Editor's Note: Tanisha Robinson (above) is a featured speaker at The Columbus Innovation Reception, happening April 1st, 2014 at The Columbus Museum of Art.
 
Tanisha Robinson: Let's Get Digital
By Terreece Clarke, April 1st, 2014

Tanisha Robinson, co-founder of Print Syndicate and TicketFire, has been said to have a talent for spotting trends and making money off of them. Having already sold two digital technology companies and co-founding two others, it only takes a quick conversation with her to learn that her insights are hard earned and well-researched. It's little wonder why she was tapped to address The Columbus Innovation Reception, in an effort to bring home the ‘Intelligent Community of the Year’ award.

Robinson, a Missouri native, started her companies here in Columbus for the same reasons why the city has been spotlighted by international think tank the Intelligent Community Forum.

"Columbus is so open," she said. "I have access to the top CEOs and leaders in the community and they are willing to meet with me and talk through problems, offer advice…you can have coffee with anyone in the city with the right ask."

Finding An Identity

When talking about the city's start-up and technology community, the inevitable comparisons to Silicon Valley creep into the conversation. Robinson contends Columbus shouldn't bother with trying to compete and instead focus on a core part of its identity where it has the upper hand - fashion and logistics.

"[Part of the issue is] there are so many Fortune 500 companies that wield so much power…'are we a healthcare city?' 'are we a tech town…'" she said. To Robinson it's completely obvious.

"There are fashion giants located right here - Limited Brands, Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria's Secret…and they have the logistics as well," Robinson said.

"Columbus has to play to its strengths and the fashion industry right now is focusing on speed to market. It's a competitive advantage to manufacturing in the U.S. versus shipping items from Bangladesh," she said.

Leading the Charge

Robinson said a stumbling block Columbus may face in the future is the lack of focus on cultivating start-ups in the fashion and logistics arenas.

"People are enamored by sexy high-tech [companies], the Instagrams…[but] there are businesses out here that make stuff. We aren't paying attention to companies that make things anymore."

That's saying a lot from someone who owns one of those sexy, high tech companies in TicketFire. TicketFire is an app that allows ticket holders to scan their paper event tickets and then share, sell, or transfer those tickets to other people. Yet, Robinson has reason to be concerned - her other company Print Syndicate and its forward-facing brand Human, focuses on what Robinson has dubbed "self-expression through exceptional design."

The company successfully taps into fashion, technology and logistics by creating print on demand clothing and goods. Even though Print Syndicate and brand Human are only 18 months old, they have grown to 80 employees by focusing on a labor force in two growing sectors: creatives with highly technical skills, as well as those with traditional manufacturing skills.

"We pay living wages, have health insurance and an amazing team of people on both sides of the business," she said.

It's noteworthy that 25 employees of Robinson's company came from the Columbus College of Art and Design and she has plans to form a similar partnership with The Ohio State University - right in line with Columbus' increased young college graduate population.

Final Thoughts

Columbus also has a few other things going for it, including an environment that allows entrepreneurs to pour time, talent and resources into making their companies successful.

"Columbus is affordable. With low overhead, you can invest the most in your business and still eat," Robinson said with a laugh.

The city also has a business community that is sensitive to the needs of start-ups -- a trait essential to the city's future, Robinson said.

"The...community has good capacity for introspection," she said. "In past years, capital has been an issue for start-ups and people have been paying attention and momentum is in on [the city's] side."