We often think of small businesses as entities purely built from scratch but there is also the case where entrepreneurs make the smart move of utilizing the franchise model to get a jump start on their operations. I met Mejire at an event hosted by the Main Line Chamber of Commerce and it was clear that the franchise model has worked for his family and allowed him to get some of that initial groundwork laid that so many entrepreneurs get caught up in.
Jason Ranalli: When your family first started looking at opening up a business such as this what were some of the other options that were explored and why did this particular business/franchise end up being the winning choice?
Mejire Arijaje: We looked at various franchise options including hospitality, food, cleaning and health care and we simply felt then and now more importantly that the printing and marketing franchise option fits our personality the most and we would be comfortable and happy doing what we do. Several years later we still feel like we have made the best choice
JR: How long has your franchise been in business and how has it grown since your family started operating it?
MA: We’ve been in business for nine years and I have been here since I was about 13. I have been full time in the business for about eight months, handling the operations of the Bala Cynwyd Shop, and the marketing for both stores. I worked in the store all through my school years, spending my summers and days off helping out with the sales and production. It helped me get some knowledge on the business world.
JR: What are your best selling products or services among your locations?
MA: We like to consider ourselves a one stop shop for all your printing and marketing needs, therefore, we don’t focus on one particular item. However, the most common items that are ordered from us are postcards, brochures, envelopes, books, and letterheads. We have also branched out and we are becoming a major player in the space of apparels and promotional products.
JR: What are most challenging product(s) to make and/or ones that require special skill sets?
MA: Our industry requires a lot of specialization in certain areas. One case is apparel printing which we do in-house. We have to have a dedicated screen printer or two on staff because of how precise artworks have to be.
We do a lot of custom work in general and while they might be cool to look at when it’s done, sometimes we’re pulling our hair out during the production process to make sure the work turns out exactly as intended.
JR: What are your favorite kinds of clients to work with and why?
MA: We have a ton of great clients really but the people we love to work with most are nonprofits and schools. They tend to have a very clear direction on their budget, deadline, and their overall vision for their product needs. This allows us to get right into production and get them a great product meeting all their needs. That synergy helps us provide a better service for them.
JR: How have you changed or grown if at all throughout the process of owning your own business?
MA: I really am changing and growing everyday; every day I learn something new. While I still have a lot more to learn, I am more focused now. Also, since I’m fairly visible in the business I’m finding that I am becoming a more effective communicator due to all the different people I am working with and meeting every day.
MA: The shop in Bala Cynwyd had different owners before we took it over. Unfortunately, that meant losing some local customers initially that were used to working with the previous owners. That being said, we have been slowly building that back up by providing the best service we can in that location.
JR: What are the ways in which you approach marketing and sales? Which avenues have been most successful for you?
MA: We take a few avenues when it comes to marketing and sales. I constantly try to get to networking events around the Delaware Valley region and build on those relationships. We are also online; the business has a solid presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that we are constantly trying to build on.
JR: What advantages does having a franchise give you over the same business as a standalone?
MA: Being in a franchise has great advantages because you have a corporate backing that’s kind of like a big brother who is always looking out and watching over you. They deal with the vendor negotiations and give you all the tools and branding to be successful. That is something that we would have to manage entirely ourselves if we didn’t have them as a partner.
JR: Does owning a franchise over a standalone business require special considerations or rules that don’t necessarily apply to a standalone business? Are you required to operate in a certain way?
MA: Yes, you have to be in line with the brand of your franchise and most franchises are strict about that. Imaging and branding are everything. Even a slight change of color can make your brand unrecognizable.
JR: How did your business with the Philadelphia ’76ers start and how has it flourished?
MA: Our relationship with the Philadelphia ’76ers started by my father introducing himself at their corporate office in South Philadelphia. They were impressed by our ability to turn game day items around so quickly. It started with $35 business cards, however, now we do a lot of signs for game day as well as promotional postcards, flyers, and even their official team envelopes. The signs for game day are full-color foam board and are usually 24×36 or 36×48 inch signs and they provide patrons within the stadium directions to restaurants and gift shops. One of our favorite items to produce for the ’76ers are the full color life-size cutouts of the players on the team. They are a challenge to print and then accurately die cut but that’s what makes the job fun.
JR: If there was one thing(or more) for you or your family that you love about running your own business versus working as part of a much larger corporation what would it be?
MA: The ability to put your destiny in your hands. We can control what we do and how we want to grow. Owning your own business is perhaps the most challenging endeavor you can embark on but we’ve also found out that it can be very rewarding as well.
JR: What advice would you give to someone considering a franchise operation?
MA: Just do your due diligence. Find out what the pitfalls are and prepare. Preparation is the key. When you are prepared, you’ll be ready when the opportunity shows up.
To see Mejire’s work at Minuteman Press you can head to any of these links: