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eSupply Canada is helping Canadians build strong local businesses through franchising

By Lauren Huneault

Calling all entrepreneurial and community-minded Canadians: the new eSupply Canada franchise concept could be just the ticket to help you build a successful, home-based business, while also creating local connections and keeping revenue within your community.

eSupply Canada, an Indigenous-owned company, is an online distributor of office, janitorial, and industrial supplies. It uses a drop ship model, which means supplies are only purchased as customers complete orders online. Steven Vanloffeld, eSupply Canada’s founder and CEO, says the company sources more than one million high-volume products all businesses need to operate, directly from manufacturers and national wholesalers.

“Our suppliers have over 100 years of combined experience, so that allows us to lean on their warehousing, distribution, and logistics expertise, which saves costs. And our group purchasing model gives us access to volume pricing that allows us to compete with the big box retailers,” explains Vanloffeld. “We operate in a space where big box retailers dominate the landscape. So how do we compete? Well, we need to go local. We need local owners who are on the ground and love building relationships to be the go-to supplier for local business owners.”

And that’s where franchising comes in, as Vanloffeld looks to expand the business through local franchise owners.

Keeping revenue in communities

Vanloffeld says the idea for eSupply came to him when he sat on Council at his First Nation and noticed the volume of supplies coming into his community – and the amount of revenue that was leaving. “Because there were few businesses within our community, the majority of our revenue left and went to the surrounding towns, retailers, and big box stores,” he notes. “I said, ‘There has to be a better way. How do we keep revenue within the community? How do we reinvest those resources into people, into jobs, into creating wealth and reinvesting it back into the community?’”

When a representative from a major office supply chain visited for the third time in a week, the wheels started turning. Vanloffeld quickly learned that not only is there great volume in office supplies, but the margins are also high. He started thinking beyond just office supplies, to other community needs, including janitorial and industrial supplies, and decided he was ready to launch the business.

It turned out Vanloffeld’s instincts were right: he says eSupply Canada’s first year was a “rocket ship ride” that fostered great success. To scale the business, he’s turning to franchising so local owners can help build the business in their own communities.

“They can use this as a vehicle to stop the economic leak within their territories, and they can also use it as a vehicle to steal market share from the big box retailers by being the local owner who has community connections and relations with local business owners,” he explains.

Growing through franchising

Vanloffeld says that as a First Nation business, eSupply Canada is grounded in diversity, and helping those from underrepresented communities access opportunities that may not have been available to them in the past.

To support that initiative, eSupply Canada has two different franchise models in place, notes Vanloffeld. “One is open to all Canadians, and that’s through our territory model,” he says, adding that there are 352 territories across Canada. The second is a First Nation Community Ownership model, where a First Nations community can purchase an eSupply franchise.

“We’re looking for Indigenous franchisees. But we’re also looking for franchisees who represent the cultural fabric and makeup of all communities across Canada. We want our owners to reflect the diversity and the demographics of Canada,” he says. “Diversity is really what sets us apart. It’s who we are and what we value.”

With this in mind, Vanloffeld says a major benefit to franchising with eSupply is its “incredibly low barrier to entry, because we focus on individuals who come from underrepresented communities. We want them to acquire an eSupply Canada franchise and build an incredibly successful business.” The franchise fee is $25,000, and because it’s a home-based business, there are no costly long-term leases or capital requirements. Franchisees just need access to a computer, phone, internet, and vehicle.

Vanloffeld notes that they’ve also partnered with Fanshawe College in London, Ontario to provide franchisees with a four-day training program, where they learn the ins and outs of the business, from prospecting to overcoming objections and using CRM software. Owners receive a micro-credit from Fanshawe upon completing the training.

Additional support from the eSupply corporate team means franchisees can focus on the most important aspect – making sales. “We handle the shipping, the distribution, the customer service, and even returns. We want them focused on sales and growing great businesses, while we at corporate handle the everything else behind the scenes,” explains Vanloffeld.

Built for business

While the benefits are numerous, Vanloffeld says developing a sales mindset is one challenge that eSupply franchisees face. “You need to have the stamina to deal with rejection and play the long game, because this is essentially a sales business. We can train some of that into you, but really, you need to have the personality to be able to withstand and overcome objection.”

Vanloffeld says eSupply franchisees should also be creative, have strong budgeting skills, and have business acumen. “We’re looking for people who are entrepreneurial – everybody says that!” he says with a laugh. “We’ve put in place a great system and great training that works. We want our owners to use what has proven to be successful for us, make it their own, and go and build strong, local businesses in their territories.”

Bright franchise future

eSupply’s formal franchise recruitment process launched in June, and the team is aiming to bring 10 franchisees on board by the end of 2023. With the recruitment process well under way, Vanloffeld says the launch of the redesigned website will come next. “We’ve invested heavily in our website so our owners have a really strong, reputable, well-designed website that they can stand behind,” he says.

Vanloffeld says he’s also in “full-on recruitment mode right now” to fill out his management team as the company grows. This will be vital, as he has lofty goals for what eSupply can achieve.

“In terms of the long-term vision, I have a goal to grow this to 300 units,” he explains. “We’re bringing opportunity to individuals from underrepresented communities and equity-deserving individuals, so they have an opportunity to create an amazing business, as well. I don’t see anyone else out there doing that – we’re uniquely positioned within this landscape.”

To learn more about franchising with eSupply Canada, visit www.esupplycanadafranchise.ca

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