Optimal Printing, located at the corner of the strip mall in the Sunny Isle Annex, opened its doors in 2016 to a host of clients on St. Croix. The family business is in high demand, with printing jobs from government agencies, private businesses, schools, banks, churches and artists.
Clients in Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia and the U.S. mainland are also among Optimal Printing’s customers.
“My dream was always to become an entrepreneur,” owner and operator Nyla Monlouis said. “My two brothers majored in accounting, so I followed in their footsteps. I wanted my own accounting firm. I had no idea I would become passionate about printing.”
“I was born on the beautiful island of St. Lucia and migrated with my family to St. Croix in 2002, and I graduated from St. Croix Educational Complex High School in 2004,” Monlouis said.
Monlouis began working at the Subway sandwich shop in Orange Grove, Christiansted with the intention of finishing college at the same time. Instead, she became the store manager at Subway and remained there for four years.
Monlouis was serving the OfficeMax store manager at Subway when she was offered a job at the office supply store in Sunny Isle. She left the sandwich shop and began working in the OfficeMax print shop and immediately fell in love with printing.
Local artist and entrepreneur Lucien Downes recalled standing in line at OfficeMax so that Monlouis would work on his printing jobs.
“She was the most professional of all the printers in the shop,” Downes recalled. “I encouraged her to ‘get out there’ and start her own business.”
One day, Downes said he went to OfficeMax seeking Monlouis with a request for printing and was told she had left the store and was running her own business.
“I was so happy to hear of her success and I’ve been supporting her ever since at Optimal Printing,” Downes said.
After working six years at OfficeMax, Monlouis left the job in 2015. But her new venture actually began in 2011, when she acquired the certificate of existence, meaning her new business met the requirements to do business in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I tried five years in a quest for financing before I finally opened my business in 2016. The banks and the Economic Development Administration turned us down for loans. I partnered with my two brothers and we each invested our savings. With the help of a personal loan, we were able to make it work,” Monlouis said.
I opened at the right time, she added.
Monlouis opened Optimal Printing with less than $1,000 in the company’s business account after buying equipment and supplies. There was no working capital, she said, but she stepped out in faith. “God has been blessing us from the start,” she said.
The majority of Optimal’s clients are from St. Croix, but customers who moved to the U.S. mainland continue to give her their business.
According to Monlouis, Optimal clients are loyal and the business continues to thrive and acquire new clients. “Our prices and turnaround times are competitive, which results in repeat orders,” she said.
Rotary Club member Liz Goggins said she was always impressed with Monlouis and her ability to satisfy her customers’ needs with high ethical standards when she was employed at OfficeMax. When the Rotarian Vocational Service Awards were on the calendar, Goggins nominated Monlouis.
“The award is given to a person who displays good customer service by showing a commitment to their work and to their community. This was Monlouis in a nutshell,” Goggins said. Monlouis received the Rotarian Vocational Service Award in 2016.
In 2018 Optimal acquired an office space next door to its original space. “We have quickly outgrown our space again,” Monlouis said. “Another expansion would allow us to offer more services like t-shirt printing.”
Monlouis and her husband Michael Williams Sr. are the proud parents of three young children, two toddler boys and a baby girl.
When asked how she manages a business and her family, Monlouis said, “I have a wonderful husband and the most caring mom. My mom quit her job in 2017 when our second son was born and she babysits full-time. My mom is my most important employee. I spend as much time as I can with my family on weekends.”
Optimal has six employees including Monlouis. The number has fluctuated between three and nine employees over the last three years. Each employee needed intense training, Monlouis said.
“I usually work 13 to 15 hours a day from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m.,” Monlouis said. “Most of our moneymaking jobs are completed at night. Because I am the most experienced, I am obligated to be present. I have a steady night shift of two to four employees who work from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. If there is a huge project, I might call in a fifth employee.”
In terms of frequency, Optimal serves regular customers with personal printing jobs; their print jobs range from funeral booklets to birthday party invitations.
Clancy and Arnestine Etienne were Monlouis’ clients when she was employed at OfficeMax. They had been living off-island and returned in 2013. “We recognized a low level of customer service within most of the businesses we dealt with. It was refreshing to find a fully engaged employee at OfficeMax in the person of Nyla Monlouis,” Arnestine said.
“Her personality and customer service skills and the good quality of her work were a breath of fresh air. My husband and I continued to support her when she ventured out and started her own business. Optimal Printing supplies both our personal and business needs. We wish her God’s blessings through her business and her life,” she added.
“I have absolutely no regrets opening my own print shop,” Monlouis said. “I am thankful for our loyal customers, my mom, my husband, my two brothers, who are my business partners, my devoted employees and last, but not least, the Almighty God. Anything is possible through Christ who strengthens us.”
Optimal Printing’s hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The business can be reached at 340-715-7737 or [email protected]