When Hansa Lad and her husband purchased their Instant Imprints franchise in Mississauga, Ont., they knew it would be a success-after all, the location was already thriving. The store, which offers custom printing and embroidery on a wide variety of promotional products, is the company's first Canadian franchise. It was established as a corporate location in 2007 before being sold to the Lads, who took over in May 2008. The couple's daughter, Beejal, who has a graduate degree in marketing and business administration, also came on board as sales manager.
"We moved into a location that was already set up and had been operating for a few months," Hansa says. "We had a staff in place that was here from day one, so our transition was very easy."
The Lads, who moved to Canada from the U.K. in 1991, are no strangers to entrepreneurship; the couple owned an independent retail business across the pond. When the family discovered Instant Imprints, they knew it was a perfect fit for them. Today, Beejal and Hansa handle the day-to-day operations at the Mississauga storefront, which features a small showroom and onsite printing and embroidery equipment.
Taking over an established store eased the typical startup woes a franchisee sometimes faces, but Beejal says the learning curve was still relatively steep. "It didn't take too long to understand what we were doing, but we're always trying to refine our processes," she explains. "Even now, almost a year into running the business, we're constantly learning about new products or different software applications. The technology is always evolving.
Hansa says the family turned to franchising because "it's a proven business model." Beejal agrees, noting the difference in the details. "As an independent business owner, you might start off with a template for an invoice, after using it 100 times, you realize you need a better system. A franchised business model like ours has gone through those tweaks already."
With their combined sales, marketing and entrepreneurial experience, the family knew the value of promotional products and signage. While this is what initially attracted them to Instant Imprints, they say the most enjoyable part of their job is interacting with their customers. "Quite often, a customer will come in off the street with an idea, but it's up to us to make it work," Beejal says. "We can show them a few options-everything from fonts to colours to patterns to fabric types-which makes it so interesting for us. It's also very rewarding because at the end of the day, the customer walks out with a smile."
(Source: Franchise Entrepreneur Magazine March/April 2009)