Success Stories

The Layout of a Win-Win Situation

In beautiful Prince Rupert, B.C., Carol Bulford runs a full-service print boutique where she serves the community while striving to make every job a win-win for her and her customers.

Surrounded by nature at every turn, Prince Rupert is a cozy, thriving community where Carol Bulford has set up shop. With over 40 years of experience in the print industry, Carol prides herself on being a tactile person who loves what she does, and it shows in the quality of her work. Carol stands by the philosophy that a business card is the gateway to the business owner’s whole raison d'être. It speaks volumes about a person’s passion for their business and their brand. “Your branding says so much about who you are, you want to make sure if you're giving your business card to somebody, that you're proud of it, that it speaks to what your business is about. And that you care. So providing a professional look for your business is key, and that reflects on how you feel about it, as well,” she explains.

For Carol, the sweet spot in her business lies in the satisfaction she gets when making the client look good, whether it’s with their business cards, brochures, stationary, personalized mugs or logo design. “I love it. I get to make you look good. And in the meantime, it makes me feel good, as well…. A win-win situation.”

Carol truly enjoys the assortment of projects that come her way each day. “The whole thing about being a small print shop in a small community is being able to deal with people's individual needs, everyone's ideas are totally different. And just because one person likes it this way, doesn't mean the next person will. And I love that I can offer options and just give people what they need. So that they can be proud of what they've made, as well,” she says with a smile.

Let’s talk about the business

For Carol, printing has been a lifelong goal, “Putting something on paper is just what gets me up in the morning,” she says excitedly. She leads Advantage Print & Design Service with the strong values of vision, quality and passion. Former customers rave about Carol’s timeliness and “personal touch.” She brings these values and her work ethic to a range of print and design services. “We're able to do everything from designing your business cards, to logos, to forms to signs, literally from super small to super large… [We also] offer wide-format printing in colour or black and white,” she lists. One thing that Carol offers that is unique as a Prince Rupert small business, is the option to print on waterproof paper.

Carol takes a curious and creative approach to her work; she always encourages her customers to come to her with their ideas. “All I need from you is the idea or the concept, and I can make it happen,” she says with confidence. One thing that Carol is especially passionate and proud about is the thriving artist community in the area. She is able to amplify their work with the production of calendars and cards, and it gives her great satisfaction to be able to support these local artists.

There is, however, one drawback to her passion for print, which comes with the territory. “Everywhere I go, I see spelling mistakes, on TV and menus. You'd be surprised, for me it's a bit of a curse because I can't read anything without spotting the spelling errors,” she admits.

Advantage Printing

[Image description: Rows of printed art cards on display that showcase the work of local artists at Advantage Print & Design shop, owned by Carol Bulford, in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.]

3 ways partnering with Community Futures BC helped Carol thrive:

  1. Stabilized her sales
  2. Helped her better understand the financials of her business
  3. Showed her the importance of looking after her health, as well as the health of the business

How the business has impacted her life

Those who own a business often describe it as a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Carol is quite familiar with both. On one hand, her victories are her own, on the other, when things go sideways, that’s when it gets tricky. “Having my own business has had a huge impact, some really positive and some more challenging. For me, the positive is being able to make the decisions required to make my business successful. Such a sense of power with it. The issue is, if I make a mistake, there's no one to blame. The buck stops here,” she reveals.

Her willingness to learn from her own mistakes is what has kept her grounded and focused on growing her business in a sustainable way. “[What] I try and take from that is to learn from the mistakes, you know?! I'm going to make them, everyone makes them, but not to keep making the same ones. So, that for me is what I need to keep telling myself, and not to beat myself up for making mistakes,” she notes.

Carol is an inspiration to women entrepreneurs who face and contend with gender inequity in the business world. “I'm proud of the fact that I own a business. As a single woman, it takes tremendous effort to build and to sustain a business. It's not for the weak hearted, and so, most days, I thrive on it… At the end of the day, owning my own business as an independent woman is amazing,” she states. These words serve as sparks of hope and encouragement for other women curious yet cautious about starting their own ventures.

How Carol overcame barriers on her entrepreneurial journey.

For Carol, the rewards of being a sole proprietor come hand in hand with the barriers. The challenges she faced were largely financial. “I'm a single woman operating as a sole proprietor, the banks do not see value in me or in my business. So, for many years, I had to have someone co-sign on my bank account for security,” she explains. This was a tough pill to swallow, and extremely demoralizing for her at the time.

With the support of Community Futures, she was able to secure the initial business loan to buy into the business a few years ago, then, more recently, secure a loan to take over the business as sole proprietor. “When I approached the banks, they would not even give me a moment's time. So, Community Futures had been integral to my success. I have found support in them, they offer programs, and if need be, I can call them and get some answers… They saw the potential in both me and my business… I'm now empowered to make better financial decisions, having someone to talk to when I wasn't feeling well to encourage and support me was key,” Carol says. With the financial support, coaching, and encouragement, she was empowered to take charge of her business.

When the going gets tough, Carol has learned to lean on her community for support. She shares a nugget of advice that has worked like a charm for her, “What I've found is to have a large support network, Community Futures is part of that network. My business coach is also part of that network. But you also need fellow business owners in the community, and friends, so that, on a day, when it's not going great, that you can keep in mind, it's not a bad life, it's just a bad day. And then tomorrow, you get to come in and you get to do it again.”

Advantage Print & Design Carol Bulford

[Image description: Owner of Advantage Print & Design Carol Bulford working on the layout of a large sign for CFNR Network (Canada’s First Nations Radio) at a print machine in her shop in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.]

Here’s how Carol shifted her business amid the pandemic.

When her sales dropped due to the social distancing measures and the closure of many non-essential services, Carol realized she needed to react quickly. She made two major decisions that helped her manage her cashflow and mental health during this unprecedented time, “I [changed] how much stock I carry on hand, and also reduced my hours.”

It was the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program (EDP) that helped her overcome the obstacles of the global health crisis. “I'm not sure I could have made it through the pandemic without the EDP program. I receive weekly support from my coach, and I've learned how to first take care of myself, and in turn, it's strengthened my business. It means that my sales have stabilized and also my finances, so I'm able to sleep better at night,” she says. Then continues, “I'm doing so much better now, thanks to the EDP giving me access to my amazing coach Beverly, thank you so much.”

The exact moment she felt the most proud of her business.

It came at the end of a tumultuous year. A year that saw so many businesses close their doors for good. Carol reflects on how she managed to face and overcome these near-impossible odds. “I survived 2020 and came out with less debt and a better understanding of the financials,” she says with confidence.

What’s next?

With a renewed passion for print and confidence in her business, thanks to community support, Carol is ready to tackle new projects, “Give me a call, let's give your business a fresh clean look,” she concludes.

“CF [Community Futures] has enabled me to stay open, and have provided support remotely for those things they cannot do locally. They are an entrepreneur's best option for support. I would highly recommend them, and will also use them again should the need arise.”

-Carol Bulford, Owner, Prince Rupert Advantage Print & Design



Community Futures British Columbia
33163 2nd Ave
Mission, BC  V2V 6T8

About Community Futures

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