Longtime resident Karen Armstrong left her high-tech job last year and purchased LCI Paper, an e-commerce fine paper and printing company in Hudson.
Purchasing any company during a pandemic might be considered risky, but there was good news on the horizon.
Because so many weddings and similar events were postponed to avoid large gatherings, now there is a rush on these events, and many of them are seeking printed invitations.
“We have had an incredible boom,” Armstrong said. “This is supposed to be the busiest wedding year since 1984. The backlog of weddings and proposals between now and the next two or three years is tremendous.
“I bought the company at the perfect time, because they did have a downturn during the pandemic,” she added. “I bought it last May just when a lot of COVID restrictions were lifting, and people really want to have their weddings because they were putting the dates off. Summers are usually quieter, but last summer was very busy.”
Armstrong said printing in general is having a resurgence, and she has added staff and machinery to keep up with the demand. Her company sells to “printers, do-it-yourselfers, high-end wedding designers, restaurants, anyone who wants to print their own menus, the special occasion industry.” Orders are placed online (lcipaper.com), although customers can make an in-person appointment.
“In a lot of ways, with digital, people are a little overwhelmed,” she explained. “Where it used to be, once upon a time, ‘Yay, I got an email.’ Now it’s, ‘Yay, I got something in the mail that wasn’t advertising.’ Just having something luxurious, quality paper coming in the mail, starts the mood of a wedding off right, versus going to digital.”
Armstrong, who has a master’s degree in electro-optic engineering from Tufts University, previously worked in the optical industry for many years, specializing in manufacturing optical components and systems.
“I was just ready for a change,” she said. “I was interested in getting out of a highly regulated industry. It was a lot with government work, and quality is obviously very big, because some of it goes into medical equipment. My specialty within that was working with small companies and positioning them for growth. So, I found this company that was for sale online and worked through the SBA [Small Business Administration] and SCORE, which is kind of a mentoring group.
“I kind of am going on the ‘buy then build’ theory. So many small companies don’t make it, but you can find one that has made it. LCI Paper’s been around for 25 years. While paper is new to me, running a company is not. My goal is to take the company to the next level and position it for growth. And that’s what I’ve been working on. I bought it on May 21st of 2021, so our one-year anniversary is coming up. And we’ve grown significantly in this time.”
Pepka honored by NAAP
Hopkinton’s Carol Pepka recently received the National Activity Professional of the Year award through the National Association of Activity Professionals (NAAP), an organization that supports professionals who provide activities in longterm care.
In her nomination letter, Pepka received praise for her work with nursing home residents.
“Carla has her master’s, but deserves a doctorate in compassion, because she truly brightens up a room with her presence,” the letter reads.
Pepka also served on the Massachusetts Council of Activity Professionals, including a stint as president.
Local project gets nonprofit status
The College Axis Project, founded by Hopkinton residents Christine Chapman and Sims Yun, recently was approved as a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation.
Concerned that under-resourced students were opting out of the college application process due to financial uncertainty and a lack of guidance during the pandemic, Chapman and Yun founded the College Axis Project (thecollegeaxisproject.org) in May 2021. Their goal was to leverage their knowledge and experience to provide resources to all students, regardless of their socio-economic status.
The organization supports students through a combination of free services, curricular resources and fee-based virtual and in-person programming.
“The virtual classes make it possible for us to reach students anywhere,” Chapman stated. “College advising and application support shouldn’t be exclusive.”