By Peter Saunders
Kelly Knight already had a lot of experience in the promotional items and advertising industry in Winnipeg before he signed on as a local franchisee with Safeguard in 2016, but his alignment with the brand soon made a big difference to his business, as he was able to source products from strategic vendors and reach out to new clients. The following year, with the strength of the franchise system behind him, he expanded his operations significantly with the acquisition of another company in the same field.
A born salesman
Knight was born and raised in Winnipeg, the youngest of three siblings.
“As I grew up, I knew I wanted to go into a business having to do with sales,” he says. “My father was in TV, radio and newspaper advertising and he had a real sales personality. I am a people person, too, and can adapt to work with different clients’ personalities.”
His first job, when he was 16 years old, was in customer service at a Petro-Canada gas station.
“I also did a stint in agriculture and thought that could become my career path,” he says. “After my family split, my mother moved to Strathmore, Alta., where I would visit for the summer months and work as a yardman at a grain elevator.”
With that job, he did everything from fixing augurs to blending fertilizers to changing oil.
“It was very physical work,” he says. “I was putting in 16 hours a day and making a bunch of money over those three summers.”
Back in Winnipeg, where he was living for the rest of the year with his father and stepmother, Knight got another agricultural job that was less physical, working at a pellet seed mill.
“One day, they stopped processing pellets and I was laid off,” he says. “I applied for a related job with the Manitoba wheat pool, but didn’t get it. I didn’t go to college or university. Instead, I ended up getting into retail, selling VCRs and other consumer electronics downtown at Eaton’s. I did well for myself there, making pretty good money in commissions and even setting the VCRs up for our customers at their homes for an extra fee.”
It was during that time Knight got married, in 1997.
“I had met my wife, Kristen, when we were both in high school, but we didn’t date until after we graduated,” he says. “Our son Carter was born in 2003.”