Heart of an entrepreneur

Michael Harper

PHOTO by Danie Schwartz

Michael Harper is looking at 2015 with a plan to create dozens of new jobs in this area. “My goal is to bring 50-60 technology, creative and customer service jobs to Chico as soon as possible,” he says. He hopes to achieve this goal through his growing online printing and mail-service company, LocalsChoicePrinting.com. “The business has tripled in the last six months,” he says, “as more and more businesses want to buy local, and source their print and direct mail needs online.” Harper, 39, grew up in Chula Vista, and moved to Chico at age 19. He and his wife, Kristi, have three children.

What drives you as a business leader?

I have always had the heart of an entrepreneur, growing up as the son of a music store owner. And my wife’s family is in printing. I started California Safe Co. in Chico 14 years ago, and moved it into the Down Range Indoor Training Center, so I could concentrate on propelling the family business of printing into the future. I love what I do, and have a passion for helping businesses do more of what they do best. My favorite aspect of this new business is working with some of the large companies here in Chico, to stretch their marketing dollars, and reach more people through direct-mail marketing. The price of direct mail has come way down, and helps to target your market to exactly who you want to do business with. I can’t tell you how often we are able to send out a direct-mail piece for less than the price of a first-class stamp. That is the fun part—helping local businesses make it in this very tough business climate.

What’s the biggest advantage of Locals Choice Printing?

It used to be you had to go to either a brick-and-mortar print shop, a franchise print store, or expensive design stores—or the opposite, buying really cheap cookie-cutter print jobs from online printers—but now we are setting the trend to bridge the gap. High-quality printing products are delivered right to your door, or sent out in the mail for you. We offer online low prices, with local customer service and graphic designers who know the area and the feel of what our local climate and surroundings bring. We have had an overwhelming response to our pricing, but more importantly our quality printing.

Tell me about your other activities in the community.

I am a proud member of the Chico Noon Exchange Club, and the Chico Elks Lodge. I am an ambassador with the Chico Chamber of Commerce. I am a huge supporter of the arts in public education. I support Nord Country School alongside Doug LaMalfa, and my wife, Kristi, who is a teacher at CORE Butte Charter School. I’m also involved with the local Work Training Center, as a marketing consultant. I volunteer as a counselor with SCORE (the Service Corps of Retired Executives), for startup businesses in retail, along with helping service-type businesses in marketing and client retention.

Tell me something else about you that’s interesting.

I grew up with Mario Lopez, of the TV shows Saved by the Bell and now Entertainment Tonight. But I haven’t seen him in 10 years.