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. This is the final instalment. The featured business has purchased an advertising package in Kamloops This Week as part of its participation.
It’s been a whirlwind first year for new business Muraca Notary Public, which launched in January 2020 and had to learn the ropes of the business world just as the COVID-19 pandemic had upended it.
Looking back on her first year in business, having traded her teaching career for one as an entrepreneur, Franca Muraca said the biggest challenge of starting a new career has been keeping up with to myriad changes.
“When I started, I didn’t even have paperclips in here,” Muraca said.
She said she has gone from just the basics of sourcing office supplies to new, bigger questions like clientele retention and adapting to new legislation impacting business.
“It’s never static, it’s a dynamic job,” Muraca said.
Having launched her business with the help of Venture Kamloops’ VK Accelerate Program, Muraca said she carries forward confidence knowing she has a resource she can call on whenever she needs advice.
“They’re that resource that will say, ‘Here’s three phone numbers and two email addresses and we’ll put you in the direction of the right people.’ I mean, that’s pretty big when you’re changing industries,” Muraca said.
“There are a lot of very seasoned business professionals in Kamloops who are very willing to help people with their startups.”
From this year, Muraca said she has learned that without risk, there is no chance at reward, but it doesn’t just happen from taking the plunge. Success also requires determination, support, hard work and planning — in all of which Muraca is well versed.
“I did my homework,” she said.
The biggest success for Muraca this inaugural year has been the large number of repeat customers who have returned for other things or referred friends and family.
“I don’t think there’s a higher compliment that you could pay our office,” Muraca said.
She said the past year has been “a really weird, perfect storm” — her business was hot right off the bat and hasn’t subsided for the rookie notary.
Muraca said it appears the pandemic has prompted people to do more estate planning than ever before, concerned they don’t have all their documents in order during precarious times.
With interest rates being some of the lowest ever, due to COVID-19, many customers are refinancing their mortgages, while others are buying more properties.
“We’ve had a lot of business as far as that goes,” Muraca said.
“The practice has sort of hit the main parts of what’s been thriving through this pandemic.”
But the situation that has skyrocketed business is not one Muraca sees as a bubble that will pop once the pandemic subsides.
“There will always be the busy conveyance time in the summer,” she said, adding that is followed by estate planning in the winter months.
She said the digital world has also spiked the number of notarizations being done to combat fraud.
“It’s interesting in the digital age you still need a human being authenticating who you are … and I think that will always be there,” Muraca said.
Through January — a typically slow time for notaries — Muraca said business has remained steady.
Looking ahead, Muraca sees continued success on the business end and hopes to build capacity so her team can start taking more holidays, though she doesn’t want to grow too big.
“I’m 50. I’m not looking to build an empire. I’m looking to maintain a small practice with a community feel,” Muraca said.