By Whitney Vickers
YELLOW SPRINGS — Christine Soward wears many hats — she is a business woman, team player, mother and president/CEO of DMS Ink, which was just named the top Woman Owned Business of the Year by the Dayton Business Journal and placed second for the Minority Owned Business of the Year.
Soward, herself, additionally placed third as the publication’s Executive of the Year.
“Being a business person is a tough thing, no matter who you are, and I think being recognized by your peers is a great feeling,” Soward said. “It’s not something you do on your own — the people who work here (at DMS Ink) helped that happen … Had I not won, just being part of the many people who were nominated and the level of where they are in their careers and business, that was the biggest honor.”
It started when she was 12 years old. The eldest of six siblings, Soward was recruited by her father to help out in his printing shop, in which he was a partner, during weekends, over holiday breaks and throughout the summer months. Her father and his business partner separated around the time she was heading off to college, inspiring her to stay local and become his “right-hand woman,” she said.
Three decades later, the industry is encoded in her DNA.
“It’s what I know and what I’m passionate about,” Soward said. “He transferred the passion he had for the industry to me. It was very natural.”
According to Soward, the printing industry has change more within the past five years than it has in the last 30, which she said is very exciting. Up until the 2000s, businesses similar to DMS Ink used the same equipment utilized back in the 1980s. Automation and other methods and technologies didn’t gain speed in the printing world until the 1990s-2000s; smaller print shops were then able to afford the equipment.
Now, she says, digital printing is the future and DMS Ink is no exception. Soward emphasized the importance of adopting technology early on and utilizing the skills of both seasoned employees of the printing industry as well as the freshmen to the business.
“It is a holistic conversation with how we (DMS Ink) see the market, how the consumer wants to be related to and how our customer — the business that relays [the message] to the consumer — to see what they feel is the conduit of that, whether it’s paper, digital media, some other type of way of communication,” Soward said. “We have more streams of communication than we ever have, and that continues to grow.”
Although Soward estimates individuals belonging to Generation Y are not completely doing away with paper products, they have less patience for paper products taking up space or not serving a purpose. She said specialty paper products, such as magazine subscriptions, are considered “vintage” items among millennials and bring appreciated feelings of nostalgia to the surface. She highlighted that the mission is to create a relationship with the consumer, regardless of the specific media. The avenues that receive the strongest responsiveness from consumers will direct the future of marketing.
Paper, she predicts, will make a comeback — but not in the same fashion as the past. The driving force behind that revival is security. Soward estimates a hybrid between paper products and digital avenues when it comes to delivering messages to consumers. She said the easier it is for an individual to utilize technology to make daily tasks easier, the easier it is for crooks to steal personal information. Meanwhile, paper cannot be hacked.
“Communication is continuing to change,” she said. “Being open to adding that to the pool is something you have to be willing to do.”
Thirty years in the business later, Soward said she keeps an ear to the ground to listen for what’s coming up. Although this award allowed her to recently be recognized among her peers, she is nowhere near ready to place a bow on top of what she’s doing.
“It validates that you’ve made the right decisions for the team, that you’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “You can’t ever settle for something. This is just another step to the future. The fact that you were recognized for some success is just validation that you’re moving in the right direction. To me, there is never a cherry on top because that means you’re done.”
As for young ladies taking the very first steps into their career, Soward advises them to stop trying to be everything to everyone.
“As women, we’ve been told we can have it all. And let me tell you, that is a misnomer,” Soward said. “You have to make a choice everyday because trying to be everything everyday is exhausting and it’s something no one is able to do … Some days you have to say ‘what is my priority today?’ — because if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority … You don’t let the bad things in your life define who you are. It’s the grace of how you handle those things that make you the person you are today.”