By Steve Yablonski
Owner of Port City Copy Center always wanted to own a business. A job at Staples in Oswego helped her to fulfill her dream
Q: Tell us about how you got started. I had been working at the copy center in Staples; and in the back of my mind I had always wanted to open my own business. I really didn’t know what kind of business I wanted to open. I just kind of fell in love with the type of work I was doing at Staples.
Q: What was your first job? I worked at Wendy’s for two weeks and then I worked for McDonald’s for three years. Then it was Staples.
Q: How old were you when you started working? I’ve been saving for this since I was 16.
Q: How much did it cost to get started? It cost me around $10,000. I had been saving since I was a kid because it was always my goal to own my own business one day.
Q: Have you invested more, in different types of equipment, etc? With the help of the Small Business Development Center and the Office of Community Development, I received a $20,000 micro loan after the first year I was in business to expand my operation. I used it mostly to purchase bindery equipment.
Q: Who helped you get started? The Small Business Development Center offers a micro-enterprise program that covers all aspects of small business start-ups. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in starting their own small business. I still regularly meet with my adviser, John Halleron, to bounce ideas off of. I also wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my parents. I lived at home, rent free, for the first few years. This allowed me to keep the money in the business while it was taking off.
Q: What’s your educational background? What experience helped prepare you to open your own business? I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration. It’s helped me in critical thinking about business in general and I learned specific skills. For example, because I had been familiar with accounting, I am able to do my own bookkeeping. Also, again, the micro-enterprise program helped a lot with business start-up and make connections with other professionals. Lastly, I worked in the Staples copy and print center. That’s where I decided that I wanted to get into the printing industry. Although my business operates differently from Staples’, I learned the basics and figured out how I’d operate my business.
Q: Is there a lot of pressure being the owner of your own business? Yes, there is a lot of responsibility, as most other self-employed people know. It’s hard to make time off for yourself. You just can’t say, ‘I’m taking the day off, boss. I’ll see you tomorrow.’ Last year, I did take a vacation—my honeymoon. It was really nice, my first vacation in several years. We got married in 2020; it was just a small ceremony.
Q: How did you survive the pandemic? I did OK. Since printing is an essential business, I was able to keep my doors open and continued to serve customers.
Q: Are things picking up again now? Things definitely slowed down in 2020, but started picking back up in 2021. If things continue the way they are, we should have sales comparable to what we had in 2019.
Q: How long have you been at 115 W. Third St., Oswego? Where were you before? I’ve been in this location since 2020. I was located in the Press Box building prior to this.
Q: What services do you offer? I offer a lot of services! Quick and large volume copies, scanning and faxing, printing of technical drawings, and wide format posters and banners, photo prints and gifts, as well as a long line of digitally printed items like invitations, business cards, posters, flyers and brochures.
Q: What is the biggest order you’ve done? The largest order I’ve done was actually in 2020. It was perfect timing because we were much slower than usual due to the pandemic. The order was for almost 2,000 senior resource books. It included 100 pages of information broken down into tabbed sections and put into three-ring binders. It’s actually one of my favorite jobs I’ve done because it made me feel good that I was a part of helping improve the recipients’ lives.
Q: What is the smallest? The smallest jobs are always “one-offs.” These are just single copies that someone may need; like a shipping label or auto insurance cards. We do these every day.
Q: How have things changed since you opened? I’ve added a website where customers can order photo prints and gifts from the comfort of their homes. I’ve also upgraded my printing equipment. Customers are after the highest quality products for the least amount of money, so I have to find the best equipment that allows me to do this.
Q: How many employees do you have? I currently have two employees.
Q: What’s the best part) part of your job? Metaphorically speaking, I love being able to create something out of nothing. There is something magical about taking an idea and being able to make it into something tangible. I enjoy helping people. They start out with just an idea and it’s up to us to figure out what would be the best fit for them.
Q: Any plans to expand? Yes, I have something very exciting in the works. I can’t speak much about it yet; but you will be the first to know!