They don’t Monkey around. Outfitting Davis with custom-designed garments, a small monkey logo resides on many shirts, mugs, in many closet drawers, on many hoodies, at community events, and on the walls of 2500 Fifth Street at Ink Monkey Graphics office. With bright walls and a willing staff, Ink Monkey has successfully blanketed Davis with innovative graphic designs through friendly service and an efficient work ethic.
Jason Steenbergen started as a business partner at Screaming Squeegee in 1987. In November 2002, Jason branched off and started Ink Monkey and never looked back. “My family was here…we were established here,” Jason explained in response to his reason for starting Ink Monkey. “It was just a continuation of what I had started with the other company.”
General Manager Kristen Hill joined the crew in 2003. Kristen had a business of her own and would often go to Jason for her graphic design needs. “When I came in, it (Ink Monkey) had just started and it was total chaos – the phone was ringing off the hook, and people were coming in…,” she said. Kristen was admittedly bored with what she was doing and her kids were in school, so when someone suggested the job ad posted for the Ink Monkey position, she figured she would try it.
When she approached Jason about the position, his response was,” It’s crazy here, but come in and we’ll grab lunch,” Kristen recounted.”…and that’s kind of how it all happened.” Kristen has been the general manager ever since. With strong work ethics and dedication to customer satisfaction, the two have created a team that continues to bring new and diverse aspects to their business.
Living in Davis and being involved in the community is something that Ink Monkey prides itself in. Through the many different groups and organizations in town both Jason and Kristen have found it exceedingly important to be seen in, be involved with, and give back to the community. This is an integral part of their success. Because of this, their names and faces can be identified by many, and their loyal customers serve as advocates for the local company.
Ink Monkey’s goal is to treat its customers like friends and neighbors, “…to develop long-term relationships and long-term customers,” Jason said, “…it’s kind of the core of the way Kristen and I do things here.”
The graphic designs brought into and created by Ink Monkey can be printed and embroidered on nearly anything. With a range of products – from key chains to shirts, banners, cups and mugs – if you dream it, Ink Monkey will find a way to make it work. Ink Monkey offers screen printing, embroidering, and can even do large, custom banners. “We’ve even done chocolates,” Jason commented when reflecting on their large portfolio of work, which is ever-expanding.
To sell its product, Ink Monkey believes in doing it the old fashion way. “There is no sales tactics, no middle man, we’re it,” Kristen said. Both Kristen and Jason stand true to the idea of manufacturing from beginning to end. The two are able to oversee the entire process and help make pivotal decisions that other companies might not have control over. “There is no middle man, no outsourcing,” said Jason.
Jason takes pride in the fact that Ink Monkey actually produces and is strongly rooted in the community. “We can’t lose sight of how important that is,” Jason said. Admittedly Ink Monkey has a lot stacked against it with the cost of space in Davis, compared to other areas, but “…. we are producing the sales tax dollars from our business and they are going here” Jason said.
Despite the challenges that Ink Monkey faces as a business, the benefits that come from the job are equally rewarding. “It’s cool to see the loop,” Jason said. The loop originates from customers coming in with an idea then continues to the graphic designers who might have some ideas that will elevate the initial idea to the next level. The customer will then receive a proof to approve any enhancing changes, and see the product upon its completion. By being so involved in the process, customers are happy to use Ink Monkey again, “…this is the cycle that we are trying to perpetuate,” Jason said.
With eight strong years under its belt, Ink Monkey is prepared to tackle any challenges it may face. “We are totally flexible…and there are so many opportunities out there,” Jason said. Although there is no answer to what the future might hold, Ink Monkey is ready and willing to adjust any equipment and systems to facilitate the future demand.
The diverse appeal that Ink Monkey is able to work to its advantage also contributes to its success. While many Davis businesses suffer during the months the students are gone, Ink Monkey adapts. While both Kristen and Jason recognize that the University is a huge draw for Davis and “one of the things that makes Davis unique,” they aren’t reliant upon the student population for their success. There are many other venues, teams, businesses, organizations and companies that turn to Ink Monkey for new creative ideas.
The creativity developed by the team is not done alone; Jason and Kristen have a team of employees that range from a front receptionist, to graphic designer, to the guys in the back who actually do all of the printing. But the business at Ink Monkey is unique in that the team acts as a whole. No detail goes unnoticed, because everyone is producing the same product with the same work ethic and has been involved in the process from start to finish.
Some of you might have seen this strange contraption of a bike cruising around Davis, or parked on display in front of the shop. That’s Jason’s delivery bike. It’s green with a flat bed-like portion on the front that he uses to deliver some of the company’s custom-designed products. Each portion of the Ink Monkey experience is genuine and unique, something that many companies – especially those who outsource – lose sight of.
With any custom printing job, Ink Monkey would undoubtedly be happy to help, as its team will never put off a challenge. The company’s success does not come from the actual process of creating goods, it’s in the mentality and approach “…It’s working for a company that you believe in,” Kristen said, who probably summed it up best. The entire team believes in their company, ideas and projects, and that quality and confidence carries over into every aspect of the business, including the people who wear the shirts, hang the banner, or give away the pens. “You get out of it what you put into it,” Kristen concluded.
On any given day, the Ink Monkey crew is investing their time and energy on their products and the enhancement of Davis as a great community. To put it simply Jason said, “We are providing product to people who have a demand in a way that is better than they are getting now.” And they are.