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Business goes extra mile for marathon merchandise

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Mill Race Marathon runners will receive a lot of important information as their legs propel them over the 26.2-mile course, including from signs that will display large red numbers indicating the completion of each mile.

Other placards will announce refreshment and medical stations. And perhaps the most welcome sight will be the 27-foot-by-4-foot banner at the end of their journey that will let them know they have reached the “Finish.”

The signs, placards, banners — and items including the runners’ shirts — are being made by Indianapolis-based Simon Skjodt, a company that since 2010 has been owned by Richard Gold, a longtime Columbus resident and former employee of the United Way and Cummins Inc.

Initially, Simon Skjodt was going to make just a few items for the marathon, but, Gold said, in typical Cummins fashion, the company wants it to be the best marathon.

“And it just keeps growing. It’s turned into a phenomenal opportunity for us,” Gold said recently as he sat at the Simon Skjodt table at Tri-County Business Expo among red, green and blue marathon T-shirts, mileage signs and other marathon memorabilia.

‘A cool thing’

Andy Pajakowski, a Cummins employee who is on the marathon planning committee, said he has been impressed, especially with Simon Skjodt’s pricing, responsiveness and creativity.

Cummins wants to keep expenses low but at the same time wants the marathon to go off without a hitch and to be able to reuse for next year’s marathon many of the banners and signs, he said.

Gold and his team came up with a great idea of how to incorporate student art and logos from sponsors on the mileage markers but also to allow for the removal of the art and logos after the race, so that the markers can be used again next year, which will lower costs.

Simon Skjodt has been “really creative on how to do this efficiently,” Pajakowski said.

Gold also delivered high-quality long-sleeved racing shirts far below Cummins’ expected cost.

“He’s coming through with everything we’ve asked for,” Pajakowski said.

He also said that it made things easier to deal with a businessman who lives in Columbus and knows Cummins. Whenever Gold had designs or suggestions for some of the products, he either would drop them at Pajakowski’s office or Pajakowski would stop by Gold’s house.

“Having that local contact has been great,” Pajakowski said.

Gold said that the marathon business likely will account for about 4 percent of the company’s revenues this year but only for a small fraction in Columbus.

“We’re making a little bit of money,” he said, “but we’re just tickled to be able to contribute. It’s a cool thing for Columbus.”

Found what he wanted

Gold grew up in Maryland. His father, an Englishman, was general counsel for the International Monetary Fund, while his mom worked as an economist for the U.S. State Department. Gold joined Cummins as a financial analyst in 1980 after getting his MBA at the University of Michigan. Toward the end of his Cummins career, he was running the parts, service and warranty divisions and North American distribution.

He left in 2004 to return to the East Coast to run security services company Brinks, hoping to eventually serve as CEO. While he led the company’s largest division, he did not move up to CEO and decided to return to Columbus after about 18 months.

“This was home,” Gold said, “and we came back.”

He did (and still does) some consulting work, ran a limestone business in Bloomington and worked for the United Way for a year.

The only thing he had not done, he said, was run his own business. And he had been looking for one for a while. “It really is kissing a lot of frogs until you find what you want,” he said.

In June 2010, he partnered with Charlie Skjodt and bought half of Indianapolis-based Simon Skjodt. Gold became the company’s sole owner in early 2011 when Skjodt, a former National Hockey League player, got recruited to help coach the Indiana Ice, a team that is owned by his brother, Paul Skjodt.

Gold became sole owner of the company, updated the company’s core values and mission statement and put together a plan to generate more revenues.

Today, Gold says he has positioned Simon Skjodt as a “one-stop shop” for print and marketing items, ranging from labels to banners and apparel. The company handles marketing campaigns, brochures and books for large corporations and major medical institutions but also prints wedding invitations and CD covers for hip-hop disc jockeys.

The company leases 5,000 square feet at 54th Street and Keystone Avenue and keeps some equipment, including presses, in the building. However, Gold, who also formerly worked as a newspaper reporter and editor near Detroit, said that the publishing industry and customer demands are changing so quickly that the company has to carefully consider in which capabilities to invest.

“It’s a pretty challenging environment,” Gold said.

But that also makes the work exciting. He said you never know who will walk in the door or what they might want to order.

Gold said the company has seen solid growth since he came on board, and the number of his employees has tripled — to six.

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