From bodyguard to printer: John Pinnington built his business by networking

Updated May 8, 2024 - 12:53 pm

EDITOR’S NOTE: This sponsored content article was edited on May 8.

From bodyguard for celebrities to a Las Vegas printer, John Pinnington, the owner of AA Printing Service and AA Custom T-Shirt Printing, has had quite the diverse career. Pinnington was born in Belize City in Central America. His mother married a British soldier, and their family moved to England when he was 10. As a military family they traveled to other places in the world.

Pinnington joined the British Army at 17 and worked his way up to platoon sergeant before pursuing a career as a bodyguard for celebrities.

Pinnington said he moved to Los Angeles in 1996 and worked security for celebrities in Southern California. He relocated to Las Vegas in 2001 where he headed security at a nightclub for five years before returning to personal security work.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, Pinnington left the private security industry and opened his own printing company for which he had no experience at the time.

Q: How did you get involved with starting a printing company?

A: I came across it by accident. People, including myself, were saying they needed printing but it was taking five or 10 days. Vegas is a fast town, and I looked into it and saw there was an opportunity with digital printing. I decided to try it myself, and I made it up as I went along because I never did it in my life. I went to several different printing companies and asked them to do printing for me for things I couldn’t do because I didn’t have a shop. I pushed that for about a year and saw there was a niche for me and decided to go for it and open my own shop in December 2010 at a time when I lost my home because I was putting money into my shop. I would sleep in my shop at night and start again.

Q: How did you build the business?

A: I did it by networking. I joined every chamber in town. I had TV channels come down here because we were a business giving back to the community every way we could, and people would recognize that. People knew us for our quality, service and speed because my one niche was we could do same-day printing. I would be here all nightlong to show the customers we would do whatever it takes to get it done and that’s how I built the business to where it is today. It was a niche we continue to do today. It put us apart from everybody but now other printers have taken up digital printing to do that.

Q: How did you carve your niche?

A:Digital printing wasn’t a big thing then and offset printing was still in. People would be doing quantity and if somebody wanted a small job they had to send it away.

The way offset worked they would put 10 or 20 jobs on one big sheet of paper. It took longer because they had to wait for different jobs to come in. With digital, you print one job at a time, and it doesn’t cost you as much and doesn’t take as much to set up. There was only one printing company of all of the ones I went to see that was doing the same day.

Q: Who are your clients?

A: Business to business and people coming into town for conventions. We do have some of the casinos as well.

We’re certified as a minority business and diversity business. We print for the airport as well. We hit every market. We print for the majority of chambers because we’re members of them. About 10 percent is personal orders.

Q: What do you print?

A: We do business cards, flyers, stickers, brochures, booklets, rack cards, banners, posters, phone boards, trade show displays, door hangers, bumper stickers, campaign signs, badges, pins and postcards. We are a certified union shop as well. We have in-house graphic design.

Q: How has the printing business changed over the years?

A:It’s changed because you have so many other companies opening up now from their homes or garage.

They are able to get a digital machine. Before you couldn’t do it because everything was offset. You have more competition, and some people are doing it cheap because they don’t have the same overhead. The industry is still growing because people need hard copies. Even through the pandemic, people would make calls and order things still needed. I think the printing business is still going to be there especially with Vegas growing. We now have printers from California coming here setting up big warehouses, which will make it hard for small businesses. But we will still be there for the fast turnarounds on images.

Q: Printed materials aren’t going anywhere?

A: They are not. You can flash everything around on your phone but you still need a hard copy. We can do all this digital stuff but we still want rack cards and postcards.

Q: Has there been a big change in technology over the past decade?

A: Things have changed for the color and quality that you look for. I have machines that used to print basic colors, and it was great. Now, I have machines that will match. They will print and dye cut at the same time. You didn’t have that before. It’s making it easier in the printing world to have these high-tech machines that will do everything for you. Eventually AI is going to move in and run your shop for you. Printing is going to be a lot quicker and easier and quality-wise it will look good.

Q: How is the business, today?

A: I went from one employee to six employees, and we are growing and growing. We’re fortunate to be one of the companies picked to work the Super Bowl as well. This company that started so small ended up being on the list.

It was a successful two months for us working with the Super Bowl. We did signs and posters. Although it has slowed down recently, for the last few years the printing world has been amazing. I think the economy is going in the right direction. People are spending money.

Q: Tell me about the T-shirt business?

A: I opened that in 2018 right next to my printing company so we could have a one-stop shop for everything. We do screen printing, direct transfer, direct-to-garment printing and embroidery. We work on a quick turnaround.

Q: What’s more difficult? Being a printer or a bodyguard?

A: (Laughing.) Being a printer. Being a bodyguard is a different mindset because you ask if I’m going to go home tonight. As a printer, you worry if you’re going to have a heart attack anytime soon. With both of them you’re responsible for something but running a business is a lot harder. Things change. You are dealing with customers and never know what to expect when you come in everyday.

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