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A-1 Courier service fills a niche

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dave Hall, The Windsor Star

When Rose McAuliffe decided to start her own courier business six years ago, she freely admits her timing could have been better.

"I was in my 50s, I'd never run my own business before, and I had no idea what I was getting into," said McAuliffe. "In fact, if I'd known then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have done it."

But McAuliffe, who previously worked for a customs broker, decided to take the risky plunge when the courier service her husband Earl worked for narrowed its focus to the more-lucrative rush services, leaving a void in the daily delivery and overnight market.

McAuliffe started A-1 Courier Services in 2005 with one car, one van and a driver with his own vehicle. Six years later, after surviving a recession, the company has eight vehicles and six drivers delivering packages for a variety of customers across Windsor and Essex County.

She admits she couldn't have done it without the support and services offered by the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre, which has been offering advice to small business owners for almost 25 years.

"Not only did they lead me through the process of setting up a business plan and a marketing plan, they're constantly asking what they can do to continue helping me," said McAuliffe. "I knew nothing about HST, WSIB or how to deal with Canada Revenue Agency and all the other things you have to know running your own business.

"Without them, this would never have happened," said McAuliffe.

Sabrina DeMarco, director of the centre, said McAuliffe is just one of many success stories being celebrated by the centre during Small Business Week.

"Small businesses are the engine of any economic development initiative," said DeMarco. "Well over half of all new jobs are created by small businesses through startups and also through business growth.

"It's one of the reasons why business retention and expansion efforts are critically important," said DeMarco.

She said the small-business centre provides support services for business owners who need help setting up a business plan, devising a marketing strategy, dealing with accounting issues, finding financing and taking an idea from conception all the way to execution.

DeMarco and the centre hosted an open house Tuesday to showcase the services available to new business owners.

McAuliffe said the support was invaluable but she still came close to closing only three years after she opened the doors.

"You expect to struggle early on, especially when you have a payroll and bills to pay when the banks are holding your cheques for 10 days," said McAuliffe. "Cash flow was a problem early on, but you expect that.

"But I said to my husband in 2008 that we might have to reevaluate our options because the business wasn't growing like we'd hoped," said McAuliffe. "But we hung on a few more months, business suddenly picked right up, and we've never looked back since."