By Gagan Bhathal
After I joined Instant Imprints as a franchisee in 2008, I went on to operate multiple locations in and near Vancouver. I became the area developer for all of British Columbia and, on the other side of the border, the state of Washington. The key to my success has been teaching other franchisees how to get their business up and running.
I was born in Punjab, India, in 1981 and moved to Canada in 1989 when I was adopted by my uncle Harry, who lived in Richmond, B.C. So, I came over here all by myself. It was only later, when I was 18, that my parents and siblings also migrated here. I have one older brother and one older sister.
As a child, I was quiet, shy and not very outgoing. I preferred to stay at home, where I could happily play with a toy for hours, rather than go out anywhere. I particularly loved playing with magnets. I was definitely a homebody.
Moving from Punjab to Richmond may seem like a big change for an eight-year-old, but it was okay because my cousin Devan was already here. We became best friends and remain so today. At 12, I got my first job when I started to help out my uncle as a janitor with his company.
In high school, I was good at science and took a keen interest in electronics. When I moved on to earn my bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Burnaby, B.C., however, I switched my focus to math and minored in statistics and economics.
Outside of school, my hobby was tinkering with cars. My friends and I would soup up our engines and add speakers.
While I was at university, I got my real estate agent licence and worked in that field for a while. After I got my science degree, I worked in the parts department for Heli-One, a helicopter company with an office in Delta, B.C., for about one-and-a-half years between 2006 and 2008. In the helicopter business, all parts have to be tracked by their serial numbers, so that’s what I handled. During my time there, I met my future wife Joti at a young professionals night at a local club. She is a social worker with Fraser Health.
Unfortunately, during my short tenure at Heli-One, the CEO passed away. When his son took over the business, he started to make cuts everywhere. It seemed like just a matter of time before I would be out of a job.
An instant’s impression
While I was browsing an online job site, I noticed an ad for Instant Imprints, looking for new franchisees. I clicked on it and noticed they were applying embellishment to all kinds of products, from T-shirts and posters to keychains and pens to embroidery and banners. If your business were about to exhibit at a trade show, for example, here was a one-stop shop for all of the specialty merchandise you would need. The company had successfully merged several complementary industries into a ‘single source’ provider.
I felt I had to look into it more, so I submitted an online request for more information to the franchisor. A sales rep at their Canadian headquarters (HQ) in Oakville, Ont., called me back right away and was very helpful.
There was an existing franchise in Burnaby, so I went to visit the franchisee and he seemed quite happy. The money was good and he enjoyed the work. Most Instant Imprints stores are about 1,200 square feet and with today’s technology, you can create a lot of different products within that space. He had primarily found his niche with T-shirts.