Story by CYNTHIA MCFARLAND
A winding and indirect road brought Josh Dinesen, 34, to the helm of First Impressions Printing, a long-standing Ocala business, yet it’s clear he’s where he was meant to be.
Born and raised in southern California, Josh was the youngest of five kids in a blended family. Stability was not common in his childhood experience. When Josh was born, his father was an addict and drug dealer.
“When I was three, he gave his life to God, turned himself around and was a great father. He taught me not to let circumstances dictate how you end up,” recalls Josh.
By the time Josh was in elementary school, his parents’ marriage was rocky—as was their neighborhood. One of his friends was killed in a drive-by shooting. His mother left his father numerous times, taking Josh with her to live with different boyfriends, one of whom was abusive to him.
This pattern changed after 12-year-old Josh and his parents moved to Norfolk, Nebraska to escape the gang violence prevalent in the Los Angeles area. Five days later, his mom left for good. Josh didn’t hear from her for nine months.
She and his father divorced and she got remarried in another state. She asked Josh to stay for the summer, but the situation with his new step-family turned violent and rapidly deteriorated. Josh returned to Nebraska with his dad. He didn’t see his mother again until he was 25.
Fortunately, his best friend through high school had a rock-solid family. “His mom was like a mom to me. They helped me a lot, and we’re still very close,” says Josh. “My dad and I lived in low-income apartments. I was the kid with high water pants because my dad couldn’t buy me new clothes when I was in a growth spurt,” he remembers.
Josh was 14 on 9/11. “I wished I could have done something,” he muses. “That’s when I realized I wanted to be a police officer.”
After high school, he learned he had to be 21 to get into law enforcement, but only 18 to join the Army. In the Army, Josh was Military Police. Serving from 2006 to 2014, he deployed to Iraq in 2008. Immediately after his time in the military, he entered the police force in Norfolk, Nebraska, a job he loved for five years.
In July 2015, Josh met Kayla. The couple married on August 27, 2016.
Living in a small town meant Josh routinely ran into people he’d previously arrested. That hadn’t caused a problem, until one of these angry individuals showed up at their house in the middle of the night.
Not long afterwards, Josh arrested someone for DUI. A week later, that man was out of jail and saw Josh and Kayla out shopping. That volatile confrontation—and the man’s threats against his wife—left Josh rethinking his career. “I loved helping and protecting people. I always thought I’d retire as a police officer. I was willing to make sacrifices, but I didn’t want my family to have to make that sacrifice,” he declares. “I knew if I was leaving law enforcement, the only other thing I’d want to do is be a business owner.”
He came up with the concept of a unique gym that also included rock climbing, trampolines, and ninja warrior training. Parents could work out on one side, while their kids played on the other. “We met with lawyers, CPAs, the city and contractors; we had all the steps in place to make it happen,” says Josh.
Kayla was working for a local promotional and apparel company, so Josh asked her boss to share her experiences about starting a business. “One thing led to another, and they asked if we’d be interested in buying that business.” He and Kayla bought in as partners in January 2018 and bought out their partners in April 2019.
Then, the pandemic struck. “When Covid happened, our business got hit hard; we needed to diversify,” says Josh. “I realized printing was struggling, but compared to promotional and apparel, it was still doing well. I started searching for printing businesses for sale.”
His research revealed about 50 options, which he finally narrowed down to three. They were located in Texas, Arizona and Ocala, Florida. “Kayla and I had talked of retiring to Florida one day but never thought it’d be realistic to live here before.”
On December 15, 2020, First Impressions Printing, which opened in 1979, came under new ownership. Josh and Kayla cashed in their retirement accounts to come up with the downpayment and got a business loan. Instead of being an absentee owner, Josh realized the opportunity was perfect for him and Kayla to move to Ocala and be personally involved in their new venture. “We’ve brought our background in the promotional and apparel business, and we’re all in on this now,” says Josh, who’s been revamping the website, turning to e-commerce, and working towards creating a nationwide presence for the company.
Josh, who was heavily involved in the local chamber of commerce in Nebraska, has already joined the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership.
“I want to work hard, so I can retire early and get involved in activities where I can help people, especially kids in troubled circumstances and veterans, because I know what’s it’s like to deal with PTSD,” he says.
“I may not win, but I don’t lose: I learn,” affirms Josh. “I take the things I go through and apply them to how I can be a better person.”