Clive and Ruth Thorn, who set up their Mail Boxes Etc. business at 33 Great George Street, Leeds, 15 years ago, were delighted to receive UK Franchisee of the Year Award at the firm’s recent conference.
The husband and wife team both left the corporate world with the aim of starting their own business in 2002, and were impressed by the Mail Boxes Etc. business proposition. “Not only was it a ‘clean’ franchise – no food or drink involved – but the hours were more in line with normal business hours, which was appealing to me as I came from a pub background which involved very long working days!” says Clive. “From a financial point of view, the business model has three ‘legs’: post and parcel, mailbox and virtual office, print and copy. They are complementary services with a broad appeal, and you spread your risk because you’re not relying on just one profit centre.”
It’s a mix that has served the Leeds business well over the years. “We’re right in the centre of Leeds, next to the law courts and the city council offices, and there’s a great business community here. We deal with lots of firms, large and small – we’ve been here so long, we’ve got some good relationships.
“We’re also very close to two of the city’s universities, Leeds University and Leeds Beckett,” continues Clive. “It’s a lively scene when the students are about. We don’t just print dissertations – we print their project work and also flyers and posters for the various student associations.”
Bars and restaurants make good use of MBE Leeds’ design and print services for menus and posters, and, says Clive, “there’s what I call the ‘Friday Night Club’ too - a great bunch of event organisers and entertainers that tend to drop in on a Friday evening to get their publicity printed for weekend gigs. There’s never a dull moment here.”
Presenting the award, James Simmons, marketing manager at Mail Boxes Etc. UK and Ireland, said: “Clive and Ruth run a very successful and well-established business. They are highly proactive, looking to drive sales rather than simply react to enquiries. They consistently operate well across all three major profit centres, carrying out energetic marketing activities and maintaining a strong turnover.”
Talking about the support they receive from the franchisor, Mail Boxes Etc. UK and Ireland, which has 1,600 stores worldwide and more than 160 in the UK, Ruth commented: “The business has evolved – everything has been carefully adapted over the years to reflect trading conditions and developments in the marketplace. The team at head office has been great at picking up on the trends and giving us support when we need it. One of the biggest areas of our business is working with auction houses, and MBE has recently rebranded this service and promoted it very widely as Auction Logistics from Mail Boxes Etc. That has helped raise the profile of our auction house work as a brand.
“Here at MBE Leeds we have been building relationships with the main auction houses in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire for the past 15 years, collecting, packing and delivering the lots that people buy remotely – online and commission bidding is a huge and increasing market and by its nature needs our pack and ship services.”