Owner and operator, Carbon Press
The road to owning and running a custom printing and design company is solely thanks to a happy accident for Patrick Wilke.
When Wilke returned to Southwest Florida in 2008 after teaching music in Italy, the Fort Myers native wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. A friend grew up in a print shop and mentioned they needed extra help.
“I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t know anything about it but sure,’” Wilke says. “Do you ever have those happy accidents in life? It ticked every box I had. I consider myself a creative person. … I love building and working my hands.”
As a result of trying something new, Wilke discovered a job that fit his interests and talents perfectly. After working in and learning the industry for several years, he and his wife, Sarah, decided to form their own company, Carbon Press, in early 2017. The duo have been successful, printing and designing custom-made products like huge signs, floor and wall coverings, car wraps and more for local and national clients. The business, with 10 full-time and several independent contract employees, has since expanded to a second location.
Wilke believes the secret to their rapid success stems from the quality of their work and word-of-mouth referrals. That worked so fast for the company that the Wilkes suddenly found themselves printing massive signs and prints for clients including Budweiser, Land Shark and the Minnesota Twins.
Although Wilke is excited about the future of his company, he doesn’t want Carbon Press to spread out too rapidly and says, “Quality is always going to be key to success.” He believes they will be better off expanding locally or regionally, instead of having a printing shop in every city in the country like other printing companies, which Wilke says can’t offer the same type of custom work he does.
ON THE RECORD: Patrick Wilke
City of residence: Fort Myers
Employer: Carbon Press
Title: Owner / Operator
Birthplace: Fort Myers
Years on the Gulf Coast: 35
Marital status/children: Married
Alma mater/degree: N/A
Where is the best place to network? Social events are great, but I prefer intentional one-on-one meetings better.
What's the best business lesson you've ever learned? Your team comes before anything else. Your operation and goals cannot come together unless you have people surrounding you that know your vision and are on board to achieve it together.
What's your top tip for being productive? Accountability. I know it is an odd answer, but having people who know your schedule and make sure you are on top of things is such a great help. Intentionally blocking off time for tasks is a must.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? N/A
What community group or organization are you most involved with? We currently partner with several organizations. I don’t think we specifically focus more greatly on one.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Metal art
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Definitely playing music and adventuring with my daughter.
What's your favorite board game or video game? Nothing beats good ol' Starfox on Super Nintendo.
What's the top item on your bucket list? Segway race on the Great Wall of China! But honestly, I’d love to do a food tour in Thailand.
Where is your happy place? Session work in the studio is definitely my happy place. I’ve been playing guitar and bass for decades and love being in an environment where I can get creative. I love to cook, so the kitchen is a close second.
What's your favorite podcast? I’m a huge Jordan Peterson fan.
Who/what is your favorite musical artist/band? I have many, but if one reigns supreme, I’m a huge Police fan.
Who would play you in a movie about your life? Morgan Freeman, maybe.
What was your first album/tape cassette/CD? Pearl Jam’s “Ten”
What was your first concert? Can’t remember. I grew up going to so many! If you want to go way back, probably Raffi.
What's one song that will get you out on the dance floor? About six shots of whiskey, but that’s not a song
What's your favorite karaoke song? Any one, I’m not singing.
What instrument/role would you play in a band? Well, I do play lead electric guitar in a band, so … that one!
Please describe yourself in three words: Focused, forced-extrovert and intentional