Wendi Breuer is the CEO and President of SeaChange, a Minneapolis-based print and digital communications company. Since launching in March 2014, SeaChange has found new ways to transform client’s print, structural design, packaging, kitting, mailing, fulfillment, and digital media needs by offering refreshing solutions. Creating an inclusive culture at SeaChange is a big priority for Wendi; she takes pride in her Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)-certified business and her women-majority leadership and sales teams. Outside of work, Wendi loves to golf with her husband and two teenage sons. Wendi has been a C200 member since July 2023.
Eva Glassman: Could you please introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Wendi Breuer: I am the CEO and President of SeaChange, a printing and digital communications company located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We produce direct mail for healthcare organizations, packaging for consumer goods products, and vote-by-mail and in-person ballots for counties across 20 different states. We also have an internal agency called GATHER that produces digital communications like e-mail and text messaging campaigns, interactive games, microsites, and data analytics for our clients.
I launched the company in 2014 and will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary next March. Since our launch, we’ve grown to over 154 employees and with $45 million in revenue. Our printing and agency operations, as well as our warehouse, are in Minneapolis. We also have an office in St. Cloud, Minnesota where our election services team is located.
I started the company with a tagline, which we still use today: “Embracing technology. Redefining print.” I saw an opportunity to create a new organization in the print industry that brings contemporary solutions to modern-day customers. I always joke with my team that if Domino’s Pizza can tell you that your pizza is in the oven, or if Uber can show you exactly where your driver is located, then there’s no reason why we can’t bring solutions like that for our clients!
Our tagline for GATHER is: “We give marketers time for lunch.” What that means is we are driven by putting cutting-edge tools at our clients’ fingertips, allowing them to work more efficiently and giving them time for more strategic initiatives. And of course, time for lunch.
We’ve grown to be the largest women-owned, women-led, WBENC-certified printing company in the country. I’m very proud to lead a certified women-owned business and to be a woman business owner. It’s incredibly rare, especially in our industry. Being a diverse supplier, we believe that diversity and inclusion brings more creativity through our different perspectives coming together. That’s very important to us.
We’re also HITRUST certified, which means that we have an outside firm audit us to ensure we’re managing and producing data securely. We are one of few companies in our industry to have this certification.
EG: Tell me more about being WBENC-certified! That’s a great accomplishment and it clearly means a lot to you. How does being a woman in business impact your thinking and your work?
WB: I’m incredibly proud to be a woman-owned business in an industry where there haven’t traditionally been opportunities for women. I’ve been intentional about bringing women on board with me and giving them opportunities for professional development. So much so that 50% of our leadership team is female and our sales team is 80% female. Throughout production and our warehouses, we’ve got women driving forklifts and running presses! In all aspects of our organization, we give women the opportunity to rise up and grow in their professional journey.
It’s also important for me to give back to the community supporting women business owners. I’ve been a Board member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) for five years; SeaChange is a silver sponsor for them. I was co-creator of the Catalyst fund, which is now the largest sponsor of NAWBO MN. The Catalyst fund was developed as a way for NAWBO members to pay it forward to those who are earlier in their business ownership journey and support them through mentorship.
EG: Giving back to female entrepreneurs in the early stages of their career journeys is clearly very important to you! That makes me curious about your own career journey, when you yourself were in those early stages. How did you start out and get to where you are now, and what do you believe are the biggest factors that led to your current success?
WB: I started my career in a training program for a boutique printing company. I was in sales for 19 years and knew I wanted to be in leadership, so in 2010, I took a new role as VP of Sales at a larger printing company. When we were in discussions of naming me President, I crossed paths with an investor looking for a partner to launch a new printing company. I saw a chance to truly disrupt this age-old industry with my contemporary approach, so I took the leap in 2014, leaving the chance to be President at a larger printing company to start a new company, which is SeaChange! I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I’ve realized taking this chance took a lot of grit and perseverance.
My first mission with SeaChange was to establish a brand and niche. The word SeaChange means transformation or profound change, so we played off that and incorporated redefining print into our tagline. This has become our mantra; SeaChangers (as we like to call ourselves) wake up every day thinking about how we can disrupt the marketplace and bring modern solutions to what has been an antiquated industry. The technology piece was key; we aren’t just a printing company, which sets us apart. Clients come to tour and see us more as an agency, where printing is one of the many things we do.
But the problem at the time was that I didn’t have the talent to carry out my vision. So, my second mission was finding the right talent to join our team, bringing the technological advances, and creating our culture. Today, I’m in awe of the talent on board at SeaChange and how passionate they are to be here. Recruiting is now pretty easy for us as people want to be a part of an industry disruptor, to provide unique solutions that speak to the current issues of our day, and to be a part of our innovative and fun culture.
My entrepreneurial journey involved taking a lot of risks along the way, and one of those risks has been investing in equipment. Over the past several years, we’ve invested over $20 million in new equipment, IT infrastructure to improvements to our space, like HVAC systems, solar panels on our roof, and LED lighting. We renovated the design and architecture of our building, and people who visit tell us we look like an agency and less like a manufacturing site—which was exactly our intent with the renovation. Our customers partner with us because of the technology we offer; they know that printing is just one of many things we provide for them.
EG: The relevance of print in our increasingly digital culture is a topic that has always fascinated me, and it’s so interesting to hear about this issue from your perspective as a business owner in the industry. You were able to identify that issue early on and approach your business in a way that evolves print into the digital age without helping to render it obsolete.
WB: When you combine print and tech solutions together, the opportunity to capture your audience’s attention and increase your response rate rises many times over. We run campaigns for large companies and create communication cadences that tie in emails, texts, landing pages, and interactive games. Through increased engagement, the response rate, membership, or revenue grows.
A print or email campaign on its own won’t maximize responses. Although digital communications are important, we’ve found that people spend time with their direct mail, especially if it’s personalized and targeted. It’s a good way to build trust; someone may look at their email or a website after they’ve seen direct mail communications. Our team has a lot of fun designing print communications like pop-ups and more interactive direct mail. We can print different textures like suede, raised UV, and even glitter! These creative details get people to spend more time with print communications. While printing has declined, direct mail is on the rise again; commercial mail is an $10 billion industry in the US and $80 billion globally.
Another service we offer is online storefronts, so organizations with a dealer network or sales team can order their materials online to be produced on-demand. Instead of speculating on quantities and over-printing, often creating obsolete inventory items, we print as they need them, reducing waste and cost. Again, it’s about doing things to fit modern day needs and allows marketers to plan more efficiently.
EG: I know you said that women in the printing industry at the time you emerged were pretty rare, but were there any women in your professional life who were mentors to you as you went up your career ladder? If not, who are the women who inspire you and why?
WB: The biggest inspiration would be my mother! [laughs] She was always so positive and shaped who I am. The culture I’ve created at SeaChange has a lot to do with watching how she treats everyone, with respect and positivity.
Professionally, my first manager was a woman who took the time and had the patience to train and develop me during the early years of my career. She made an investment in me, which I am very grateful for—her name is Nancy Bjornson.
I was told early in my career that I had a natural ability for leadership. However, that same company brought in a new VP of Sales twice, and both times I was looked over as they hired a man. That’s when I finally thought, “It’s time for me to find my own opportunity for leadership.” So, after 19 years, I moved to another organization and became VP of Sales there.
When I launched SeaChange, my biggest mentors were through NAWBO and being a part of the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC). Surrounding myself with women who were on the same journey as me was key; they were always there to listen, support me, inspire, and refer business to one another. Those women were instrumental as I was starting SeaChange.
EG: Being looked over twice as VP of Sales is such an interesting story, because I feel as though you can look at that situation two ways. When that happens, you can think, “Oh, I must truly not be good enough if they’re not hiring me,” or you can do what you did, which is say, “I know I’m good enough for this position, so I’m going to work somewhere that will hire me.” It’s so easy to doubt yourself in moments of rejection, especially as a woman in business, so I appreciate your perspective on that moment.
WB: My biggest regret is that I didn’t do it sooner! If I’m to offer any advice, it would be to pave your own path—don’t wait for someone to give you the opportunity.
EG: The perfect segway into my next question! What is your advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs and corporate leaders as they rise up in their own careers?
WB: My Chief Technology Officer jokes with me, “I can’t believe you were audacious enough to have the tagline ‘Embracing Technology. Redefining Print’ in 2014 when you clearly weren’t able to do it at the time.” To look back at our initial vision and think of all that we’re achieving now—creative services, copywriting, programming, data analytics, personalized print campaigns—it is incredibly rewarding.
It is fulfilling to be an entrepreneur, have a vision for the future, and create an organization that cultivates that vision and develops a culture that people want to be a part of. Bringing talent together to make something truly unique in the market, and realizing that vision can be accomplished, is what inspires me every day.
To anyone who has that spark, that vision: I would encourage you to take that opportunity and surround yourself with supportive groups where you can be vulnerable. It’s important to have those trusted advisors who you can go to with your questions, doubts, and fears so they can guide and empower you to have the confidence to reach further. There are going to be obstacles, of course, but often others have been through something similar and can share what they’ve done. For me, being a part of entrepreneurial groups, and now joining C200, gives me the sounding board we all need as trailblazing women in business. Whether I’m at a difficult crossroads in my business or in need of a solution, I need a group I can count on. I probably would have made the entrepreneurial leap sooner if I had a group like C200 in my corner earlier in my career.
EG: Outside of work, what do you do for fun?
WB: I’m a mother of two boys, a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old. I love sharing time with them and cheering on all they do. I’m a hockey mom, a golf mom, a golfer myself —we love to golf as a family, and I enjoy competing in tournaments. We also love to travel, cook with my husband, and socialize with friends. I have a passion for reading business and leadership books; I have a bad habit of buying many and never quite making it through all of them!
EG: What are you most excited about as a new C200 member?
WB: The network, obviously! I’m so excited to get to know more people. C200 is a great opportunity to increase my network beyond Minneapolis and meet women business owners on a national and international scope. It kind of goes back to my love for leadership lessons; the opportunity to continue my professional development and learn from others is so exciting to me. I’m especially looking forward to attending C200’s Signature Events and those hosted in Minneapolis as well. I always want to be learning and growing as a leader, and C200 has so many resources that I can’t want to tap into.