Shelves stocked with outgoing orders, in-process projects and drafts spread across desks, and stacks of paper surround the smiling apron-clad second-generation owner of Erica Press, Eric De Meulder.
Erica Press is iconic on Wallace Street and key to many businesses’ marketing efforts by supplying cards, flyers, posters, maps, and the annual Hope Directory which is distributed throughout the community and surrounding areas.
There are fewer independent print shops in the Fraser Valley then there were 10 years ago. The industry has been faced with a growing “paperless” environment, aggressive competition from online enterprises and box-stores, and a need to constantly keep up with new technology and techniques.
In the midst of these circumstances, Erica Press remains a solid rock not only in Hope’s business community, but in their industry as a whole. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Eric to discuss his business’s history, challenges, and opportunities.
AdvantageHOPE (AH): Erica Press is a very established business in Hope, why did you first choose to open a print shop in Hope, and how long have you been in business?
Eric De Meulder (EDM): We have been in business here for 20 years. My parents chose Hope because when their employment in Hope and Agassiz discontinued they did not want to leave the beautiful community of Hope.
AH: What do you see as your primary market, and how do you protect it?
EDM: Our market in Hope is heavily dependent on the tourism industry, but we see by and large that it is all other businesses from all different markets. The way to protect it is to provide exceptional service and continue an excellent reputation first established by my parents. Everybody can make a widget, but not everybody is willing to do the little extra things to set themselves apart.
AH: Many printing companies seem to be struggling today not only due to a floundering economy, but also reduced paper usage. How does Erica Press seemingly remain immune to these challenges?
EDM: I wish we were immune, we are not. There are a number of economic and geographical factors that help and we have also managed to get more work from outside Hope. Orders from the Fraser Canyon and Lower Mainland augment our base, and we are working to establish more business in Princeton and the Highway 3 corridor. However, I believe the most important ingredients to our business success are more intangible. Our excellent reputation, honesty, integrity, and yes luck (or as I prefer blessed) are essential to our business.
AH: Erica Press helps countless other businesses to marketing their wares or brand their companies – what marketing techniques do you use yourselves?
EDM: Actually printing businesses are known to be notoriously bad in marketing themselves despite of having all the tools available to them. It is like the shoemaker who walks around with a hole in his shoe because he has no time to work on his own shoe. But whatever technique(s) you want to use, most importantly is to do it continuously, you can never rest on your laurels.
AH: How important is branding to a company, or to a community?
EDM: Very important. For a company you want it to reflect who you are, what you stand for, what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Same goes for a community. Don’t try to be something which you are not. Companies here and the community have much to offer and we need to maximize our advantages.
AH: What are some of the benefits of doing business in Hope?
EDM: Customer loyalty and a greater sense of community compared to the bigger cities. Doing business face to face. You are more than a customer, you are a neighbour. As well, people have to come through Hope – it is our biggest advantage over anyone else.
AH: What do you most want people to know about your business?
EDM: We are here to provide you with solutions, even if it is not with us. We genuinely want you to have success in your business, because it makes for a healthier Hope and area and that, directly or indirectly, helps all. It makes for a community where everyone wants to live and participate in.
AH: How does Erica Press positively impact our community?
EDM: Actually I see it more as that the community has positively impacted Erica Press. We enjoy giving, when able, to groups, events, to the community. In return Hope & area has rewarded us tremendously, and not necessarily in monetary.
The De Meulder family immigrated to Canada and settled in Hope over 20 years ago. The same attributes that attracted them then, remain today – a transportation hub nestled in a small town with the ability for a small business to diversify and change as local economic opportunities evolve.
With an in-family succession plan clearly working well, Erica Press will continue to be a foundation and inspiration to other businesses not only in Hope, but in our wider trade area stretching from Boston Bar to Manning Park to Bridal Falls.
Tyler Mattheis is executive director of AdvantageHOPE, Hope’s economic development agency. He can be reached at 604-860-0930 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.