AJ Hightower and Collette Watson, the owners of the new Kwik Kopy franchise in the northern Brisbane suburb of Geebung, bring together not only business and design expertise, but also provide the latest example of the close cultural relationship between Australia and the USA.
AJ, originally from Oklahoma, moved to Australia when he was 10 and established a career down under as a graphic designer. He has been a senior designer with Kwik Kopy in Strathpine for the previous six years. That is where he first met Collette, who has owned the Strathpine business with her husband David since 1992.
“My name is actually Adam-Jason, but being an American, some habits die hard,” AJ says with a chuckle.
AJ and Colette decided to open the new franchise after they both came to the realisation that the growing business community and increase in demand for the services of Kwik Kopy from in and around the Geebung area provided a significant business opportunity.
“We had previously served the Geebung area from our centre in Strathpine,” Collette says. “However, Geebung has a very diverse and entrepreneurial business community, covering a range of business types and sizes, particularly within the manufacturing sector, and with our combined knowledge of the local business community, we both felt the timing was right to open a specialist store in the area.”
Collette is positively beaming and bursting with pride when she talks about her new business partnership with AJ. Collette, the national chairperson of the Kwik Kopy owners association, says that one of her most enjoyable and important roles as a business owner has been to act as a mentor to staff at her Strathpine centre.
“Our business ethos has always been one of shared prosperity,” she says. “Both David and I want to see our staff develop to their full potential, and this is a great first step for AJ.”
From AJ’s perspective, the accomplished designer who was a finalist in this year’s Kwik Kopy Red Flame Design Awards says that taking the step into ownership was a simple decision.
“I thought I could continue to work a huge amount of hours for someone else, or still work long hours for myself,” he says. “It was a logical decision for me.”
The new Geebung store, which opened its doors on July 1 in time to greet the new financial year, will have AJ and another designer on board full-time in the initial start up phase, with AJ relinquishing his role at Strathpine.
Collette will continue to run Strathpine with Dave, and she says is very happy to take a back-seat with regard to the Geebung franchise which will very much be predominantly AJ’s operation.
“To properly get to know the local business community and successfully start your own business, you need to go from door to door to speak with other business owners so as to properly understand their concerns and provide the best products and services to meet their needs,” she says. “AJ has been doing that and I am confident that he will be a very successful owner, and I will always be there to give him any advice or help if it is needed.”
From AJ’s perspective, he is thankful for Collette’s tutelage and is determined to leave his own stamp on the fledgling new business.
“We will have a strong digital focus and specialist multi-media capabilities,” he says. “The Kwik Kopy motto of ‘We’re on the same page’ means that Kwik Kopy staff and especially owners need to know exactly what the client on the other side of the counter needs from us and that we can deliver exactly what they ask for.”
“The combined knowledge of myself and Collette with regard to the local business community and their needs means we are in a position to fulfil that commitment.”
AJ, who is still on the right side of 30, is under no illusion of the hard work and graft that will be required to grow and expand the business.
He says he would like to start to add extra staff within the next six to 12 months, and that he and Collette already are advanced in their planning to start a design sub-brand called ‘121 Creative’. AJ describes this venture as providing ‘an extra level of design service that caters for advertising campaigns and material.’
Despite knowing that he will be busy, or maybe because of it, AJ is excited for the future.
“I have been a homeowner since 23 and am married with a young child, so I want to work extremely hard to not only establish the future of the store at Geebung, but to secure my family’s future as well,” he says. “You have got to keep moving forward.”
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