Alumni Stories

Richard Saltzberg '72

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“Unity gave me the tools, support, and guts to go out on my own. Starting a new business combined my interest in design and the news.”

Growing up in the family printing business, starting the Unity College newspaper that also became the communication vehicle for the entire town, and having to postpone college graduation while he returned home to sell the family business after his father passed away, are layered experiences that brought Saltzberg to the realization he wanted to start his own business. 

“At 29, involved with so many startups, it was time. I didn’t know any better,” says Saltzberg. “Part of being an entrepreneur is to go with your gut, rather than listening to naysayers.” His deep chuckle tells the story better than words. As with anyone starting a business, innocence may be the key. “You have to be willing to try new things. Take a risk. Figure things out.”

He watched his father figure things out from the beginning—his father bought his own printing business on the day Richard was born. Saltzberg and the campus newspaper volunteer staff had to figure things out as well. 

Attending a fledgling school, the newspaper team, with the blessing of founding board members Bert Clifford, George Murdock and Ken Cianchette, and faculty like Dot Quimby, George Fowler, and Margaret Messer, trailblazed a path that brought the College and the town together in those early days. 

Saltzberg credits his will to succeed on growing up in a family business, working with the Rockland Courier Gazette during his college days to understand a different perspective on product and business management, and the pioneering spirit he learned while attending Unity College.

“Unity gave me the tools, support, and guts to go out on my own,” says Saltzberg. “My love for printing morphed into a passion for newspapers. Starting a new business combined my interest in design and the news.”

Talking with Richard, his big city charm, Massachusetts accent, and spirited grin display all he takes into everything he does, including choosing where to situate his new business—Boston, of course. Where else for a man whose passion is the Sox—as in Red—and the vibrant activity along the waterfront of the Charles River? “It’s expensive to build a business in the area,” says Saltzberg, “But with no competitors, we could offer up close and personal service to our clients at a better price.” 

He rented an old building from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As bad luck would have it, the blizzard of 1976 piled up the snow and the roof collapsed. There was good reason to quit.

Adversity breeds creativity and determination and sheer chutzpah.

Saltzberg, with his partner, surged ahead. He had to manage roof contractors, and drill 150 feet down through the floor to install structural pilings to support 100-foot platforms for their 80-ton newspaper presses. All to keep the vibrations and sinking soil from the nearby Charles River from affecting the work of his presses. Then his partner was found on the floor almost dead from lack of ventilation during the repair work.

Saltzberg used his wit and all his connections, and managed to open the business only three or four months later than expected.  They made sure they were ready, announced the opening with a Sunday jazz brunch and trio, and ran the presses.

“Get a good education. Surround yourself with great and talented people and believe in your vision. Finish what you start,” says Saltzberg. “You have to be part of the solution and form partnerships. Use your business to call attention to community causes and show the community your business cares.”

Above all, love what you do. After a five-year hiatus enjoying semi-retirement—filled with traveling, consulting and volunteering—he and his wife are thinking about starting another enterprise.  “I still miss the adrenalin rush of the 24/7 newspaper and media business. Time to start a new adventure!"

 

Friday, February 28, 2014