is a full-service branding design agency, but its mission goes far beyond graphics and printing. The female-owned business is also a social enterprise, a company that wants to do good — by providing employment and job training to individuals who are recovering from drug addiction.
The company is led by CEO Sara Swinehart, along with her husband and co-founder Brandon Swinehart. For them, the concept is deeply personal.
Brandon’s story combines many of the elements of the business itself: He has a history of addiction, as well as many years of graphic design experience. He has been clean and sober for 11 years, and was involved in starting a similar business in San Francisco. That business, which started out printing posters for bands, is what inspired the acronym in their name — SRO for both “Single Room Occupancy” and “Standing Room Only.”
Brandon left the Bay Area in 2010, and after a three-year journey connecting with Sara and living in Knoxville, Tenn., the couple ended up in Cincinnati, a place with one of the worst heroin epidemics in the country.
“We both thought it was really important with all the stuff going on in the news and everything,” Brandon says. “We agreed that we should do this and get involved and help the community here."
So in 2013, Sara, Brandon and their first “social enterprise” employee, Chase Stein (now five years sober), founded this iteration of SRO Prints.
“We built this business off of one order, where we were able to make $1,000, and we went from there,” Brandon says. “I think we’re set to make $50,000 this year.”
SRO Prints is not the first of its kind in the country or even the only organization in the region to focus on employment for those in recovery. But to the Swineharts, what sets SRO Prints apart is the kind of employment opportunities they offer — they're aiming for true empowerment through career training and quality experience in a high-paying, in-demand industry.
“We were thinking more along the lines of what about longevity?” Sara says. “A lot of times when an addict gets clean, the cycle is they get a crappy minimum-wage production job, and what’s the buy-in? It’s not a career, it’s a job, and people just think that those types of people are not worthy. It’s like they’re damaged goods and that’s it.”
In contract, SRO Prints sees this underserved population as an untapped resource of driven, committed employees.
“What I’ve learned over the years is that people the I’ve seen that really want to give everything they’ve got and really are hungry to learn something new are the recovering heroin addicts,” Brandon says.
In order to reach those people and offer full-time employment, SRO Prints is ready to grow, and they are taking advantage of Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial resources to do so. The company graduated from Bad Girl Ventures
’ first LAUNCH class earlier this year, and are now finalists in ArtWorks' Big Pitch presented by U.S. Bank.
Winning the business grants available through the Big Pitch would mean a major step forward for SRO Prints. Currently, they design marketing, branding materials and merchandise, but are not able to make their products in-house. With an infusion of funding, that would change, meaning they could grow their business and hire employees to train in all aspects of the business.
ArtWorks Big Pitch Presented by U.S. Bank is a 10-week mentorship program that culminates in a pitch competition Oct. 6 at Rhinegeist. You can purchase tickets here.