Nadine Tripodi has been in the Graphic Arts/Printing Profession for over 30 years. Starting as an apprentice in an advertising agency, she subsequently worked as a Photographer’s Assistant and Offset Print Sales Associate.
She has experience in Publication Print Sales, Technical Sales for Industrial Printing, and she’s the co-founder/owner of Butler Technologies, Inc. Her experience encompasses a wealth of Print Technologies. Her education includes a BA in Organizational Leadership from Wheeling Jesuit University.
She has served on several local Boards, including Catalyst Connection, Pitt Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, The Community Development Corporation of Butler County, and The Redevelopment Authority of Butler County. In 2015, the Butler County Chamber of Commerce conferred on her the ‘William Morgan Entrepreneur of the Year’ award.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
What motivated me to start my own business was the simple desire to control my own destiny.
I was working in the Graphic Arts Industry for several years and was curious and interested in making things—printing was the ideal outlet for me to do so.
Tell us about your business.
Along with a business partner, I launched Butler Technologies in 1990. Butler was intended to start as a screen printing company specializing in industry labeling and membrane switches. We were waylaid for three and a half years by legal issues with a former employer. In order to support our families and ultimately fund the start the company of our dreams, we sold Publication Printing for a Printer in Central Pennsylvania.
Against all practical business advice, BTI was structured as a 50/50 partnership. It thrived for 22 years as such, and in 2010, my partner retired, and I purchased his share of the business.
The core products manufactured by BTI are Membrane Switches, Graphic Overlays, and labeling for Instruments and Equipment. In recent years, printed electronics—including flexible circuitry, printed sensors, printed heaters, and other new products have been added to our offerings.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We are not running any contests or giveaways per se but we are proud of our R2P2 program (Rapid Response Prototype Program). This program attracts the attention of design engineers looking to develop new products for their companies.
We have a one week turnaround from when they submit a design to us to the item being printed. A recent example of this program was taking a membrane switch from a pure concept to a finished product in a 2 week time frame over the Christmas/New Year Holiday.
An example of a membrane switch is on a microwave oven—the touch sensitive panel that controls the oven. There are layers of graphic, circuits, spacers, and backers that are printed, cut, and assembled to make the switch.
- Certifications: Certified ISO Company, Certified WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise)
- Memberships: National Association of Graphic and Product Identification Manufacturers Inc., SGIA, Team Neo
- Olympics Jacket: Butler Technologies helped DuPont Electronics design, develop, and manufacture the printed heating mechanisms that adhere to the inside of the Olympic Opening Ceremony Jackets. This speaks to our ability to develop strong relationships with the suppliers network who in turn have great confidence in our abilities. These suppliers have no qualms bringing us a project of that magnitude to help them design the item and bring it to the market.
Where is your business based?
Butler Technologies is based in Butler, PA (35 miles north of Pittsburgh).
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first step to get Butler Technologies up and running was learning to create a full scale business plan, which we accomplished with the help of a local business consultant. We included everything from projected financial statements to a Sales and Marketing Plan.
It was a valuable exercise, one that made us focus on the specifics of what we intended to do and how we were going to accomplish it.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Our philosophy has always been that direct sales and 1:1 contact with prospective customers is the most effective sales channel that we had. We are currently embracing the new era of internet marketing and the benefits and effectiveness that go along with it.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Our biggest challenge so far has been going from being an established contract printer of membrane switches, graphic overlays, and labels to introducing a new product line, one that is in its infancy: namely, printed electronics (PE).
This include products like printed heaters, printed antennae, printed components for wearables; flexible, washable, circuitry that can be glued, sewn, or attached to garments in various ways. Identifying the possibility for converting old technologies into some of the newer concepts is challenging for engineering, sales, and production.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Patience is key to overcoming this major challenge as printed electronics is a maturing industry. We have been working toward this for almost 10 years, waiting for the opportunities to be accepted in everyday product design. It was well worth the wait as it is something that Butler succeeds in and enjoys.
I also reached out and asked for help from the leadership team at Butler Tech. We have gathered advice and education from outside sources and groups that we belong to, such as the Pitt Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, Catalyst Connection, Team Neo, and various Economic Development Groups in the region. I try to participate and learn from as many sources as possible.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Connections and conversations with other business owners going through similar growing pains kept me motivated through difficult times. I belong to an Executive Forum, which is a group made up of 6 other business owners who get together on a monthly basis to hash out issues, successes, or frustrations that are at the top of our lists. This has been a great resource.
I also read motivational books and articles, business magazines and peruse different business websites, as well as emails and podcasts to provide information.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I believe that our solid relationships and consistently living up to the goal of customer satisfaction that is ingrained in every level of BTI, sets us apart from our competitors.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
I keep a quote of the day/month/week on a bulletin board in my office. My current quote reads:
“Hire right, create structure, and equip with knowledge.” Last month, the quote on the board read “Solve the problem and move on.” These are just the most recent ‘words of wisdom’ that have resonated with me.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
I would tell other entrepreneurs to surround yourself with good people and to never hire someone out of an attitude of concession (because you couldn’t find exactly what you were looking for). Wait for the perfect fit.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
My favorite business tool is (still) the telephone; I always prefer to talk to people 1:1 versus any other method of communication; I believe it is the most effective, most direct, and best way to work with people.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable was a great book I read recently along with the leadership team at BTI. The first time I read it was several years ago—when I read it for the second time, I realized how valuable the lessons are.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am currently doing a deep dive into marketing and social media. BTI is a company that grew up with direct sales as the most effective marketing tool and I have come to the realization that there is so much more out there today that can help us grow and expand.
The education that we are gaining from communication and media has allowed us to find out how we can connect with more people and get BTI’s message out to targeted audiences.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My biggest goal is to develop partnerships with additional printers and suppliers as part of our printed electronics initiative. I am achieving this through conferences like WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) which has provided me many new connections as well as other manufacturing industry networks.
These are good opportunities to establish new partnerships and be introduced to more people who can teach us how to move forward with the latest developments and ultimately be more successful.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
I personally stick to LinkedIn, but Butler Tech has recently expanded and now has active Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn pages.