The Ink Garage

D’Ann and Mark Mowery had spent 20 years establishing themselves in their fields, D’Ann as a loan technician for the US Department of Agriculture and Mark as a commercial electrician. Both enjoyed their jobs, but the thought of owning their own business lingered in their minds. They had entertained several business ideas, but never found the right ‘fit’ for them.

D’Ann saw a commercial for a business chain that offered ink cartridge refilling and toner services. Well aware of the amount that her employer spent on ink and toner cartridges, as well as how pricey they were for her personal printer, she started to do some research on the industry. As she collected information, Mark became excited about the concept too.

In early 2009, the Mowerys had price quotes for the equipment and supplies needed to start a cartridge refilling business. They started to look for a suitable location for their business. Together they spent many hours developing a business plan for the project. With a target opening date in mind, they knew that it was time to approach lenders to secure financing. 

In April of 2009, D’Ann and Mark were referred to the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) by a potential lender. They had a draft of a business plan ready for review, and needed assistance preparing financial projections for the first three years of operations. The SBDC reviewed and offered feedback on the business plan, and helped draft the projections. With a presentation in hand, they submitted their loan request. Unfortunately, this was in the middle of the turmoil in the credit market, and their request was denied. 

The SBDC assisted the Mowerys with several revisions of the financials, and helped them submit applications for two publicly funded loan funds designed to assist small businesses. It became apparent that the required paperwork and processing times on these loan programs was too much.

D’Ann and Mark reviewed their business plan. They realized that with smart shopping, they could self-finance the start-up. Used equipment and fixtures were picked up at auction for a fraction of the cost of new.  A less costly facility was rented, and Mark did the required improvements himself. 

The Ink Garage opened on March 15, 2010. Mark runs the business full time, with D’Ann helping in the evenings and on the weekends. Their bright, colorful facility, which does look like a garage, is fully stocked with specialty papers, office supplies, greeting cards and new ink cartridges. They offer customers the convenience of refilling their cartridges while they wait, for a fifty percent discount off of the retail price of a new cartridge. Commercial accounts are offered pick-up and delivery service, and discounts are offered to municipal and non-profit customers. Passport photo and Notary services are available. The Mowerys offer a fundraiser activity for non-profit groups, where they are paid for each cartridge that they collect.

D’Ann and Mark stay in contact with the SBDC to keep them posted with their progress. In July of 2010, the SBDC’s IST Project Service Team visited The Ink Garage to help create a Google Maps entry for the business, and to analyze their network capacity and processing speed.

The Ink Garage is offering a valuable, money-saving service to businesses and consumers in the Lewistown area.