MADE is a paid partnership with Little Lake County.
Welcome to MADE in Lake County! MADE introduces you to the people and stories behind local Lake County businesses. Today it is our pleasure to introduce you to Nancy Needham Solomon. Nancy is the owner of Melon Ink, a Lake Zurich based embroidery, screen printing
Nancy Needham Solomon grew up thinking she was going to be the VP of American Airlines and travel the world. Her life looks a little different than that dream, although she still gets to control her destiny as the owner of Melon Ink.
Nancy started Melon Ink in her home in 1994 for the same reasons many entrepreneurs get started. Her family needed the income, but she still wanted to be available to care for her children. Twenty-five years later Nancy is running a successful business and employs 11 people in her Lake Zurich shop. We sat down with her to learn more about Nancy and the company she has grown.
Melon Ink is an unusual name, how did you come up with it?
The official name of the business is Elegant Embroidery Inc. and is the parent company. Initially, I thought I’d be targeting the decorative retail market – embroidery on personal decorating projects. It quickly became evident that the need for commercial embroidery was far outweighing that need and I immediately began producing goods for small businesses, sports teams, clubs, schools, etc. Screenprinting became a frequent request, and once the demand became large enough to produce that also, I had to move into a commercial facility out of the house. I also knew in order to sell screen printing, I needed a more encompassing name for marketing. My four boys chose the name, Melon Ink. Growing up they were nicknamed the “Melon brothers” because their last name is Malinowski. They all agreed on Melon Ink, and the original logo was drawn by my son who is an art teacher.
Melon Ink’s current logo (seen in this story) was created by graphic artist Chris Geimer of Chris Geimer Design.
What the average shopper may not know about embroidery is that it is equal parts creativity and computer programming. You not only have to have an understanding of sewing and design basics but understand the computer hardware and software that powers the machine. Nancy’s background included selling computer hardware and software in the credit industry, covering thirteen states. She had an understanding of textiles and sewing skills passed down from her mother. This made her uniquely skilled to run an embroidery business. Nancy received additional training with the purchase of her first commercial machine, and the rest is history!
Unlike many of our featured entrepreneurs, Nancy had a leg up starting a business having previously run Mother Goose Daycare. She was able to start Melon Ink having the basic knowledge of what it takes to run a business in Illinois. That certainly didn’t make it easy! She spent seven years building up the company in her own home until it had literally taken over every space she had, basement, kitchen, dining room, everywhere!
As with most businesses the hardest part of the job is getting the word out what they do. Melon Ink is unique in the screen printing and promotion space in that they produce their screen-printing, embroidery and some of their promotional products on-site in Lake Zurich. Other promotional companies may sell the same products, but not produce in house. Meaning you may be buying from them and then they are buying or contracting out from another person. Melon Ink is a little bit of everything, producer, distributor, supplier and wholesale all in one. Doing so much of the work in house allows them to them to have a quality product and a great value.
Nancy’s boys do more than provide the inspiration for the business and the name. All four have been or are involved in the business. Her youngest manages the business currently, and the others are always supportive, sending leads, friends, co-workers and if necessary helping out when needed. The whole business really is a family affair as Nancy’s husband is also in the business as her National Sales manager. In fact, when they met, he was her competition. Love was stronger than the competition though and Nancy purchased his business, merging his business with hers and their lives together.
When she’s not in the shop, Nancy enjoys doing genealogy research, exercising, traveling and spending time with her husband. As with any business owner balancing all that and a company is hard work. Nancy not only has hobbies, a husband and four children she has ten (10!) grandchildren. Juggling all those balls can make anyone tired but Nancy finds being around her family, baking or just hanging out is recharging for her.
When the weather is nice Nancy likes to ride her bike through the LCFPD. She enjoys being active and working out and started weight lifting as a teenager, she hopes to continue that habit into her later years. A perfect day would be filled with sunshine, a workout – preferably on the beach- and a nice meal with family. If she could learn anything in the world, it would be to speak a foreign language such as Spanish or Gaelic.
Nancy may not be traveling the world as the VP of an airline, but she is living out her dreams in Lake Zurich one embroidered product at a time.
Melon Ink is offering our readers 20% off a first time order and 10% off a repeat order. Just mention that you saw it on Little Lake County!
Disclosure: Melon Ink is our featured Business of the Month. This series is part of a paid promotion partnership with Little Lake County. If you are interested in featuring your locally-owned business in our series, please contact the sales team.