Meet the family with print running through its blood

Printing firm Ernest Cummins is celebrating its 111th anniversary this year and while the Bradford-based business has seen many changes over the years it remains committed to its roots.

Hannah Cummins is part of the fifth generation to help run the printing business, which employs 16 people.

Ms Cummins says that she feels the pressure helping run a business which her great-great-grandfather, Ernest, set up.

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She told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s something that’s in the blood because you’ve been brought up with it so you accept it as what it is.

Hannah Cummins on the presses at Ernest Cummins.

“You get on and you make it work because it feeds the whole family but there is pressure because obviously it’s a brand that my great-great-grandad set up and you want to keep it going because you’re proud of it.”

The firm has survived recessions, wars and fires. It has also had to adapt to changes in the ever-evolving marketplace.

Ms Cummins’ father, Chris, joined the business in 1976 and is currently managing director of the Bradford-based business.

One of the biggest changes that he has helped usher in is digital printing. Ernest Cummins has also signed up to a carbon neutral scheme.

Chris Cummins and Hannah Cummins in front of a digital printer at Ernest Cummins in Bradford.

It means that the firm uses recycled paper where it can and when one tree is cut down it is replaced with four.

“We’ve got a responsibility to look after the planet,” says Mr Cummins.

More women are going into the printing trade now than ever before. During her time at printing college, Ms Cummins was the only female on her course.

Both father and daughter believe that’s because the industry is much more cleaner and less labour intensive these days.

It wasn’t always a given that Ms Cummins would join the family business.

She said: “I went to university and did design management and then it was a toss up between going to do my masters and joining the RAF. I did actually apply to join the RAF but then I decided to do my masters. Because the university was next to here I started working here, mainly to get experience so that I’d be employable.

“Then I ended up going to print college. I don’t believe that you can sell something that you can’t do or understand.”

The biggest development Ms Cummins has seen since joining the business in 2003 is the opportunities offered by online selling platforms such as Amazon.

However, at the same time, this provides a challenge as Cummins prides itself on offering a personal approach to its customers. It’s a characteristic that Ms Cummins is keen to retain.

“You’re young so you’re enthusiastic and want to get out there,” she said. “You’re proud of what you’ve got so you want to talk to people about it. I attend lots of networking events and business events.”

Ernest Cummins Printers was also involved in Bradford Manufacturing Weeks “to get the next generation in Bradford involved in print and to promote an understanding of design and creative industry”, Ms Cummins said.

One of its longest-serving staff members, who has been at the business for 47 years, started off as an apprentice. The business has already had two young people come in to do work experience this year and is planning on welcoming another student to do a stint in July.

Even when she was younger, Ms Cummins would help around the factory. “During school holidays I’d be around the envelope machine or helping out the ladies on the quality control table,” she said.

Mr Cummins has laid down the challenge for the next generation. “Keep it going for another 100 years,” he says.

Correct attitude also needed

While skills has been a key talking point in the print sector, Hannah Cummins says attitude is just as important.

She said: “When you see young people coming in you want them to be passionate, enthusiastic and motivated. They can have all the skills in the world but if they haven’t got the right attitude they won’t apply themselves. We look at skills and attitude.”

The print sector is competitive, says Ms Cummins. “There’s a lot of pop-up printers that do print on demand,” she added.

However, Ernest Cummins is ensuring the business is sustainable by sticking to realistic prices.