From computer assembly company to printing specialist: The history of Axxel is an outstanding example for entrepreneurial inventiveness. The family-run company, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is slowly becoming a well-known player in the European industry.
Juliusz Jastrzębski more or less stumbled into the promotional products industry: When he founded the company, Axxel Computer in Opole in 1993, his business specialised in the assembly of computers and hardware components. He came into contact with promotional products through his computer business and in the course of the economic liberalisation of the Polish market: “I saw a mouse pad advertising the manufacturer Coral somewhere and then I started to consider how I could make similar products myself, because there weren’t many companies in Poland in that sector at the time,” recalled Jastrzębski. Thanks to a fortunate coincidence, he soon had the opportunity to realise his plan: “An acquaintance, who worked for a big computer company in Wrocław, had purchased a large batch of mouse pads in China, which he didn’t need. He gave them to us and we removed the microfiber coating of 5,000 pads by hand so that we could replace it with individualised, laminated paper.“ Obviously, Jastrzębski’s instincts were right, because the demand rocketed rapidly: “We individualised around 20,000 mouse pads in the first few months alone – it was the beginning of a new business.“
Axxel Computer became Axxel. The realignment of the company coincided with the upswing of Poland‘s economy, which was made possible by favourable framework conditions: “Back then the PolishMinistry of Economy had strongly relaxed the regulations and conditions in the setting-up of companies area, the import business suddenly became very easy too,“ Jastrzębski reported. Whereas in the beginning the company imported individual components and individualised them in collaboration with partners, the turn of the century brought a further decisive step forward: Axxel also profited from the subsidies Poland received from the EU. In 2005, the company decided to purchase a Heidelberg offset printing machine. “Installing our own printing shop was the first step towards becoming specialists. We adapted the machine to meet our specific requirements – that took about six months,“ explained Juliusz Jastrzębski’s son, Adam, who jointly runs the company with this father today. Adam Jastrzębski’s wife Marta is also in the same boat – after 20 years Axxel is still a family business.
Today the printing shop is the very heart of the production, it enables Axxel to develop and produce a meanwhile wide assortment of imprinted products: In addition to approx. 400 different mouse pad models, breakfast table mats or coasters for the POS, office or gastronomy business, Axxel also produces plastic cards, pen butlers, microfiber cloths and display cleaners, badges or bottle-openers. The finishes implemented range from lamination, to imprints on plastic, through to domings and – as a highlight in the portfolio – lenticular printing, which allows morphing or 3D stereoscopy effects to be achieved. This highly complicated process involves photos being applied to a lenticular screen foil. Depending on the structure of the foil and the print when the onlooker looks at the finished product, he sees either a three-dimensional picture or a movement or two or more different pictures – which is extremely eye-catching.
In order to achieve such effects first of all the print copy has to be interlaced. Then, the printers have to align the photo and the lenticular film down to the very micrometre – a job for specialists as Adam Jastrzębski explained: “A printer has to be very well trained and have a lot of experience in order to master our techniques; it is not easy to find the right specialists. We are one of the few suppliers on the Polish market that offer lenticular printing and the only one who combines the finishing method with a doming.“
Every product in the company’s line-up is combinable and variable with each of the printing and customising techniques offered, because the routes are short: Everything is located under one roof – even if it has become a little too small in the meantime. “We are currently looking for a larger building, where we can install all of the production steps on one level, along with a new printing press that we intend to purchase before the end of the summer”, commented Juliusz Jastrzębski.
Expanding in Europe
Because: the company is expanding – also beyond the country’s borders. Axxel has been exhibiting at the PSI in Düsseldorf for around ten years already, over the last years they have also been active at further European trade shows. Adam Jastrzębski reported, “The export makes up between 60% and 65% of our overall turnover in the meantime and we want to grow further abroad – among other reasons as a counter-balance to the Polish market, which is extremely price-sensitive. We have already been able to get a good foothold in Germany, France, Scandinavia and Italy, further interesting markets for us are the former Eastern block countries – including Russia.“
They certainly have enough attractive products – in fact Juliusz Jastrzębski assured: “I simply don’t have enough time to materialise all of my ideas.“
A detailed report about the Polish promotional products market can be found here: