Charlottetown's Ben Parsons says you can't control when a good business opportunity comes along, and when one does, you have to pursue it.
On July 1, Parsons and business partner, Ben Howard, did just that when they acquired Sign Craft in Charlottetown and Sign Station in Summerside from Gary and Joy Morgan of Mahone Bay, N.S. The deal was brokered by Confederation M&A.
For Parsons and Howard, it was an opportunity to have the businesses under P.E.I. ownership. But the purchase also fits with their plans for a business they purchased in November 2018 – KKP Charlottetown – located on the corner of Euston and Queen streets.
"Even though these two (purchases) have happened in a relatively short period of time, they were still great opportunities for us. And, it had to be done. Yeah, it's been a full couple of years, for sure. But we're enjoying it," said Parsons on Thursday.
KKP offers a variety of print, digital and design services and products, including label printing on a roll, website design, email marketing, brochures, posters, blueprints and trade show products for exhibits or booths. The company also makes floor signage, such as the COVID-19 social distancing signs and arrows that can be seen in many businesses.
Parsons said the interest in acquiring Sign Craft and Sign Station is that they specialize in areas that KKP doesn't, such as the design, manufacture, fabrication and installation of signage made from "heavy duty" material, such as aluminum panel, on buildings. Hunter's Ale House, Gahan House and Hyundai are some of the businesses that have signage in front of their buildings created by Sign Craft.
The acquisitions fill that gap, and they also give KKP access to existing Sign Craft and Sign Station customers. Overall, the acquisitions help the owners build a business model that is diversified and more resilient, he said.
"It lets us be able to sell all the products that a small and medium business would need for their marketing or their communications or their messaging or both. So, that was the attractive part of it for us," said Parsons.
"Everybody has some type of visual communication product that they buy. Some people, it's signage. Some people, it's more traditional print, still. But even though lots of things are moving toward digital, somebody always has one of those tangible visual communication products."
About a year ago, Parsons heard that the now former Nova Scotia owners might be looking to sell the businesses. So, he gave them a call to inquire. In the fall, the owners got back to Parsons, and the process of acquiring the businesses began. The deal was close to being done in March, but COVID-19 put the matter on pause.
Parsons, 36, was born and raised in Charlottetown. He and his wife, Amy, have three children – Ellie, Nate and Remy. Parsons has an economics degree from UPEI and an MBA from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, as well as Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designations. His father, Les Parsons, is also well-known to Islanders. He retired a couple of years ago as the CEO of the Charlottetown Harbour Authority.
If the business acquisitions weren't enough, Ben Parsons was recently selected to be a part of the Wallace McCain Institute for Business Leadership through the University of New Brunswick.
He participated in his first session in the institute's Entrepreneurial Leadership Program on Thursday.
"It focuses on business leadership and building judgment in entrepreneurial leaders. I do have professional training, but I'm new to entrepreneurship, so this is a really great experience for me because there is a lot to learn from your fellow entrepreneurs."
With KKP and the Sign Craft and Sign Station purchases, Parsons said the next steps are getting all of the businesses aligned and working together and letting customers know they can have more of their needs met under one roof rather than having to go to different suppliers. The businesses will also allow the owners to be more involved in the community.
"We can be a stronger business together, so we're pretty excited about that. And, we think that our customers and the Island will see a lot of value in that, too, because we like to be pretty involved in the community. We try and be good corporate citizens and sponsor things and support the community the way that we can. So, this will create more opportunity to do that as well – just to be able to be more involved in the community and touch more organizations and help more people out," he said.