How to Start a Copy Center
Independent and chain copy centers offer more than self-service copy machines. They may provide book or pamphlet printing, design services, overnight mail, and other office options for busy students and professionals. Staples, Office Depot and Kinkos/Fedex dot the landscape and provide fast copies and printing, but some people prefer a low-key, friendly environment of a neighborhood copy center. Even though home computers and printers can handle a large volume of copies, the need for professional services remains steady due to the proliferation of home-based businesses and contract workers who need outside help on office and printing projects.
Things You Will Need
Cable and Wiring to Network Computers
Decide what services you will offer. Small neighborhood copy centers offer self-service copiers, fax service, simple printing services like wedding invitations, business cards and calendars. Large, high-volume copy shops provide graphic design services, computer work-station rental, book, newsletter and report printing, and mailbox rental.
Scout desirable locations. While all types of people need copy and design services, a copy shop located near a high school or college will attract students working on class projects and give the store a steady source of income, at least during the school year. Opening a copy shop in a business district or near courthouses will guarantee at least a few repeat customers needing high volume legal documents and presentations.
Purchase copy machines and related equipment. Depending on your budget and clientele, you’ll need at least one self-service copy machine, and commercial grade digital copy machines for employees to use behind the counters. One or more high-grade fax machines that can be used behind the counter or by customers are a necessity since many people prefer this to e-mailing documents. Full-service centers will also need a blueprint copier and laminating machine. Network your copiers and install a key system behind the counter to keep track of self-service copiers. Buy reams of copy paper in various colors and sizes. Stock up on supplies to trim and collate copies manually, like rulers, scissors, staplers and tape. Some copy centers offer a small retail store for customers to purchase envelopes, boxes, markers and other mailing or office supplies.
Set up computer work stations. Behind-the-counter workers will need computers to design booklets, flyers and other projects for customers. Some copy shops offer computer workstations for customers to use. Buy laser printers and scanners to match the computers. Since many students and business customers need assistance from copy-shop professionals to design presentations and other material, invest in the latest graphic software packages, such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, CorelDraw and Illustrator. Back office software for copy center management includes Excel, Quikbooks and Microsoft Word. You’ll also need to hire an IT professional to connect the store’s computer network.
Hire employees. Counter help should have good computer skills and basic design knowledge. They’ll also need good people skills and patience to deal with demanding customers or long lines. Backroom copy, print and design employees need a good background in graphics, the ability to spend most of their day at a copy machine or computer. Finally, a good copy shop needs a bookkeeper and office manager like any other business.
Include a long counter with staplers and other office supplies where customers can arrange and collate their own copies.