The First Year: Printing a Ticket for Success

Amber Shah and her husband reinvigorated a printing franchise and became a vital part of their North York and Don Mills business community

KKP franchisee Amber Shah began her career in banking with HSBC, moving up within the company very quickly before taking on a position at Deloitte as part of their Knowledge Manage-ment team. With all of that finance experience behind her, she says, “I became absorbed by the idea of owning a business. Buying a franchise was a viable alternative to starting my own business.” Shah continues, “I knew that my husband and I were destined for something big-ger and better,” and so the pair began talking to owners of various franchises, from food service to shipping service, looking for the ideal fit.

“We chanced upon an ad for a printing company, called Kwik Kopy at the time, for sale in North York,” Shah shares. They visited the store and spoke to the owners, who said that they were looking to retire and that the store itself was running at a loss. The KKP business model was appealing, though, and Shah knew that if she and her husband Saif could actively channel their sales and marketing efforts, they could likely turn things around for the struggling store.

Poised for Growth

After doing her due diligence, including a competitive analysis, looking into other businesses in the neighbourhood, and speaking with other KKP owners, Shah saw a lot of growth potential in the North York store and decided to buy it. “It made more sense to buy a franchise that offered resources and vendor relationships that would not have been available to us had we purchased an independent storefront,” she says. With all of the sup-port and resources available from the KKP franchise system, they were quickly able to turn around an under-performing store.

KKP provides business solutions to businesses, organizations, and non-profits. Printing, signs, mailing, promotional products, websites, graphic design, social media, email marketing campaigns and other marketing services are all available under the KKP banner. In their first year, Shah and her husband focused primarily on extending their store’s product offerings to their existing clientele and providing exceptional customer service, all of which would increase their sales and ability to continue to offer affordable business solutions. They
also overhauled the aesthetic of the storefront, bringing it into line with industry best practices. They hired new staff, including a press operator and graphic designer, updated their equipment, and learned how to adapt the resources they had to better serve their clients. “In any business,” Shah notes, “to be successful, you must strive to always be improving and building a better, smarter company. We gradually diversified into signage, mailings, promotional products, and specialized niche jobs. Every quarter we set measurable goals for improvement and closely tracked our performance.”

It’s that kind of self-starting initiative that makes Shah  an ideal franchisee. Recalling that first month, Shah shares an indicative story: “I remember at the time I did not have my driver’s licence, but I was eager to begin my sales activity. We had taken ownership of the store in February. It was peak winter. I walked door-to-door cold calling (taking that term to heart!), walking from business to business in freezing temperatures. It was all about overcoming obstacles, fear, and self-doubt.” The couple knew they were choosing an unconventional path and that risk was involved, but they believed in what they were doing. “You need to have the drive to keep pushing forward no matter the odds,” she says. “I believe that with the right focus and consistency, anyone can live their dreams.”

Dedicated Franchisor Support

As first-time franchisees, the couple were nervous, but they knew they were willing to put in the work and that they had the support of their franchisor. “If this were a stand-alone store, I would have had a hard time figuring it all out,” Shah shares. “The kind of support we receive
from the head office on all fronts is tremendous. And the rapport with other franchisees is great. It’s like a family. Everyone is happy to help.”

From the start, the franchisor was there for Shah and her husband. The couple had business, sales, and management experience, which is not necessary but a huge benefit. They didn’t have any direct industry experience, though, and the superlative training and support programs
offered by KKP were there to help. “Entrepreneurship is risky, and it takes time to build a business. It is great to have a franchisor who is with you every step of the way,” she shares.

New KKP franchisees participate in an initial training program, which includes thirty hours of online training, one week at the home office, and an additional week on location. Then, back at their own storefront, the new franchisee is supported by a team, including the regional director, a sales and training team member, and a marketing team member. “Working together,” Shah says, “they help new owners stay focused on their goals and help them determine and address priorities to help them grow their successful business.”

Growing Competitively

“It is so important to stay current in the business and to continually learn about the industry,” Shah advises. “This means as an owner I need to keep increasing product offerings, innovating, investing in technology, upgrading equipment, and investing in new marketing programs.” Ensuring their store stays at the forefront of industry advances is a team effort, like much of franchising. Shah and her staff brainstorm with clients, coming up with new ideas and ways to execute them. “Competition is tough,” she notes, “so we have to differentiate ourselves.”

“Our business is a people-focused one,” Shah continues. “I am always interacting with the team, with vendors, suppliers, head office, and our customers and clients. You need to be able to work with people, resolve conflict, and put your customers and your community first.” Part of being able to do that successfully is offering not only best-in-class customer service, but making sure employees in-house feel supported—passing along that franchisor support to their own employees. “Being able to support them and see them grow,” Shah says, is one of the best parts of working with business owners and her in-house staff.

Printing a Bright Future

“Our number one goal is growth,” Shah says, looking to the future, “and franchising offers some of the greatest benefits of any expansion strategy. We were able to go from the bottom of the sales ladder to 11th out of all Marketing and Print Division centres in Canada.” Focusing on supporting their community, brand recognition, and continuous learning have been invaluable in this successful growth. “Passion is also key. Success takes time and a lot of hard work, determination, and commitment. The fire inside will get you through the difficult times,” Shah offers.

“At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is risky, and it takes time to build a business. Franchising just makes it a little easier to be successful more quickly,” Shah continues. “The risk of business failure is significantly reduced with franchising,” she shares. “We checked how successful other franchises were before we committed ourselves.” And her advice for future franchisees. “Use the programs the franchise offers. In this franchise, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. The path is drawn for you. Follow it, and you have a strong chance to succeed!


By Jessica Burgess