Welcome to Startup Story, a six-part series in which we will follow a new business through its startup and the trials and tribulations of a new venture over the course of a year. This is a collaborative venture between Venture Kamloops’ VK Accelerate Program and Kamloops This Week. The first story was published in December and can be read here. The featured business has purchased an advertising package in Kamloops This Week as part of its participation.
What if the phone doesn’t ring?
As a single mother with a mortgage to pay and kids to feed, the thought frightened Franca Muraca when she started a new chapter in life as a notary public last October — swapping a 25-year teaching career to go back to school and now tasked with building her own business.
Day one of the new job — set up in a temporary office that was too big for her operation — came with a range of emotions.
“At that point in time, we didn’t really have permanent roots, we were in a temporary space. It was exciting, but at the same time, it was terrifying,” she said.
But knowing there was room to grow in the local notary public business, Muraca put faith in her reputation as a life-long Kamloopsian and longtime teacher to help bring in business.
When she went to put a deposit down on her office space, she secured her first customer.
The bank teller recognized her last name, remembered her mother and asked about her business.
“She was my first client,” Muraca said.
While the customer base began with friends and family, Muraca has also put plenty of work into the marketing piece of her business since launching last fall.
“That connection piece I know is there, but for me, the big piece has been shifting perceptions,” she said.
“People know Franca Muraca as the teacher and now I’m trying to shift that perception.”
On Jan. 1, Muraca moved into her permanent office space at 301-619 Victoria St. — in the Victoria Landing Building, downtown at Victoria Street and Sixth Avenue.
In just a few short months, Franca Muraca Notary Public Inc. has about as many clients as it can handle.
“People are like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s impressive. You have people calling and you’re so busy and now you have two people that you employ full-time,’ but it didn’t just happen. I could be sitting in this office like Rapunzel,” Muraca said.
She put foot to pavement, visiting local realtors and letting them know she’s the new notary public in town.
She also joined the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce and spent time volunteering at Brewloops last September, when she was able to network and secure some clients.
Despite being the new kid on the block, Muraca’s business feels like it’s been at Victoria Landing for years.
Signs containing her distinct M logo lead visitors up to her third-floor office like a trail of bread crumbs. Once inside, visitors will find the space warm and inviting, with light colours, flowers and wallpaper that looks like tile.
All that is by design as Muraca set out to create a warm and inviting space for her clients.
“Like a lot of women coming up into a very traditional male-dominated profession, I was interested in setting myself apart,” she said.
“I didn’t want the office to be old banker colours, I didn’t want it to be stuffy.”
After being commissioned as a notary and finishing her school year last June, Muraca hit the ground running in August while starting up the new business.
Not knowing what to do first, Muraca did what she does best as a teacher — research.
That led her to Venture Kamloops’ VK Accelerate Program, which linked her with a breadth of professionals that helped her through the start-up phase — from a realtor to a business coach to an interior decorator.
“I just worked with them the whole way through and, if I didn’t know something, I could just call them,” Muraca said.
She started the business out of her home, moving to a temporary office and now to her permanent space, where she celebrated with a launch party last week.
More importantly, Muraca’s customer base has grown from a few files to almost too many as she now ponders hiring another employee to keep up with the demand.
“I don’t know what happened exactly, but we’ve been discovered, let’s put it that way,” she said.
The business is growing, so much so that Muraca is considering how to create more capacity in her practice, given the amount of business at hand.
“And it’s been so soon,” she said.
“Those fears from the fall and my hope that it would get to this point — it’s already at that point.”
KTW will check in again with Muraca in April.