How Montreal’s Hubschercorp built its seven decades of worldwide success.
Louis Hubscher, a Montreal salesman, founded the Hubscher Ribbon Corporation in 1949 – and for decades, his son and grandson have carried on his legacy. The Hubscher family transformed what began as a local ribbon distributor into a multifaceted custom packaging corporation, serving large-scale international clients. Today, Hubschercorp is a Lachine-based team of ribbon, packaging and labelling experts with diversified operations in North America and China. We sat down with Hubschercorp President Ivan Hubscher, his son, Vice President Neil Hubscher, and David Sasson, COO, to learn more about how the company’s innovative approach to reinventing itself drove its 73 years of success.
Rogers Business: Tell us a little bit about your business.
Ivan: We’ve been in business since 1949, when my dad founded the company. It’s a family-run business; our second and third generations are currently in place.
David: We’ve always been a local company working out of Montreal. As the company grew, it had to expand, so we had to get larger premises to do more local manufacturing. As our staff grew, we needed a larger office space; we’re currently 25 people, and that includes office staff and production staff.
Rogers Business: Where did the idea for your small business begin?
Ivan: Originally, my dad was a salesman for Burlington Industries’ ribbon division. He sold products to the Montreal apparel industry, which, at the time, was very big; it made garments for all of Canada. Burlington Industries suggested that he start his own ribbon distributing company as their exclusive distributor. That was the beginning of the Hubscher Ribbon Corporation; he was selling ribbon bows to the lingerie and brassiere industry. It totally changed when we evolved into the label business for the apparel industry in Canada and the United States. My son later ushered us into the gift packaging business, and that was a big transformation for the company.
Rogers Business: Is there someone or something that inspired you to go into business ownership?
Ivan: For my father, it could have been my mother, who was pretty influential.
David: It’s the team around us – the employees. We’re inspired by them because everybody supports each other. It’s also our families, because we work long hours; they support us by helping us be able to travel and be away for long periods while visiting customers. We have our outside family, but our inside family is where the support comes from every day.
Rogers Business: What made you choose your current location(s)?
Ivan: We were driving down Côte-de-Liesse one day when we saw this building; it wasn’t even for sale. It was beside a little restaurant on the corner. We stopped, went in, spoke to the owner and convinced them to sell us the building – that was in 1987. We were renting premises on Meilleur Street in northern Montreal and we had no more space – we were just suffocating, so we jumped at this opportunity and made the deal. We went from 10,000 ft² to 24,000 ft² overnight. At our current location, we’ve put a mezzanine on it for another 7,000 feet, so we’re up to 30,000 feet – but we still don’t have enough space.
Rogers Business: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a small business owner?
Ivan: I’ve learned to be agile enough to adapt to ongoing market conditions and the demands and needs of customers. We’ve learned the importance of forming family-like partnerships and relations with our clients and vendors, which not only sets us apart from our competitors, but has allowed us to thrive for 70-plus years now. The main thing about this company is that it’s totally service-oriented. When we went up against major competitors, they didn’t stand a chance against us because we were hands-on and they weren’t. They were selling a product, but we were selling a service.
David: During the pandemic, a lot of companies took their business overseas and closed down their local manufacturing, but we kept that open here – that’s why we were an essential service during COVID-19. We were providing the garment labels to customers who wear PPE for hospitals, and as a local manufacturer, we were able to turn it around very quickly.
Rogers Business: How did you or do you get the word out about your business?
Ivan: When we expanded to the United States, I signed a deal with a large label marketing company in the apparel industry and they started to sell for us. Our strategy has always been to form partnerships with various marketing companies and direct salespeople.
David: Social media has helped us get to a larger and broader customer base because we’re accessible at the click of a button. We’ve refreshed and rebranded our websites, we advertise on LinkedIn and we do Facebook posts. We do email blasts when a new product comes out, or just to remind customers that we are still around; it’s hard for us to sell online because we do a lot of custom products, so after 70-plus years, social media helps a lot with brand awareness.
Rogers Business: What is your best-selling product or service?
David: Our business has a packaging division, a labelling division and a ribbon division, as well as a division we started in 2005, which makes our best-seller now. If you have kids, you know that they get first, second and third place award ribbons at school events. We distribute the raw materials for these award ribbons to partner printers, who print them for schools and other events.
Rogers Business: What is your vision for the future of your business?
Neil: As the markets and supply chain continue to evolve, we’ll work with our current partners to ensure product quality remains consistent and up-to-par with industry standards. We want to continue to focus on sourcing environmental materials, which are very important for sustainability and recyclability. With regular communication with our customers, we’ll continue to be able to adapt to market changes and their needs.
Rogers Business: What advice would you give to someone else looking to get started?
David: Make sure you have hardworking and devoted employees. Everybody talks about their management team, but it’s only as good as the people that are supporting it. It’s about appreciation. Money is important, but your employees have to know that they’re appreciated and that they do a good job. We have regular team meetings to go over what our future plans are and keep them informed, because they’re part of the growth of the company. We’ve been very lucky; I’ve been at Hubscher for 10 years, and I’m one of our newest employees. I can confidently say that 80% of our employees have contributed 25 or more years of service.
Rogers Business: What is the greatest reward you’ve gotten from being a small business owner?
Ivan: The greatest reward has probably been building a successful company that I can pass on to these guys. I’m approaching retirement, so I feel good about that. We’ve also been around for so long that when I meet people in the industry for the first time, they say, “Are you Hubscher Ribbon? My dad used to deal with you 25 or 30 years ago.” Hearing that is very inspiring; so many people have touched this company that it’s still remembered today.
Rogers Business: If your business had a secret ingredient, what would it be?
Ivan: The extended family of our employees, customers and vendors is second to none.
David: We’re family-oriented and locally based. Domestic production is important, because there’s not a lot left of it. If you look at our products, we sell everything retailers need, from packaging to ribbon; our customer base has a bigger variety of options to choose from. We’re almost a one-stop shop for any retailer.
Rogers Business: Where can we find your business online?
LinkedIn: Hubscher Ribbon Corp LTD