Like many other corporate employees turned entrepreneurs, Maria Medina, owner of Minuteman Press Wilton Manors, reached a point where she got as far as she could with the corporate world. With her wife encouraging her to step out and become her own boss, it was officially time for a change.
"My wife and I were living in London at the time," she said. "I was a Database Analyst for a Private University. We initially looked at businesses in the UK. After further consideration, we realized we would have better opportunities in America, and as we had visited South Florida frequently we decided to explore business opportunities here. It also helped we had family in South Florida. We fell in love with Ft. Lauderdale, a city with a relaxed and diverse culture and atmosphere. We feel like the people in Ft. Lauderdale are here to prosper, but also to help one another. We also spoke at length with my brother-in-law about his experience owning and running his own Minuteman Press franchise in Miami."
Based on her background in Marketing, Maria and her wife looked at other franchises, including an online marketing concept, a franchise that builds websites and one that does signs. After an extensive due diligence period, where Maria received expert guidance, recommendations and suggestions from an experienced consultant, they purchased an existing Minuteman Press in Oakland Park for 40% less than the asking price. The search began in May of 2014 and ended in September of that same year. Not long after purchasing the store, they moved to their present-day location in Wilton Manors, an area rich in history, arts and entertainment. With the ability to print anything from business cards to signs to promotional products and a designer on payroll, the Minuteman Press of Wilton Manors is a great fit for Maria and the many businesses that call this area home.
Maria shared some the challenges she experienced as a new business owner and how they've grown the business despite heavy competition. "When we bought the store, there were two members of staff," she said. "We had a designer and someone that did everything from customer service to production to managing the store. My mindset at first was, 'She's been here longer than anyone, she knows how best to do things'. It was a struggle changing my mindset to that of “the boss”, but eventually I got there. Operating cash was also a challenge the first 3 years, but we knew what to expect and were prepared going into it. Another challenge was figuring out the best way to grow. I started going door to door, but quickly realized that building relationships through networking groups was a better approach. And although I still go door to door, I joined the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, which has been fantastic and I highly recommend joining if you’re in Broward County. I also belong to Business Networking International, the International Association of Women and other organizations. This week alone I've had seven networking events in three days."
"In regards to competition, there are 10 Minuteman Press stores in Broward County alone," Maria said. "There's also other print shops, both big and small. Needless to say, there are a lot of people out there that offer the same products and services I do. When it comes to Minuteman Press of Wilton Manors, I'm the main differentiator. I'm the face of the shop. Our customers know me and are comfortable working with me. They know that either I or one of my staff can help them with their project and make sure they are fully satisfied when they leave the shop. We're approachable and we get the job done."
Maria, who loves the day to day operations and helping clients solve problems, has also learned the importance of saying no. One of the lessons learned she shared is that you can't always make everyone happy. If you don't have the time to attend an event, say no. If you don't have the money to sponsor an event, say no. According to Maria, it's important to be honest with people, most of the time they’ll appreciate your candor and understand where you’re coming from. It's also important to take time off to look at your business from the outside and get a different perspective.
Looking ahead, Maria would like to repeat the success of last year. The business saw a 40% increase in sales in from 2017 to 2018. She would also like to continue giving back to the community. Maria, who was recently awarded Rising Leader of the Year in 2018 by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, is constantly looking for opportunities to give back.
What advice does Maria have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "If you have a partner or a spouse, toss the idea around with them," she said. "The more you talk about it, the more things you'll see. Use people as your sounding board, reach out to other people that have started a business, get mentors and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even when I meet people younger than me or that own a different business than mine, I’ll ask them questions. Don’t be afraid and always be open to learning something new. Also, use Zintro to find experts and consultants to help you analyze opportunities. It's a great resource."
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