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 user 2007-03-22 at 10:16:00 am Views: 43
  • #17616

    Printer ink entrepreneurs grow through ‘un-franchise’
    WEST PALM BEACH — Bob and Jane Bloom are teaching others how to replicate their printer ink shop.
    sharing their business plan, their supplier list, their bookkeeping
    system, their trademarks — without charging franchise fees or
    collecting royalty payments.Jane and Bob Bloom, both former teachers,
    provide two weeks of hands-on training for $20,000 to people who want
    to open Ink & Toner USA stores. Traditional franchises can cost
    $100,000 to $300,000 to start.

    Emerging business
    • Refilling
    pricey printer ink cartridges is one the country’s fastest-growing
    businesses, with retail stores opening at a rapid pace across the
    nation over the past four years. But consumers have been slow to catch
    • A September 2006 survey found that about 6 percent of
    respondents said they had tried a cartridge refill service, and 1
    percent said they typically use a refill service.
    • About 5 percent of respondents said they were aware of Cartridge World, the largest of a handful of refill franchise chains.

    owners of Ink & Toner USA are working to build a chain, of sorts,
    of independent stores, sharing their secrets of success for a fraction
    of the price of their franchise competitors.They call it the
    “un-franchise,” as they try to combat the franchise boom in their
    fledgling industry. The Wellington couple wanted to create a more
    affordable and less restrictive alternative to franchising.”The cost of
    getting into business sometimes is too high,” said Bob Bloom, 56.
    “You’re not working to make money. You’re working to pay off your
    loan.”The Blooms opened their printer ink store three years ago on
    North Military Trail, anticipating a swell in demand for less
    expensive, refilled cartridges.”Our business is primarily saving people
    money through aftermarket products,” Bob Bloom said. “Our customer base
    is everyone, every business, every consumer.”Sales took off, and the
    Blooms’ shop quickly drew a following, bringing in about $500,000 in
    sales in 2006.then last year, four more refilling stores popped up
    around Palm Beach County, all new locations for the world’s largest
    refilling franchise, the Australia-based Cartridge World. The company
    is one of a handful of companies that have been throwing up storefronts
    in the United States in the past four years, including Rapid Refill Ink
    and Caboodle Cartridge.

    Within the North American refilling
    retail industry, franchise locations outnumber independent stores by
    2-1, according to Lyra Research, a market research firm in Newton,
    Mass.Wanting to expand Ink & Toner, the Blooms, both former high
    school teachers, started their training program last fall. It’s set up
    as a license agreement rather than a franchise.The cost: $20,000 for
    two weeks of hands-on training, which includes a four-volume manual
    with details on running the business, with everything from technical
    training on types of cartridges to general advice on good business
    practices.If trainees want onoing support and materials, they can sign
    a licensing agreement for $2,500 a year. Beyond his fees, Bob Bloom
    estimates it will cost his licensees an average of $45,000 to open an
    Ink & Toner USA.That’s compared to franchise start-up costs ranging
    from $100,000 to $300,000, plus annual royalty payments of 6 percent to
    8 percent, he said. Plus, the Blooms allow their licensees a lot of
    freedom in how they run their stores.”We offer a tremendous cost
    advantage, both in upfront fees and ongoing charges, equal or better
    support and less restrictive contracts,” said Jane Bloom, 53.Ink &
    Toner has signed four licensees, with five stores in the works: two in
    Palm Beach County, two in Louisville, Ky., and one in Atlanta.The first
    was Paul Saperstone, who will open an Ink & Toner in North Palm
    Beach next week and another in Jupiter this summer.Saperstone, 41, a
    former stock analyst, said he wanted the guidance of someone who had
    started an ink business before, but was turned off by franchise fees
    and limiting contracts.”I wanted to make sure that I had control over
    my business,” said Saperstone, of Palm Beach Gardens. “Under the
    franchising model, there’s a lot of requirements that can take a
    significant amount of time that as an independent owner you wouldn’t
    have.”Franchises can be costly and restrictive, but they offer
    advantages over independent businesses such as brand recognition,
    training and purchasing power, said Terry Hill, a spokesman for the
    International Franchise Association in Washington.”Not everybody wants
    to start from scratch,” he said. “The reason you pay more is that the
    company has done more to build that business into a national or
    international brand.”Susan and Stan Harris wanted to open an ink refill
    store and spent months investigating the available chains. Then they
    found the Blooms and now are opening an Ink & Toner in Louisville
    this spring.Four other franchise refill stores have also opened
    recently in the Louisville area, but Susan Harris, 45, thinks she’s got
    a financial advantage.”We kept hearing consistently from franchisees
    that the training wasn’t what it should be for what you pay. Our
    start-up costs are a lot less,” she said. “I feel much more comfortable
    with what I’m spending getting into the business.”