TheCatholicTimes(posting in full since embedded in pdf) This also reminded me to find that post bankruptcy monk on a motorcycle photo.....
VALYERMO, Calif. – A group of Benedictine monks in the southern California desert are making sure their monastery is staying in the black – and they’re doing it with ink.
Since 2011, MonksInk ( www.monksink.com ) has been selling ink and toner cartridges for printers and copiers – and thanks to booming sales, their services and products are helping to keep their 1,880-acre St. Andrew Abbey in Valyer- mo, Calif., out of the red.
In the middle of their already busy day of prayer and work, the monks process phone and Internet orders, selling all ma- jor ink and toner brands – including Hewlett-Packard, Epson, Brother and Canon, and compatible discount brands and remanufactured items.
Whether due to divine intervention or good business sense(the monks would say it’s a bit of both) MonksInk has tripled its customer base and more than tripled sales revenue over the past year – with sales doubling in the last six months.The growing number of customers includes corporate interests in New York City,Chicago and San Francisco,and Catholic dioceses and schools around the country.
But even as the business helps support the monks’ way of life, St. Andrew’s monks are not letting success go to their cowled and tonsured heads, as they remain dedicated to the Benedictine dictum: “Ora et Labora” (“Prayer and Work”), with the “Ora”continuing to take precedence over the “Labora” – the monk sat St. Andrew’s pray as a community five times a day.
“We liked the idea of selling these products,” said Father Joseph Brennan, prior of the order, who has been at the monastery nearly 20 years.“We needed to do something a little different. Every monastery has something unique about them... Until now, we only produced ceramics, and even these were designed by a brother monk in Belgium.We really needed to do some-thing different. MonksInk was a good fit.”
As a successful venture in its own right, MonksInk is not the first instance of a monastic order using ink as one of its primary means of support, Father Joseph said. From the early days of monasticism, monks have been renowned for preserving civilization with pen and ink by copying and illuminating manuscripts.
“Today, the way of communication is through the printer,copier and ink cartridge,” Father Joseph said. “We’re happy to be a part of that service.”
In the Diocese of La Crosse,the now-closed Cistercian Springbank Abbey in Sparta had run Laser Monks before it was sold by the monks in 2011. According to Father Joseph, St. Andrew’s had been in contact with Laser Monks and was preparing to associate with the outfit.
“We had heard about the Laser Monks and the abbey had been contacted about someone working with them and doing something together at some stage,” he said, explaining that while the association never happened, the monks saw in the multi-million dollar Cistercian business that monks and ink could work well together. “The Springbank monks had some difficulties but our marketing person suggested that maybe we could develop something like this on our own. We were intrigued by the possibility of working with ink – and liked the focus.”
The key to success in the business, Father Joseph said,was developing what he called a “loyalty market” – a market of customers who are dedicated to the monks for what they are as much as for what they provide – while also providing a valuable service to others.
The monks also follow an-other tradition which can be traced directly to their founder,St. Benedict, who encouraged his monks to support them-selves through manufacturing and services readily salable in the marketplace.
“But St. Benedict had one stipulation for his monks,”Father Joseph said, “that the work that was done in the monastery be sold at a reason-able price, so usually whatever the monks provided was sold for less than what it would be sold at in the marketplace. So today, we provide a service a ta very reasonable price. That’s the spirit we adopt. We want to make a profit but do it in a reasonable way for people.”
In following their founder’s Rule, Father Joseph said, the monks’ approach to business doesn’t end when the check is signed or the credit card accepted. It’s not just that the customer’s always right at MonksInk – the customer is always Christ.
“One of the important things in the under girding spirit of St.Benedict is the spirit of hospitality,” he said. “When a customer approaches us, we treat them in that spirit. In Benedict’s Rule, he who comes is Christ. So the coming may be through the Internet, email or on the phone, but the person coming is special so we’re right away on the lookout for that. We make it known right away to customers that they are welcome, that we want to provide a service to them,and then we have a follow up to make sure that everything went well for them.”
Much of the administrative and clerical work at MonksInk, Father Joseph said, is done by Benedictine oblates –lay associates of the abbey.
“We’ve had the wonderful help of our marketing person,who is an oblate,” he said.“These lay people live the Benedictine spirituality. They really got things going and invited the abbot to enter into the conversation. We started out small and began advertising through flyers, e-mails and newspapers.”
The oblates and a handful of monks take care of the sales,marketing and ordering at the abbey, Father Joseph said, but the products are shipped from off-site warehouses by independent contractors.
“What is done at the abbey is the ordering and making sure the shipments go out,” he said.“We have a variety of oblates, paid employees, and a couple monks involved in some way.”
According to Donna Alvaro,office manager at Holy Family Parish, Syracuse, N.Y., MonksInk provided a way to keep an eye on the parish’s bottom line – while also supporting the wider Church.
“We began using MonksInk to save money as our ink and toner expenses were becoming astronomical,” Alvaro said. “Knowing that the different orders of religious must be self-sustaining, Holy Family wanted to support their monastery. Our experience with Monks Ink has been very positive, especially in customer service, speed of delivery and response to any questions.