Printers who inspire

If you believe the famous quote from Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism Lao-Tsé that  “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” then Ashraf Jaffer’s journey from the Congo to Canada is far from over. His remarkable success story is both compelling and at the same time, uplifting.

Ashraf Jaffer, the owner of Scan Copy Print and Budget Printing in Edmonton, Alberta immigrated to Canada from the Republic of Congo in 1976 when he was only 16 years old. He and his family were looking for a better life and more opportunities in a new country. At that time, our Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, was letting the world know that Canada would welcome newcomers with compassion and open arms (sound familiar?). So began the first step of Jaffer’s long and remarkable odyssey.

“We stayed in Toronto for the first year and a half, then in 1977 moved to Edmonton to find better opportunities. I went to Midland High School in Scarborough, Ontario and to Paul Kane High School in St. Albert, Alberta eventually finishing my grades 11 and 12.” Jaffer did whatever was necessary to survive. That included taking on several part-time jobs including pumping gas, working at Safeway, becoming a courier—even working in a carpentry shop. Then, in retrospect, he got what he referred to as his big break.

“My brother Nusrat had a company called Scholastic Duplicators in Edmonton. I was looking for a job at that time, so he hired me to work in the bindery, prepress and press departments. Like so many commercial printers in those days, I worked on an AB Dick and did colour separations by hand. Soon after, my brother gave me the opportunity to go to Westerra College in Stony Plain, Alberta, to do a four-year apprentice course in prepress graphic arts. I went for one month each year—and I’ll be forever grateful to him for this opportunity. I ended up getting a Journeyman Certificate in Prepress Graphic Arts.”

Jaffer’s boldest move came in 1995 when he founded his first company—Scan Copy Print Inc. He ran the company more or less by himself, though his wife Kaniz and his father often came in and helped him out on a part-time basis. They encouraged him as well. Within only two years, it grew to a full staff of four employees. Scan Copy Print ended up being a tenant in a building with other tenants for about 22 years. But during that time, Jaffer always entertained thoughts of expanding his company.

“When the landlord decided to sell the building where we worked, I was in a position to purchase the facility and eventually did just that,” he revealed. “A few months later, I purchased nearby Budget Printing Incorporated, who had been in business in Edmonton for 42 years. It was a very stressful time, but a very exciting time too. I moved Budget Printing and its 15 employees into my new facility – and the rest, as they say, is history.”

While Scan Copy Print’s core business was book printing and binding, Budget Printing was more involved in full-colour offset and wide-format signage printing. But in combination, the strategic move meant that just about every type of printing and service could be done in one location.

Enter Konica Minolta Canada and MGI Technology

Konica Minolta Canada and Jaffer are no strangers. In fact, his company was the first in Edmonton to install the OEM’s C8000 Production Colour Device. “I’ve known them and dealt with them for over 10 years and I look upon them as pioneers. So when they brought their MGI technology to my attention, I was definitely interested. In this business, you’re always looking for something different, something unique that separates you from your competition. Also, it was important that the JetVarnish could accommodate both offset and digital projects. The printed samples I was shown were quite stunning.”

Scan Copy Print Inc. and Budget Printing 2016 Inc. is the second printer in Canada to adopt this groundbreaking technology. The first Canadian installation of MGI’s JETvarnish 3DS and iFoil system took place at Print Panther in Oakville, Ontario in the Spring of 2016. This innovative digital finishing technology promises to be a game changer for Canadian print, packaging and related industries—taking advanced finishing to the next level while offering an exciting range of new market opportunities. Using MGI’s revolutionary varnish and hot foil stamping processes, the JETvarnish 3DS and inline iFoil provides digital spot UV coating in plain 2D and 3D formats, plus, embossed and foil textured effects—all in a single pass!

In fact, Jaffer has already been in contact with Christine Yardley, VP of Marketing and Sales for North America at Print Panther, who was extremely helpful in bringing him up to date on the technology’s advantages and challenges. “I know there’s a learning curve for our operators, but everybody here is very excited about the possibilities,” Jaffer added.

This kind of client-to-client co-operation, facilitated by Konica Minolta Canada, is no accident. “We’re really excited to have Scan Copy Print and Budget Printing lead the way in Western Canada with our MGI JetVarnish 3DS and iFoil Digital Finishing System,” said Rebekah Fougere, Director of Marketing at Konica Minolta. “They have a strong vision of where this unique technology will take them, and we’re committed to helping them succeed. Recognizing that early adopters need help in building awareness, Konica Minolta Canada has developed a comprehensive marketing program specifically designed for leading-edge industrial printers. We make significant investments in a broad range of initiatives that provide widespread visibility for our industrial print technology adopters. Leveraging our vast network of customers, partners and commercial printers, we take an active role to connect them to help shorten their learning curve as well as drive new business opportunities.”

Konica Minolta’s PROKOM Community

One obvious example of this active role is the OEM’s PROKOM initiative—Konica Minolta’s recently launched and fully sponsored Production Printing User Community across North America. The community was initially open only to Konica Minolta’s European clients. Companies across North America are being invited to join this community of Konica Minolta production print and industrial print users to share ideas through joint discussions and develop and grow efficient digital communication services. It’ll also become a platform for members to express their own voice and connect with others in the industry. PROKOM members can actively engage with Konica Minolta senior management about their priorities for future design, functionality, technology and services, all while building profitable and long-lasting relationships. The OEM’s hope is that PROKOM will result in the development of cutting-edge, industry-relevant solutions similar to MGI’s groundbreaking JetVarnish technology.

“The power of a community is that it enables individuals to connect, share experiences and learn,” said PROKOM Chairman Andy Barber, Managing Director of imail, UK Mail PLC. “There’s one common objective: to grow their businesses and to keep print firmly as a medium where members understand its potential in a multi-channel world. PROKOM allows us to do all that—and more. Now, with our colleagues from North America joining, we have a much bigger voice and are looking forward to making some further exciting announcements soon.”

Two membership levels add flexibility

Currently there are two levels of access to PROKOM content and support—PROKOM Blue and PROKOM Elite. Registered Blue members can access the PROKOM website to view limited content that includes the Konica Minolta Business Development Service Program. The content is free following sign-up via a simple registration process. Members also receive invitations to selected webinars and local seminars. The PROKOM Elite paid subscription allows full access to the PROKOM website, content, events, forums and support services. Elite members also receive exclusive access to the full range of e-learning content, guides, webinars and seminars to help them learn a range of new skills and strategies that help improve profits. PROKOM Elite content also provides a practical and valuable resource for a shop’s entire workforce, helping business owners run a more professional operation while lowering the costs of staff training.

Moving forward with a technology partner

“My goal is to have the JetVarnish running regularly to maximize its special effects while showcasing what can be done to current and potential clients. From my point of view, the sky’s the limit. Though the learning curve is somewhat steep, we have trained staff in place to succeed and move forward.” While excited about his company’s looming opportunities and the new technology, Jaffer stressed that taking advantage of opportunities and hard work will determine his final success. “I know Konica Minolta wants me to succeed and they’ve also been a trusted partner. They respond quickly with any requests for assistance. But the biggest benefit is that they have two or three tech support specialists available locally when needed. In addition to what the MGI finishing technology can do, this high level of local service was a key factor in our decision to choose Konica Minolta. They really do understand small business.”

Total team effort paves way to success

Jaffer’s ultimate goal is to grow his two companies and move forward with this new technology. The result will be the continuity of the new business for his family members. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of my family. My son Sameer has been involved with the company for the last 16 months, and has been learning and adapting to the process of the business. He has played a leading role in this new technology, along with my excellent and knowledgeable staff. I could not have accomplished anything without the help of my wife, my son, and my good staff. We’re excited about this new technology and want to get involved in a big way.”

Jaffer’s mindset for the future of his companies

“Be 100% focused and work hard. Be prepared to survive the good and bad economic times, as we’ve had to do here in Alberta. Investigate all new technologies to give more choices to our clients. Respect your valued employees/team because they’re the backbone of any business. Make sure you have a good technology collaborator who’ll support you all the way. Finally, realize that passion and focus are often the best paths to success.”

For more information please call Scan Copy Print at 1-780-434-0744 (www.scancopyprint.com)  and Budget Printing at 1-780-451-4546 (www.bprint.com).

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.