and make some noise about it and reach out to others to get some exposure.
Maybe we should run a contest for a small business to contact us? You contact us and we’ll mentor you. We’ll help you. Someone can win.
That’s a great idea. That certainly would provide a lot of good subject matter for other readers.
I’ll think about that. Follow up with us, check out the blog and/or follow up with us on future episodes and I’ll mention it. We’ll structure it. We hope you enjoyed this interview. If you’ve got a business or a product or something you’d like us to review or come interview, we’re looking for new guests all the time. Please contact us. There’s a form on our website at HazzDesign.com. It’s under the Ask Us Anything section of the website. There’s a form in there that you can fill out and tell us about you and we’ll get back to you right away. We respond quickly to those things. Because there are two of us, we try to handle email ourselves rather than sub it out. We’ll see it. That way, we can check out something we might be missing.
We want to make this show relevant for you, our audience. Feel free to give us a comment, make a suggestion or ask us a question.
Refer us to someone. We’d love that.
Thanks for reading.
About The UPS Store 3D Printing Venture
Following the successful launch of 3D Print Services in six markets across the country, including Burke Jone’s San Diego store, The UPS Store has expanded 3D printing services to meet the growing demands of its small business customers to nearly 100 additional locations nationwide. With more than 4,300 locations, The UPS Store network comprises the nation’s largest franchise system of retail shipping, postal, print and business service centers. The UPS Store locations are independently owned and operated by licensed franchisees.
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