Nick Sambrato is Founder and CEO of the wildly popular Mama’s Sauce Print Co. Nick has been a friend and mentor of mine for nearly 7 years. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold. I attribute this to his focused work ethic and passion for the craft. From a successful record label, distributed by Universal Music Group, to one of the most popular print companies around, even in this age where everyone is obsessed with digital, he finds a way.
How did you discover your passion?
Nick: There’s never really one ingredient, but if I picked out a single catalyst to finding my passion I’d say “the law of averages.” I started working when I was 14 and I held multiple jobs at once for the bulk of my career. The more you work, the more you know what you like and don’t like, the more you move the compass in the right direction.
When you started a print company, did you know much about printing? Everyone at that time seemed to be thinking digital! How were you able to learn so quickly and what drove you during that process?
Nick: I knew nothing about printing when we started. Like zero. Learning really started after a year in. You see, I bought a digital print shop that serviced indie bands for a very nominal amount of money. The assets were a website, about 2,000 DIY-minded indie band clients, some reams of digital paper, and a tabletop guillotine paper cutter. We did only that until the day our paths crossed with a designer/garage printer that did art for bands and printed their shirts and posters.
We were down and dirty cheap digital DIY, he was design-minded & screen print focused, but also in a garage like us – so also DIY. We bought his equipment and had 2-weeks of day & night training with him. After that we learned as we went. It was a real trial by fire. We started flying around the country and learning from sages we could find, hiring people who knew more than we did, and during that time met a letterpress.
After we found that, it was all over for us in the full-color/digital printing market. We met something we loved, and ditched our largest, most mature vertical not long after. Once we did that it was nothing but growth. Simplifying our offerings to only what we loved in combination with hard work and luck – these are some of the keys to where we are right now. It just so happens that what we fell in love with wasn’t the newest technology. It gave us something different to sell than the commodities, the things subject to Moore’s law getting smaller, quicker, and cheaper every sixteen months.
“What we sell doesn’t get faster. It doesn’t get better. It doesn’t get more efficient than the systems you build around it. It is what it is.”
Cont: Lucky for us, it’s a craft that the design community has embraced. Come what may on the digital side, hand-made printing will always be there, stuck in time looking as beautiful as it did when it was the new kid on the block.
Derek: The reason I ask is because you seem to find success effortlessly over the years I’ve known you. It’s honestly inspiring. Where do you think that comes from?
Nick: I think you know as well as I do that nothing comes without effort. The best we can hope for in business is to increase our probabilities of success trough hard work and discipline. It takes a great effort to make something work well and be sustainable. I’ve yet to meet a flourishing business without an extraordinary effort behind it. I’ve never meant to portray anything resembling effortless. Maybe it’s that I’m the product of hard working people and hustle. That’s all I know. That’s made it part of me and allows me to wear a smile along the way.
Maybe it’s that smile that’s made you think it’s effortless, the fact that I’ve enjoyed the journey. And that’s a guiding principle for me – enjoy the journey. When there are seasons where that’s not happening, I work to make sure that in the next season I can enjoy myself.
Ok, So what is the last movie/documentary/podcast or book that really inspired you and why?
Nick: Oh man, I love podcasts and docs. Docs: Man on Wire, Bill Cunningham New York, The Cruise – all people who are passionate. Podcasts: “Storycorps” is a universal vehicle for empathy and “Startup” is a vehicle of empathy for entrepreneurs.
“Advice to the next generation? Slow down”
Who was the person who made the greatest impact on your life and why?
Nick: Mama, no doubt my mama. She did everything to give her kids a better life and opportunities than she had – and she pulled it off. The rest is up to us.
Can you remember the greatest adventure of your life so far? How has it effected you as a person?
Nick: The greatest sense of adventure would have to go to my first real one – a 10,000 mile road trip across the US with one of my best friends. We were broke and split our nights between camping and staying with kind strangers we’d meet along the way. The trip instilled a sense of freedom in me. It robbed me of many irrational fears I had growing up. It helped me trust people, to not judge strangers, and see things for myself. You know, all that coming of age stuff. Getting out of your comfort zone is so important, and seeing how other people do life can really help you shape how you want yours to be.
How do you deal with adversity and challenges? Do you have a memory that stuck out where you overcame your fear?
Nick: I concentrate on not taking things personally. That does a lot to keep challenges manageable. My fear shifted once I started seeing the world for myself, getting out of my comfort zone and trying to understand different people and cultures. You can replace fear with understanding. That can change your being.
How do you spend the first hour of your day?
Nick: Organizing my priorities and then digging into emails.
What do you imagine life will be like in 2050?
Nick: Having to decide whether to opt into the singularity or not.
What will be the biggest challenge for todays youth as they enter the workforce?
Nick: I think that will be the same for all time – balancing your hopes and desires against your ego and drive to see if you’re really going to go for it or not. Either way, just make sure you’re at peace with it.
Studies show that people feel a deep connection and addiction to technology. How do you feel this is effecting humanity?
Nick: I think we’ve had a deep connection and addiction to technology since we started our first fires. We just seem to be at the point now where exponential technological evolution is making us advance faster than we really have time to process it’s effects…