People that love what they do and believe in what they're doing have a tendency to excite and energize those around them. These are the charismatic leaders that rally the troops and turn non-believers into advocates frothing with the same level of zeal. Roy Kirchner, owner and founder of Ultimate 3D Printing Store, is that guy. He exudes a level of enthusiasm and optimism that's palpable. His passion for all things 3D printing and his client success stories will leave you dreaming of the endless possibilities of this rapidly developing and easily accessible technology. As Kirchner puts it, “If you can dream it, we can print it.” His story, just like his motto, will inspire you and make you believe that anything is possible.
"I never went college," he said. "I don't even have a formal background or training in 3D printing or related technologies. After high school, I started selling cars. I was born with the gift of gab. As a result, I'm a natural salesperson. I worked my up through the car business and eventually got into the finance side of things. Along the way, I met a lot of different types of people, including the owner of a marketing and advertising agency. He took notice of what I was doing and asked if I wanted to get out of the car business and learn his business. I accepted a position as Operations Director and learned all about that industry. After some time, I started my own agency. Unfortunately, it failed, but I wasn't deterred. I took a job with one of the largest automotive advertising agencies in the country, learned as much as I could from that opportunity, saved up some money and eventually opened another marketing and advertising agency. This time, I succeeded."
Over the years, Kirchner sharpened his marketing and advertising skills. The one area he didn't have much exposure to was product launch and development. He wanted to understand what people went through to successfully launch a product. His world would change forever when he decided to check out Tampa Hackerspace.
"It's basically a co-working space for people that like to build and tinker with things," he said. "For a small monthly fee, you have access to 3D printers, word working machines, laser cutters and other tools. When I first saw the 3D printer, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. Sitting there watching it work and knowing what it was building, I knew it would change the world. I did some research and soon discovered all that it was capable of doing. These things could produce a prosthetic limb for a fraction of the cost. I was blown away. The statistics, showing tremendous growth, reinforced everything I was thinking. Around the same time, I happened to see an interview on Bloomberg with the guy that sold Tumblr to Yahoo. He talked about doing 3D printing on the side. That was it. I was sold."
Kirchner's next move is what separates those that merely dream from those that take action. He bought his own 3D printer, and then another and then eventually most of the Wanhao 3D printers on the market. He learned how to use them. He took them apart, built them back up and, in the process, learned how they operated. He took pictures of parts, wrote descriptions and began building a website to sell 3D printers and spare parts. He called China and spoke, with the help of a translator, to representatives with Wanhao. He informed them that he wanted to be a re-seller. Next, he hired a bond agent to figure out how to import the printers and how to clear customs. The momentum was building and so was the excitement.
"The work started in January of 2015," Kirchner said. "The website didn't go live until late October, but it was a full-time job from January through October. It took a lot of time to build the website and to research all the various printers. I had to clear the furniture out of my living room to make space for all the product I was buying. We eventually moved everything to the garage. That's really where it all started. When we launched, we were selling 3D printers, parts and filament. The first ten printers were sold to Australia, next was Dubai and then the United Kingdom. As we grew, I stocked more and more printers from different manufacturers. Most of the manufacturers will sell their printers direct to consumers. However, our customers get the satisfaction of knowing they're dealing with a trusted vendor that will take care of everything before, during and after the sale."
Within a month of launching the business, Kirchner was profitable and needed more space. He moved the business to the Pasco Industrial Park and rented office space that was part of a gym. The physical location, on a commercial scale, gave Kirchner's customers the ability to come in and see the product and learn all about 3D printing. It also gave Kirchner the ability to meet and interact with his customers. It was a pivotal moment in the evolution of Ultimate 3D Printing Store. Three years later, they moved into their current location on Gunn Highway that includes a showroom, a laboratory and plenty of space for printers and parts. Business is booming and Kirchner, along with his wife Kimberly, who handles the financials, couldn't be happier.
"The best part of what we're doing is how much it's changing people's lives," he said. "I truly love what we do. Not a lot of people can actually say that. Sure, there are times when it's stressful and I don't know what I'm doing or I'm having to learn something on the fly, but business is great and we're growing big time. I have people ask me all the time, 'What keeps you up at night'? I tell everyone, 'What doesn't keep me up at night'. Right now, we're in growing pain mode. We're trying to figure out where we go next. Do we hire more people? Do we need better and/or different policies and procedures? There's a lot going on right now."
Kirchner shared some incredible case studies highlighting the power and potential of 3D printing. From the owner of a vapor store making unique battery cases for vapor pens and generating astronomical profit margins to a woman who started an Etsy store selling 3D-printed cookie cutters. Behind all of these success stories, Kirchner was the driving force. He's become more than just the owner of a 3D printing store. He's a champion for the industry. He believes that 3D printing will change the world and he's doing his part by turning customers into believers.
What advice does Kirchner have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Being an entrepreneur is about being self-motivated," he said. "It's the difference between someone that knows they have to be at work because they have a job and someone up at 5 a.m. because they just get up and love what they do. There is a risk, but what's the worst thing that can happen? If you fail, you'll bounce back. When I failed with my first marketing agency, I got a job, saved money and did it again. Also, you have to be willing to accept criticism and you have to be open to others willing to show you alternative ways to do things."
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