As with many great founding stories, Image Pointe started in a garage in a back alley. It was 1977, and Jeff and Pat Swartzendruber had been working hard to find a way to support their new family. Jeff had been selling Electrolux vacuums and Pat serving at the local mental health center. Neither came from wealth or privilege, but self-employed parents and a deeply-rooted faith had taught them that honest, hard work, service to others, and believing for God's best would yield fruit over time. Serving the youth at their church, they learned that 1,000 t-shirts would be needed for an upcoming youth rally. The youth pastor had some experience screen printing, so Jeff and a few others scraped together their meagre funds, bought a manual press to set up in a borrowed garage, and "Back Alley Printers" was born! Shortly thereafter, the others moved on to other pursuits, but Jeff and Pat saw the opportunity to continue. They left their other jobs, incorporated the company, hired four people, and took the leap of faith to go all-in on the business.
The next pivot point in the IP journey came courtesy of our friends at UAW 838 and IUPAT 246. Jeff got to know Dave Neil, then business agent at local 838, and learned about the union workers at John Deere. He quickly saw how UAW-branded tees and jackets would support their organizing efforts and help to build solidarity within the local, and more importantly how members benefitted greatly from being part of the union. Values were aligned and American-made products were already core to IP's business, but Dave helped to introduce Rod Walker, business agent at IUPAT 246, who organized IP staff under union contract. Since then, every garment that passes through IP has been handled by skilled, hard-working members of Painters 246, DC 81. We're proud to be a standard-bearer for the union bug that we print on every garment, and we strive to live up to what it represents.
Another important chapter in our story came in the mid-90s. Image Pointe had become an expert in servicing unions across the country with Union and USA made garments and promotional products, and had grown to more than 20 employees. Above all we prided ourselves in providing excellent pay and a thriving work environment for our team. During this time, Waterloo began to see a rapid influx in refugees fleeing war-torn Bosnia to seek asylum in the US. With no opportunity to return home, they were willing to work hard and simply needed a stable and safe place to earn an income for their families and establish a new life. Seeing the parallels from their own journey and that of so many union brothers and sisters across the country, Pat decided to bring a few on the team. We're proud to report that of our 60 employees in 2021, 17 are first-generation refugees to the US. We are honored to celebrate three of them as they complete 20 years of service in 2021. As with generations of American immigrants before them, through hard work and opportunity they have established a new life for themselves.
After nearly a decade living outside of the US, Josh and Beth Ruyle (formerly Swartzendruber) joined the company in 2015, assuming leadership over daily operations over the last five years. Their time abroad was spent in developing economies focused on one question - "what is the most effective way to alleviate poverty and suffering in disadvantaged and minority communities?". Graduate studies, years of experience leading organizations, and a growing body of research all led to the same answer - "a good job." Nothing can transform a life like a job. But not all jobs are created equal. Living wages, generous benefits, safe working conditions, opportunities for training and advancement, and the workforce sharing in the benefits of company growth - these are all things that increase the impact of a job on the life of the worker. Image Pointe is proud to provide good jobs, and we strive to grow our team and deepen our impact with each passing year. Moreover we're proud to support thousands of unions who do the same for millions of union members across the country. We're in this together.
Image Pointe's mission statement and company values can be found here. All great friendships are built upon shared values, and we consider our customers our friends. Over four decades we've seen how our brothers and sisters in union locals across the country fight hard for the very things we hold dear. If we're successful in our mission it means we take great care of our people. If we're successful in our service it means that unions can more effectively organize and build solidarity among their members, so that more people can experience the same - dignified, life-changing jobs.