The benefits of a brand
Knight was driving through Oak Bank, Man., to play hockey one day and noticed a Safeguard distributor on the town’s main street.
“Eventually, the lady who owned it, Joan, approached me to try to sell it to me,” he says. “In the end, though, she sold it back to the franchisor instead.”
Through that process, he learned more about the brand, which was better-known out west and in Ontario. There are currently more than 600 franchisees across North America, selling products manufactured at more than 30 sites. And 94 per cent of their customers say they would refer the brand to others.
“Beyond those factors, I did my due diligence to find out exactly what Safeguard offered its franchisees, compared to other options and other product vendors,” says Knight. “It turned out when you do an order with them, they take less of a share than other such groups do.”
The company has been around since 1956, having started out in business cheque printing before getting into the promotional side of the business. Joining would mean Knight could offer full-colour printing and mailing services to his customers, too, including business cards, envelopes, stationery, forms, banners, greeting cards and labels.
“The more I learned, the more serious I became about joining,” he says. “After meeting the franchisor’s team for lunch in the spring of 2016, I applied to become a distributor myself and joined the system that fall.”
More ways to grow
Both the strength of the brand and the addition of printing helped Knight grow his business.
“There are already a tonne of printing companies in Manitoba, so that part of the business is not really my main focus,” he says, “but I’ve gotten some very good orders already, including the production of day planners for the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU).”
He bought Awareness Express, another local company in the promotional industry, through his Safeguard franchise in December 2017.
“I have two Safeguard distribution licences, whereby I can keep operating under two names: KayCee and Awareness,” he explains. “I’m in the process of fully incorporating my business and I’ll continue to grow it by buying other companies for their client lists. Running this franchise is still a lot of hard work, especially after buying Awareness. I pay myself a commission, not a salary. Fortunately, my wife is now involved in the business again. She quit the bank a year ago, when she had had enough, and also runs a nametag business on the side, sending orders across Canada on a weekly basis.”
Landing larger orders
As a Safeguard franchisee, Knight has gained access to preferred vendors, who will reduce their prices for his clients—like Subway—as his order quantities go up. These vendors include well-known companies like Eddie Bauer and Under Armour.
“Dealing with these bigger strategic vendors makes my job a lot easier, as I don’t have to pay duties and the goods and service tax (GST) separately,” he says. “It’s a big convenience and adds value through economies of scale.”
Knight says he plans to continue to support these larger orders in the future.
“I’m quoting bulk pricing for Subway’s national promotions with their ad agency, I2I,” he says. “They could easily order 10,000 Frisbees, beach balls or pairs of sunglasses all at once.”
When he worked for his brother, he explains, they had finances, but no large clients; whereas when he was sourcing items for Timbits Sports, he had a huge client, but no finances.
“By working with Safeguard, on the other hand, I have online and offline marketing support to reach out to a new, broader customer base,” says Knight.”