Although it seems like much longer than that, the current version of the Paperight website only launched in May this year. In the four months since then, over 150 businesses and organisations have signed up to be Paperight outlets. That’s a lot of businesses.
This kind of growth has meant that there have been a lot of phone calls and road trips for our outlet-relations team to ensure that we are able to efficiently deliver the hundreds of documents we sell and send to outlets every month. Although there have been some challenges, a few of our outlets stand out from the pack: businesses that are in tune with their community, and know how to service them best. Every month or so, we’ll be bringing you the stories of these businesses – and the people behind them – who are helping us bring every book within walking distance of every home.
This month, it’s Michelle Carsten’s awesome little shop, The Office Crew, in Strand, Western Cape.
The Office Crew had only been open for six months when one of Michelle Carsten’s regular customers came into the store and started talking about some new service that would allow her to legally print books at her shop. An avid reader, Michelle was intrigued from the first word and, not long after, signed The Office Crew up with Paperight.
Since then, Michelle has been one of Paperight’s most valuable independent outlets, offering feedback and advice on Paperight’s products, as well as spending her extra time and money to find out how to best market, package and sell books she prints from the service.
We thought we’d take a little trip from Cape Town to Strand to have a small chat with Michelle and find out more about the Office Crew and its services. In the process, we also found out what makes her tick and how she sees Paperight’s potential uses for her and her customers.
So Michelle, what is The Office Crew’s history?
Well, I bought the business in October 2010 when it was still called Multi Postman Services. We were originally located down the road, but moved to the Twin Palms Centre in Strand in December 2011 – a move we’re glad we made. Around that time, we also changed our name to The Office Crew, to better reflect the type of services we wanted to offer to our customers.
And what are those services? Office-y things, I presume?
Our customer base is a mix of walk-in and once-off customers and small business owners, so our focus is on helping small businesses cut costs on postal and printing services that they would have to ordinarily buy equipment and hire extra staff to do.
Operating much like a communal office for the Helderberg community, we attract certain customers who want to do things on certain days. For example, on Mondays, customers want to fax documents, and toward the end of the month we send a lot of proof-of-payment documents on behalf of our customers. We also do laminating and printing, and offer fax and email services, especially to our more elderly customers.
That sounds very useful indeed! So, how does Paperight fit in all this?
Well, firstly, I love reading books, so if I could personally find a more cost-effective way of getting hold of these books, I’d love it – and I assume there must be lots of people out there who feel the same. That’s why I’m most excited about Paperight.
But it also allows me to grow my business into a “one-stop shop” for my customers. A recent example is a customer who offers training to carers and who has been using my services since 2010. I introduced them to the healthcare books that Paperight has available, and they purchased 3 copies of a book focusing on treatment and care of Adult HIV to use in their training. This customer now doesn’t just use me for printing and binding: they now know that I can provide them with healthcare books that they, as part of a non-profit organisation, would not have been able to afford otherwise.
That’s awesome! So do you think Paperight has the potential to help South Africans?
Yes. My feeling is that Paperight is making reading material more affordable to people. It also puts the customer more in control of their budget and the final cost of their books as they can choose how they want their book printed and bound. Paperight might even help schools in outlying areas get resources when textbooks aren’t delivered or are out of stock. Paperight empowers educators.
On a personal level, Paperight has also helped me expand my knowledge and experience as I now find myself doing research into how better to print and bind books! Now I’m in the process of looking for a second shop assistant, which will give me more time to focus on Paperight and how I can promote it better in my shop and surrounds. Books are one of my passions, so if I can make books more affordable to other people, I will feel as though I have done a great deed!
The Office Crew can be found at Shop 6, Twin Palms Centre, Cnr Altena Road & Broadway Boulevard, Strand, Western Cape.