Breen Printing attracts new generations to the industry

This article, which features Breen Printing as a Star Business, was originally published in print in the June issue of ProPrint magazine. To view click here.

After celebrating a milestone in the industry, Breen Printing shares its plans for the future, and passion to focus on training and apprenticeships.
Breen Printing recently turned 50, with the company celebrating the milestone at the Healesville Amateur Race Club, where friends, family and VIPs who have supported the business on its incredible journey shared in the festivities.
“We’d like to thank all of those who celebrated with us. The weather was perfect, the company was friendly, and the day was thoroughly enjoyed by all,” Breen Printing joint managing director Kirsty Woodhead said, acknowledging the Healesville-based company’s two generations of owners, including Peter Breen, involved from 2 April 1973 and Derek and Merinda Jones, involved from 1 July 1987.

The Breen Printing team

Kirsty and Luke Woodhead have been managing the company since 1 July 2020, and were joint winners in the Printer 50 category of the ProPrint Awards last year.

Among the guests were Lindsay Banks who has been involved with Breen Printing over the three generations; Chris Gander who has helped the company employ three key staff in recent years; Tim Mahoney from Spicers, Jane and Chris Jackson from Ball & Doggett and Peter Broman who trained Kirsty as an apprentice 23 years ago.

Not surprisingly, Kirsty is passionate about employing and nurturing apprentices at Breen Printing as they enter the industry.

“I have a background in education. I was teaching for a couple of years, and one reason that I was drawn to teaching is because I did my apprenticeship in pre-press when I was 18, and I found that I was flourishing in an encouraging learning environment at RMIT Brunswick – led by Robert Black at the time. When I finished my apprenticeship, I wanted to continue to teach and attract new generations to a growing industry,” she explained.

Press operator Glenn Macdonald and apprentice press operator Liam Hyde-Brody

“Breen provides a great environment for learning, and it is inspiring to have the LIA’s Lindsay Banks advocating for us – he always states “they breed them well at Breen”. Lindsay played a supportive role when I was nominated for the LIA Graduate of the Year in 2004, and again last year for Jacinta Allen when she was awarded as the 2022 runner up,” she said, explaining that the company has employed a lot of apprentices in the pre-press space over the years as she and Luke believe that it is a beneficial environment for people to upskill and an important way of introducing new generations to the printing industry.

“We’ve had five apprentices in our workplace, and most recently we employed our first printing apprentice, who started in December. Hiring apprentices and graduates has become a big part of who we are, we like to give young people the opportunity to learn more, develop new skills and knowledge, to see them grow. We truly enjoy supporting our team,” she said.

Prepress co-ordinator Jaz (Jacinta) Allen and prepress operator Nic Benson

“Being a family business, it is sometimes challenging to separate work from home, and not to let work issues consume us. On the bright side, it is nice that we can involve our two young daughters Yasmyn and Aliesha, aged 13 and 7 respectively, and integrate them into the business, just as Kirsty was involved in the business when she was a child,” Luke said.

Expansion is important to every thriving company and is something that is hot on Breen Printing’s list of goals – this extends to machinery, people, and premises.

Breen Printing recently purchased an Eykon 2513 FB UV LED flatbed printer from Agfa, which allows the company to widen its packaging and signage range, and experiment with new products including short run digital packaging solutions. The flatbed sits alongside a JWEI IT6000 cutting machine for labels and packaging as well as a Konica Minolta C6100 digital press, individually purchased in June and September of 2021.

In recent years, the company has installed solar panels and a diesel generator, necessary for a business in the Healesville area where outages are frequent.

Luke said Breen Printing is also hoping to purchase another block of land in the same street of its current location.

“Since purchasing the flatbed we are bursting at the seams – it’s taking up the last bit of our remaining floor space, and it’s pushing our power limitations right up to the edge,” he said.

Business development manager Tracey Williams with joint managing director Kirsty Woodhead

In addition, a customer service role has become available at the company, due to a team member’s promotion.

“It is an attractive option for someone in the local community to join our team. People love working at Breen and there is a common longevity here, plus it provides a good work-life balance,” Kirsty said, adding that she enjoys providing a nurturing environment for staff in the stunning location where the company is based.
“We’re always supportive and provide the space that allows people to grow. If they get to a point where they feel like they’ve reached their limit, we do all that we can to help them grow and work with the skills that they have.”

Luke explained that since Breen Printing is a small business, it deploys a flat management structure where supervision and management is unnecessary.
“Basically, we give everyone the tools they need and the decision-making abilities to be able to manage their own workload and their own jobs autonomously, which gives them ownership and connection to the business and their individual positions,” he said.

“The only time that we intervene is if there’s problem to be solved or if we are setting a priority, but other than that everyone has the freedom to make their own decisions. We are confident that our team has the knowledge and understanding of what’s expected to be able to make the right choices and decisions, and that they support each other.

“Naturally we must be selective about the people we choose. We want to ensure that we get the right person to complement the company’s dynamic and maintain the same morale. It’s no good choosing someone that’s perfect on paper and has all the skills and knowledge but the wrong attitude and doesn’t fit in.”

A long-term goal that the couple is focusing on is to advocate for the next generation of apprentices and to investigate the options that are available to make this happen.

“We’d like to help the PVCA and get behind the industry, become a voice for small businesses and help support other businesses in bringing young people into the industry,” Kirsty said, adding that she would also like to get the schools involved.

On the company’s 50th birthday celebrations, the couple stated how proud they are to be the third generation running Breen Printing and to be celebrating such a significant milestone with amazing people.

“Breen Printing is a great little business with huge potential. I’m proud of what our team has achieved in the short time we’ve held the reins and I’m excited about what Breen Printing will become in the future,” Luke said.

“We can’t wait to see where this part of the journey takes us. Cheers to you and the next 50 years!” Kirsty added, to all the guests and supporters, in closing.

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