Featured Member: Miller’s Professional Imaging
Miller’s Professional Imaging is a family-owned-and-operated business with a rich history and a small beginning. They offer prints and custom photo products like albums, USB drives, magnets, cards, banners, holiday ornaments, and much, much more. Everything Miller’s produces still gets the benefit of the human touch to ensure the highest quality for the customer.
Photo by Rachel Groner
There are two sub-brands: MPIX and MPIXPRO. Only professional photographers can use Miller’s traditional, prestige services. MPIX is the consumer brand that is available to everyone, while MPIXPRO is for the emerging photographer. Each brand offers unique, handmade gifts and prints that are appealing to just about anyone.
Miller’s started in 1939 in Pittsburg, Kansas, by a man named Bill Miller, a photographer working out of his small studio. Bill was passionate on every end of his profession, whether it be working as a wedding photographer or a cinematographer in the front lines of World War II.
Described as Miller’s ‘first salesman,’ Bill saw the opportunity to create a photo lab in Southeast Kansas. He rode around the area looking to gather other photographers’ images to develop and return. By 1964, he was operating a full-service photo lab in the upstairs of his studio. Four years later, Bill developed a larger lab to accommodate Miller’s growth, and that lab is now 166,000 square feet larger and still in operation today.
It is important to note, however, that although Bill had to pitch his idea to other photographers in order to start the business, present-day Miller’s has no sales force and is successful through mostly word-of-mouth.
These days, Bill’s son, Richard Miller, is the CEO of Miller’s. In 2001, another lab was constructed in Columbia, Missouri. Tracy Eichhorn, a Human Resources representative for Miller’s, gave Associated Industries of Missouri a tour.
Photo by Rachel Groner
The architecture is modern and a gorgeous water fountain sits at the front of the building. On the inside, stunning photos in frames and on canvas adorn the walls, and there is a window upstairs overlooking the lab part of the facility. The lab set-up is impressively designed for quick, efficient production and quality-control using several different departments designated for various parts of the process.
Miller’s provides photographers their proprietary free software with design tools to create exactly what they are looking to purchase with their own images. All images are uploaded to Miller’s where the first step in the process is analyzing the submitted images and tweaking them to print perfection. Miller’s believes that photographers make more money behind the camera rather than the computer and offer a wide array of services to help them achieve their business goals. Employees (who wear little finger cots!), examine each individual print for quality, throwing away and reprinting the ones that don’t meet or exceed high standards.
“[Miller’s Professional Imaging] is known for our quality and our turnaround time…we blow everyone else out of the water with those two things,” Eichhorn says as she guides us through the departments. No surprise, it’s easy to see the lab is fully optimized for its best production capability. If an order is placed by 3pm, it is usually out for shipment that night.
Photo by Rachel Groner
Most of the departments are dedicated to the different products being printed. There is a department, for example, dedicated to photo albums, Miller’s most high-end and time-consuming product. The photography industry has changed a lot since Bill Miller first opened Miller’s Professional Imaging. In an age that is almost completely digital, Miller’s has adapted with the industry by keeping up with cutting-edge equipment and updating its processes. Miller’s openly shares technologies and information with other businesses and the public.
Between the two labs in Kansas and Missouri, Miller’s sees about 5% growth every year. The dedication runs so deep that they even send some employees to rigorous schools to learn press-printing techniques.
Currently, the Columbia location has just under 120 employees, and each one is trained to do a specific job in the lab. Forty percent of their sales occur in the last quarter of the year (a.k.a. the holidays) so a large number of seasonal employees are added around that time. This year they are looking to hire anywhere from 60-85. Full-time employees receive outstanding health insurance, profit sharing, retirement funding and other benefits like life insurance and long-term disability. Visit millerslab.com, mpixpro.com or mpix.com to discover what Miller’s Professional Imaging can do with your photos.
Brought to you by Associated Industries of Missouri and Missouri Enterprise.