The life of Joseph M. Katz was marked by his dedication to family and his entrepreneurial spirit. In his teenage years, he started a small printing shop in his family's garage and learned about typesetting and the printing business. His brothers helped with the different aspects of the business, but Katz realized that the paper aspect of the printing business was more profitable than typesetting. He set out to find a way to get his feet wet in the paper business.
Katz capitalized on the Pittsburgh flood of 1936 by selling photographs of the aftermath. By finding nearly free resources in a short amount of time, he created a small book that sold quickly. He used the money to start a wholesale paper business. Despite many obstacles, Printer's Paper Supply Company was successful, mostly due to Katz's uncanny ability to find solutions and further his ideas.
Printer's Paper Supply did well in the World War II era owing to an increased demand for stationery for servicemen. The consummate entrepreneur, Katz was always looking for the next great idea to grow the business. His idea to print giftwrap led him to establish Papercraft Corporation in 1945. Although he faced stiff competition from established companies, he found a niche to differentiate the business-packaging giftwrap in a more attractive manner and selling it in multiple rolls. This innovation in packaging helped increase profits and the Papercraft Corporation soon became a market leader.
Katz's early days of working with his brothers in the garage paid off as business expanded. His employees appreciated that Katz ran the company more like a family than a business. They worked out of respect for and not fear for Katz. And Katz wasn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty either. His hands-on management style continued throughout his career, despite the growing company and his ever-increasing importance in that company. In 23 years, his company grew from one product - giftwrap - to more than 4,400 products. As time went on, he held fast to the basic - the machinery and the value of individual workers; he routinely visited stores to ensure that everything was in its place in the product displays. His style translated to the entire management team such that everyone was willing to do anything to get the job done.
The Papercraft Corporation went through many mergers, acquisitions, and changes in its history. Katz remained with the company for more than 40 years, growing his management expertise while growing the company. Papercraft remained a Pittsburgh company because as Katz said, "I am a Pittsburgher and will remain so."
His entrepreneurial spirit and his love of family and of the city of Pittsburgh were illustrated in January 1987 when Katz and his wife, Agnes, gave $10 million to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Business - the largest gift made to the University in its first 200 years of existence - in support of educating future generations of entrepreneurs. The school was renamed the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in his honor and, to this day, the school strives to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in students, a true reflection of Katz himself.
Katz passed away in May 1991, but his entrepreneurial spirit and family focus are alive and well at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. Joseph's son, Marshall Katz, is also dedicated to the School. Marshall serves on the Katz Board of Visitors and he and his wife, Wallis, have supported the School philanthropically. Additionally, Marshall has provided leadership and service to the School, and other Katz alumni.
Photo courtesy of Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center