When Cale Hall and Travis Sawyer came up with the idea for Creative Approach in 2004, they had little funding and even less space in their garden-level apartment on Tattnall Street.
But they knew what they wanted their fledgling company to be.
“We wanted to offer high quality digital printing with the help and advice of a trained staff,” Hall said. “But we wanted it to be more than that — we wanted it to be a print shop that was fast, efficient and convenient.”
Less than 10 years later, the company that caters to Savannah College of Art and Design students, local businesses and other professionals is growing and thriving in a new, spacious location with a variety of services that range from business cards to banners, Giclée prints to vinyl wrapping, much of it on a same-day basis.
On any given day, the shop bustles with SCAD students working at the bank of computers along one wall, business people putting in orders and artists picking up the latest batch of prints.
But it wasn’t always that way.
“We opened the shop in the spring of 2005,” Hall said. “Just when we thought we were starting to catch on, SCAD went on summer break.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse, Sawyer said.
“But we had actually played around in the beginning with the idea of a combination print shop/coffee shop, so we fell back on the coffee shop concept.
“Selling coffee and chicken sandwiches literally got us through the summer,” he said, laughing.
By mid-October that year, the students were back and Creative Approach was starting to get busy.
“We filled a niche that no one else wanted to fill,” Sawyer said.
During its first two years, the little print shop was open 24/7, catering to students and business people on deadline. It still stays open 24/7 during SCAD finals week.
“Our prices were competitive with online printing sites, but we were quicker,” Hall said. When they literally ran out of room — “We had to offer same-day service because we had no storage for completed jobs” — the two moved to a 1,500-square-foot shop on Jefferson Street.
“We lived above the shop, mostly on bread and water,” Hall joked.
In 2008, Mark Fountain — Hall’s partner in another downtown business — joined Hall and Sawyer, each bringing unique talents to the mix.
With an MBA from South College, Hall is the businessman. Sawyer, a SCAD graduate whose grandfather was a printer, has the technical expertise. And Fountain, who holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, handles real estate issues and takes the lead on finances.
“It’s been a solid business from the beginning,” Fountain said. “But it was under-funded. Unfortunately for small businesses, banks don’t often want to lend you money until you have so much money in the bank you don’t need a loan.
“It takes a willingness to go the distance and a passion to do what it takes to serve the customer’s needs. Failure was never an option for us.”
Today, that stick-to-it determination is embodied in a thriving business near the corner of Taylor Street and MLK Boulevard, its bright, open spaces dotted with computers, state-of-the art printing equipment and customers coming and going.
Many people come in with their projects or prints on a flash drive, plug them into one of the shop’s computers, talk to a staff member about what they want and walk out with the finished product in under an hour, Hall said.
Stephan Bauer, a senior photography major at SCAD who discovered Creative Approach through a friend, said he comes in on a regular basis.
“The staff is great, it’s quick, easy and not too expensive,” he said. “And the quality is excellent.”
Just what its creators had hoped it would be.
ON THE WEB
To view the company’s website, go to www.mycreativeapproach.com.