Running a business from the kitchen table proved difficult, and in the late 1980s a one-room studio was found, in Albion Place in the heart of Sydney. The operation quickly expanded beyond one room, to fill the whole floor. And within two years the company also occupied the floor below, when the neighbouring printing company (GSP Graphics) was acquired after the owner retired. With six staff, desktop pre-press equipment, traditional layout and planning benches, two imagesetters, two printing presses and a small amount of finishing equipment it soon became apparent that the premises were getting overcrowded – especially as entry was quite restricted, in a narrow alley, with no truck access and no lift.
In 1992 the move was made into brand new offices in Pitt Street, next to the Wesley Mission. The decision was made to sell the printing presses and concentrate on pre-press. A scanner was purchased and a new A2 imagesetter joined the growing arsenal of equipment. For the next three years, Colours staff of six created a solid name for the company, especially among the many small printers, design and advertising agencies in the heart of Sydney.
When the lease in Pitt Street ran out in 1996 it was obvious that larger premises again were needed. A whole floor was available above the Hard Rock Café, in Darlinghurst and after almost 6 months of refurbishment the now expanded staff of 10 moved into the architect-designed, open-plan offices and studio – and the next phase of growth commenced. A larger drum scanner was acquired, a Quantel Graphic Paintbox, an A1 imagesetter, proofing equipment and dozens of PCs and Macs. The staff grew to almost 20 and included sales-people, office and administration workers, as well as pre-press operators and dedicated scanners and retouchers.
Then disaster struck – on 14th July 1998 (Bastille Day) at 4.17pm, the chicken broiler in the Hard Rock Café caught fire and Colours premises were gutted. All equipment was destroyed, and it was six months before the company was effectively up and running again. Temporary premises in Holt Street, Surry Hills were quickly found and the process of purchasing replacement equipment was begun.
In February 1999 a new permanent home was found in Chippendale, on the fringe of Sydney city – almost 800 square metres of well-fitted out office and production space. These premises were luxurious with a large pre-press studio, retouching suite, meeting rooms, a dedicated press-room and bindery area. Recovery began in earnest and soon almost 30 staff were occupied in sales, pre-press, photo-retouching and printing – using a Xeikon digital press. This was unique, state-of-the-art equipment at the time – which allowed Colours to rapidly gain a reputation as an industry leader.
After the fire, Colours shared premises with a company called Boatrace The Digital Workshop, whose principals provided much marketing and sales support. However, Boatrace was short lived, and when in late 1999 it ceased trading, Colours was forced to down-size.
To add insult to injury, Colours’ insurance company was HIH. HIH had funded the recovery after the fire, but went broke in 2001, owing millions of dollars to many, many people (including Colours). At that point, Colours decided to shrink operations from 28 down to just 3 staff. New, much smaller premises were found in St Peters; and recovery and growth began again.
Over the next five years, with all the equipment once used by a staff of 28, supplemented by newer equipment such as Apple Mac Pro computers, a digital press from Konica-Minolta and a Heidelberg QMDI four-colour offset press, the staff of three were kept very busy.
In 2006, Colours moved to a small factory, also in St Peters, and the re-growth consolidated. More staff joined the company and new equipment was acquired. In 2008, an additional studio was occupied, in adjacent premises, and dedicated pre-press operators and designers joined the team.
And then in late 2010, Colours moved into a brand new building in Marrickville, over twice the size of the factory and studio that were occupied at the time.
Now Colours has grown to have a full-time staff of 12 and premises of over 600 square metres – a comfortable studio for design and pre-press, offices and reception; and a factory that is jam-packed full of state-of-the-art printing and digital-printing equipment, finishing and binding machinery; and on-line workflow software keeping it all under control.
It has certainly been a rocky road, from one-man band to multi-million-dollar operation, down again to a small business and then up again to where we are now. And to top it all off, like most of our colleagues and other businesses in Australia, we have somehow managed to weather the GFC. Who knows what’s around the corner… ?