michelle steinberg with her arms crossed

Women in print: celebrating International Women's Day

A Q&A with Michelle Steinberg, Founder and CEO of Sepire


Founder and CEO of Sepire, Michelle Steinberg, discusses women in the print industry.

Read time: 4 minutes

In the early nineties as Michelle Steinberg was starting her career, she landed a junior account role at a private ad agency in Chicago. She was paired with a seasoned Senior Account Manager who took Michelle under her wing and, when the timing was right, pushed her out of the nest and into the pitch room — an experience that left a lasting impression.

Michelle went on to build multiple successful businesses in her decades-long career in print and production. But she never forgot that mentorship, or what it meant to her. Today, as the Founder and CEO of Sepire, Michelle is closing the circle with her own leadership program for young women just starting out in the print industry. We sat down with Michelle to talk about women in print, how to speak your mind, and the role of company culture in business success.

I think equity in print production has yet to catch up. But there are so many opportunities on the horizon that I can’t imagine a future where women aren’t going to be holding more leadership roles.

Michelle Steinberg

Founder and CEO


R: In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re thrilled to talk with you today about women in print. Despite the influx of women to the field in the last decade or so, the ratio of women to men in print production is still 1:3. Do you have any thoughts on that?

M: I do. I think that when people hear the term “print production,” they think of a print shop. You know, big machines, lots of hardware, and actual physical print materials. But the business is about so much more that that, especially today.

So much of the work revolves around technology, innovations, breakthroughs. It’s actually a very dynamic and exciting field. So, similar to the diversity trajectory of the tech world, I think equity in print production has yet to catch up. But there are so many opportunities on the horizon that I can’t imagine a future where women aren’t going to be holding more leadership roles.

R: What kinds of opportunities come to mind?

M: Oh, all kinds. With the way the world works now, organizations like Sepire are poised to help their clients streamline, scale, and grow in sustainable ways and that’s really inspiring. Of course, Sepire helps clients with traditional “print shop” needs like high-volume printing and digital document production. But we also implement solutions for workflow management, produce marketing campaigns, and secure highly regulated communications to meet the strictest compliance requirements for the healthcare, banking, and insurance industries. We’re talking the highest levels of privacy and security here (PHI, HIPPA, etc.) so we have to be able to develop working relationships that are based on trust and open communication as mistakes could be table stakes for our clients.

R: We share a similar corporate culture.

M: Absolutely. That’s why we love working with Ricoh. From the organizational focus on people, planet, and prosperity to building lasting partnerships with our clients and keeping a servant leadership mindset, we share a lot of company values.

R: Speaking of culture, how important is it to you to choose partners based on shared values?

M: It’s crucial. Not only in partners, but in clients as well. As they say, you can’t be everything to everyone. I think one of the secrets to success in the print field is to specialize. There’s so much out there in terms of software, systems, processes … it’s important to partner with someone you can trust who has some skin in the game. That’s what adds true value to the partnership.

It's also true internally. We hire folks who “get it.” Our industry is fast-paced, ever-changing, and always evolving so there needs to be flexibility, there needs to be adaptability and a willingness to be curious and question the status quo…basically a growth mindset. At Sepire, respect is another core value —respect on all sides. Our interns are treated with the same care and respect we pay to our executives. That’s how you build a winning culture. Top-notch communication skills are also essential.

R: That’s a great segue into the next question. We all have different communication styles, and not to overgeneralize, but it can sometimes be challenging for women to speak their minds in traditionally male industries. As a leader in the print industry, do you have any advice for women just starting out in the field?

M: Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, to get in the weeds. You’re not always going to be aligned on an issue but working through challenges is how we find better ways to do things. It’s how we innovate. Listen to understand. And lastly, be prepared. Communication styles may vary, but the facts are the facts. Information is powerful.

R: We’re all about unlocking the power of information, so that’s great advice for everyone, and for women in particular.

Can you speak to the leadership program you’ve developed at Sepire to usher in a new generation of women leaders in print production, the inspiration behind starting the program and what you’re trying to accomplish?

M: When I was first starting out, I had a wonderful mentor at a private ad agency in Chicago. She taught me how to talk the talk and walk the walk as I was learning the industry. Then one day, she was overwhelmed with tasks and handed me a stack of storyboards and said, “Okay, you’re good. Go present these to the client. They’re in the boardroom.” Talk about trial by fire!

But that experience taught me so much. Having the knowledge, learning the skills, and understanding how business works through on-the-job experience is essential to success. As my career grew and I started building my own businesses, I knew I wanted to close the circle and develop a leadership program of my own to guide the next generation of print leaders.

R: How does it work?

M: There’s a great print program at Clemson University and we partner with them currently, but there are plans for expansion. Students can apply for the internship program (lasting a few months) and soon-to-be or recent graduates can apply for a full-time role on site. This year, we have five truly remarkable women that left their homes and families to come work for Sepire and receive coaching, mentoring, and leadership training from the entire team. We really rally around these folks as we want them to be successful. Competitive compensation, benefits, and an equal seat at the table are all part of the package.

R: Kudos to you for creating such a visionary program. You’re paving the way for a new generation of women in print, and this is something that would be beneficial in so many industries.

M: It definitely is … of course, Sepire is not the only company with a mentor program. But mentorship is something of a lost art and it’s a fantastic way to knowledge-share and build sustainable business practices that impact everything from ideation to the bottom line. As a Founder and CEO, I have a responsibility to bring smart people into the company and bring them up in the organization. And that should be a priority of leaders across fields, especially in those where women still represent the minority.

To learn more about Michelle Steinberg and Sepire, visit https://www.sepire.com.

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