Jason Gagné, president of Greener Print Solutions in east Richmond, has managed to do that and the efforts have not only paid off, they are kind to the environment.
Five years ago he opened the doors to the business with the mandate to provide print and promotional products that are derived from sustainable material sources and with environmentally friendly production practices.
Those characteristics were hard to source several years ago when Gagné was working for Nature’s Path, the Richmond-headquartered producer of organic foods.
“I was involved with print purchasing for them and realized there was a lack of firms offering their services that put sustainability front and centre,” he said. “There was this huge hole in the market.”
So, several years after leaving Nature’s Path he began developing the business idea that put green solutions first.
It’s a streak of determination that came naturally for Gagné who said he became an entrepreneur at age 12 when he cut lawns and removed snow in his native Quebec.
“I think I was just born with that spirit. Some people just have that inside them to create something of their own,” he said.
It was that drive he took to the hotel business in Quebec where he gained a decade of experience in a variety of areas before one day deciding to pack up his car and move out west.
“I think I had about $500 in my pocket at that time, and it cost me $200 in gas to cross the country. I ended up in Banff where I spent a year in the hotels, moving up fast to manage a banquet facility.”
The next stop was Vancouver and a job at the Pan Pacific hotel, and a year later he was head of staff on a yacht owned by B.C.-based billionaire Jimmy Pattison.
“That kind of re-inspired me because I met a lot of (elite) business people in the Lower Mainland,” Gagné said. “And I always thought these types of people were above everybody else, but they are not. They just had an idea, and they worked hard, had the right staff, or whatever the circumstances.”
That prompted Gagné to return to school and take business management courses at Langara College in Vancouver that focused on marketing and brought him into contact with Richmond’s Urban Impact Recycling, Nature’s Path and ultimately his own business.
“I had about $3,000 (room) on my credit card and I started Greener Print,” he said, adding he began as a broker, matching up printing companies with producers of environmentally sustainable products.
And when the business volume increased, he ventured into the print manufacturing sector and has experienced significant annual growth as clients warm up to the green way of doing business that uses paper supplies certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council, and dyes that are vegetable-based.
“Most large format printers used solvent-based inks. We use latex, water-based inks,” Gagné said. “Normally, when you walk into a print shop you can smell all of those chemicals. Here, we don’t have that, because it’s not good for our employees to be in that kind of environment.
The business is also carbon neutral — Gagné even drives a BMW i3 electric car for his daily commute to and from South Surrey.
One of the firm’s larger clients is the duty free stores at YVR.
“It’s one the biggest duty free stores in North America,” Gagne said, adding Brentwood and Lougheed malls also use Greener Prints services.
And when it comes to promotional products, recycled plastics, organically grown bamboo and biodegradable foam boards are offered.
Greener Print also has take-back programs that recycle old signage, an important facet since advertising materials are often ordered in large numbers and are updated frequently.
“We do that because the recycling channels for these sort of things are not always obvious,” Gagné said.
But what has been key to the business becoming so successful?
Much of the time it comes down to price and quality, he said.
“My research has shown that 90 per cent of clients will buy green if the price is the same or less. So, why charge more?” he said. “Be competitive, get the sale and start changing the buying habits of people.”