Island Ink-Jet Systems Inc. did not remain an island unto itself for very long.
The business began in this Vancouver Island community in 1997. It wholesaled printer inkjet supplies to small retailers on the island, which generated $20,000 in revenue in that first year. Seven years later, its revenues skyrocketed to $10 million and its operations grew to more than 200 locations in Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Island Ink-Jet was one of the fastest growing inkjet products franchise in North America and is saving millions of used printer cartridges from ending up in landfills.
Every year, about 300 million used cartridges are dumped in the garbage. That means eight cartridges are thrown away every second. Stacked end-to-end, these wasted cartridges in one year would cover a distance of more than 40,000 km—enough to circle the earth.
The mission statement above an entrance to Island Ink-Jet's Courtenay headquarters says it all: we are committed “to provide our customers with the highest possible levels of service and quality products through global leadership in ethical business practices, environmental awareness, and employee motivation.”
Founding President and CEO Carey Porcher provided the initial motivation and visionary leadership that has led Island Ink-Jet to its spectacular success. Its growth as a green business has been so phenomenal that its thirst for working capital outpaced the value of its assets needed to secure bank financing for its continued expansion.
That's when Island Ink-Jet approached Ecotrust Canada Capital for a loan to finance its growth, make improvements to its head office and its franchise marketing and advertising campaign, whose slogan is “Refill, Not Landfill.”
Indeed, refilling ink cartridges is much better for the environment. According to Island Ink-Jet, the cartridges they've saved from landfills are the equivalent of more than three million gallons of oil. By refilling the cartridges, you save money and energy.
To keep up with the rapid growth in demand, in 2000 Island Ink-Jet developed a global franchising operation, opening its first franchise kiosk in the Mayfair Shopping Mall in Victoria. The outlets provide inkjet refill services, do-it-yourself refill kits, compatible inkjet cartridges, and remanufactured laser toner cartridges. Easily recognized by its tropical and colourful brand, Island Ink-Jet outlets are located in high-traffic areas, usually in shopping malls.
In 2003, the company opened an assembly plant and distribution facility in Courtenay, where it has about 70 employees, including those in its head office. They are now looking at opening regional distribution centres and offices worldwide to cut costs.
In 2007, the company launched Project Green Earth designed to educate consumers about the effects of climate change and the many small ways that they can make a big impact on reducing their own ecological footprint.
Island Ink-Jet may have outgrown Vancouver Island, but its corporate culture has stayed true to its roots.