How VPS found its industry niche
VPS started small in 2016 with its first location in Winnipeg – but owner Mik Parent had big ambitions for the business to become the go-to installer for automotive paint protection film, window tinting and ceramic coatings in Canada. The company has now expanded to six markets in western Canada in just six years, with plans to continue growing. Mik’s vision for his business is to grow to dozens of locations across the country and employ 150 Canadians. We connected with Mik to learn about his journey from small business to expansion and how VPS’ unique model helped it stand out in its industry.
Rogers Business: Tell us a little bit about your business.
Mik: VPS started about six years ago in Winnipeg. We found a niche in protecting vehicles; there were well-developed markets in Calgary and Edmonton, and I wanted to bring what they had there for paint protection film, window tint and ceramic coatings to Winnipeg. We started with one location in Winnipeg and then sold the business to a group of owners. I’m still very active in the business; I’m an owner and I retain shares. My goal was to bring on partners to expedite the growth of the business. Now, we have more people involved and we’re able to move a lot faster. Three years later, we have six locations in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Kelowna and Edmonton, which is opening up next month.
Rogers Business: Where did the idea for your small business begin?
Mik: We started out doing coloured vinyl wraps on vehicles, but we found a better market in clear paint protection film – a clear film that protects vehicles against rock chips – because of Winnipeg’s rough roads. Automotive paint is now water-based, too, so it’s softer and more prone to chipping. In Calgary, there’s a shop on nearly every block that offers similar services and we saw the potential to bring this to Winnipeg; we wanted to become the leaders of our industry. Today, we’re an industry leader in Winnipeg and the other cities we operate in.
Rogers Business: What made you choose your current location(s)?
Mik: Western Canada has a very good footprint for what we do, so we believed we could enter the market in Winnipeg. There’s a very big market for paint protection film in western Canada, so we wanted to establish our name and have a presence in the west. There’s a lot of demand for it here because of the climate and the roads; they have lots of sand and rocks in the winter, which persist through the summer. Later, we figured out that there was great potential for us to expand in cities like Saskatoon, which was our second location. After we open our Vancouver location, we’re going to shift our focus to eastern Canada.
Rogers Business: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a small business owner?
Mik: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to look after our employees. They do a lot for us, so it’s important to look after them, too. It goes both ways. I’ve also learned that hiring the right people and having a good company culture is key to the success and growth of a business.
Rogers Business: Who or what was your biggest source of support when you launched?
Mik: I would say our customers have been our biggest source of support. We started out with a really strong reputation due to our high-quality installations and word-of-mouth from our customers.
Rogers Business: What makes your business unique?
Mik: The difference with VPS is that we offer three different product avenues. First, we have our retail stores that serve customers looking to protect their new vehicles. Next, we have our wholesale collaborations, which is where dealerships offer our services to their customers and sublet the work to VPS. Finally, we have what we call distribution – that’s where we go into a dealership and set them up with the equipment and training they need to do it on their own. At that point, we supply them with product and provide them with local support via our locations.
Rogers Business: How did you (or do you) get the word out about your business?
Mik: We use a lot of advertising online to get our name out there. We use Google Ads, SEO and social media, like Instagram and Facebook. We also have a great sales team that works in our distribution business; they go out to dealerships and make them realize the value of offering these services in-house.
Rogers Business: What is your best-selling product or service? Tell us a little bit about it.
Mik: Our main business is paint protection film: a clear protective film that is installed on top of your vehicle’s paint to protect it against scratches, bug damage, rock chips and other road debris damage.
Rogers Business: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a small business owner and how did you overcome it?
Mik: Our biggest challenge has been finding the right people to employ – especially for our installations, since they’re not something anyone can do. They require very good attention to detail. To get someone trained to our standards, it takes approximately three months, minimum; it takes time and requires the right people.
Rogers Business: What is the greatest reward you’ve had as a small business owner?
Mik: The greatest reward for us has been the brand recognition in the marketplace. We have a lot of suppliers who are asking for our business and a lot of customers reaching out to us because of our reputation.
Rogers Business: What’s your business’s secret ingredient? What keeps people coming back?
Mik: We always look after our customers and they always come first. I would say our secret is a mix of customer service and quality installation. The paint protection film that we install has a 10-year warranty on it, while the average person keeps their vehicle for three to four years. We also get customers that swap their cars every two years – and even if it’s a lease, most customers still opt for paint protection so they don’t lose value when returning the lease. We also have customers who come in for just their front bumper and come back to do the rest of their car, like their hood or their doors. Our customers keep coming back.
Where can we find your business online? (Please share any social media handles, websites, etc.)
Facebook: VPS Canada
LinkedIn: VPS Canada