A lifestyle change that stuck

Amerigo Vespucci. Christopher Columbus. Leif Erickson. To the list of discoverers of “new worlds,” you can add the names Shelley Lapointe and Michael Nissley—even if they were looking only for themselves. Lapointe and husband Nissley, both of whom grew up in New England, were in the restaurant business in Connecticut when they decided on a “lifestyle change,” and headed south on a sailboat for Florida.

In 1981, they founded Kira Bannerworks in Oldsmar, Fla., on the north shore of Old Tampa Bay, some 10 miles east of Dunedin where the couple lives.

Graphics and more

As vice president of the company, Lapointe “wears all the hats—administration, marketing, selling, sewing, cooking—whatever needs to be done,” she says. In addition to herself and her husband, Kira Bannerworks employs two others.

Named for a literary character, Kira Bannerworks grew out of an initial sail-making enterprise, Kira Sails. That, in turn, inspired “the creative potential for producing colorful wind-borne forms for displays, exhibit and environments,” as they note on their website. They have since expanded into designing and making fabric graphics products for colleges, museums, sporting events, trade shows and retail purposes.

They work primarily in dye sublimation and appliqué, and their product line includes table drapes, banners, pop-up displays, retractable and adjustable stands and uniquely shaped customized displays. Clients are as diverse as Harvard Law Schools, the Mexico Tourism Board and the Kennedy Space Center.

Although fabric imaging is Kira Bannerworks’ specialty, the company also offers traditional direct printing on photographic papers, vinyl, canvas, art papers and synthetic surfaces. Their prints can also be laminated and mounted to a variety of rigid or flexible substrates such as the sides of panel vans and boat hulls.

Networking opportunities and sharing tips and ideas are the things that she finds of greatest benefit from their membership in IFAI.

Outside pursuits

As is always the case with small businesses, the workload leaves little time for other interests, but when she can carve out some rest-and-relaxation time, Lapointe enjoys her her two Siberian Husky dogs—Mutoh, named for the large-format printer, and Jaunu, which mean “Let’s go!” in Nepalese. Or she gets back on a boat, though those long sailing adventures are a thing of the past.

She is, however, looking forward to a water-borne retirement, and she’s not complaining too much about the workload. “Business is great,” she says. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

Jim Tarbox is editor of Marine Fabricator.