On September 14, 1997, Brian Blacklock opened Pegasus Paper. Today, the company is a fixture in the wholesale TNTTO (tissue, napkins, towels and takeout containers) business, primarily serving restaurants across northern Alberta. This locally owned and operated, Groupex approved supplier provides one-stop shopping for a wide range of products. There are no minimum order requirements. Regularly scheduled deliveries from several convenient warehouses ensures prompt and efficient delivery that empowers small businesses to manage costs and run efficiently.
“We started by providing paper and packaging to restaurants, food service, hospitality and some meat shops,” says Blacklock. “Over the years we grew a stronger presence in the food business. Now we also sell produce, meat and frozen food.”
He is no stranger to the industry. Before opening Pegasus Paper, Blacklock worked for a TNTTO company and had enjoyed management roles throughout his career. When the business he was working for was purchased by an international company, he decided to strike out on his own; and his new employers were incredibly supportive.
“The new owners wanted to focus on large supply contracts, and I wanted to focus on the small, independent business model. I was able to start out with a customer base as the businesses that followed me were not in the international company’s demographic model. That company would then sell products to me, and I provided for the customers outside of their base. They never interfered with my target market – the plan worked great for all of us and they were always very supportive.”
Blacklock, however, very quickly discovered one of the main challenges of entrepreneurship. It is 24/7, 365 days a year.
“Within three months I realized that with just me and my wife Delcy running things, we would never go on a holiday again! We needed help. My first employee had worked for me in my previous career. Well, that worked out. Having more hands meant I could increase the business. In fact, with one extra person we doubled our business but when he took holidays, we were back to square one. So, now I had to bring in a driver. Honestly, it just grew organically like that. We brought people in as needed and as they became available. Now we have 35 employees.”
Through the years, the company has had partners come in and then move on. The current ownership group of two, in addition to Blacklock, each bring strengths in areas that help Blacklock run the company, whether it is in IT and computers or human resources and government interactions.
It wasn’t just the team that was expanding. Pegasus Paper started in a 1,200 square foot warehouse in Sherwood Park. Today they operate out of a 24,000 square foot facility in Edmonton, with branches in Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and St. Paul.
“We have been very fortunate,” says Blacklock. “A large part of our success is due to the people who have come to work with us. We have some that have been with us for close to 20 years. We are also very appreciative of our customers who, like us, are small and independent operators that love to support local businesses.”
Another key to Pegasus Paper’s success stems from Delcy’s philosophy. Blacklock explains, “My wife has this philosophy that goes like this: ‘say it, mean it, do it.’ We use that to drive every interaction across all the aspects of our brand. It influences how we work with our customers, vendors, manufactures and among our team. If we make a commitment, we honour it, even if it costs us money. It is important for us to keep our word. Because of that, we excel in customer service. Are we perfect? No. But do we provide an outstanding service model? I believe we do, and I believe it is a model that surpasses many of our competitors.”
Blacklock is a founding member of the Independent Purchasing Alliance of Canada (IPAC) Inc.
“Through our IPAC affiliation, we have been able to leverage the purchasing power of 15 different companies to provide us with the prices and supplies of a huge corporation. Thanks to IPAC, we don’t have to apologize to customers for pricing. The association is one of our greatest accomplishments. It puts small companies like us on equal footing with our much larger competitors. The value of IPAC really comes through during this time of inflation and challenges. Supply chains are broken. The shortages and previous restrictions drove up costs. IPAC protects the suppliers in the network so our pricing is not unfairly impacted. The vision we started with all those years ago is paying off now during the crisis.”
It’s a crisis with far-reaching effects and it started long before COVID.
“We went through the economic downturn in 2014/2015 only to be impacted in our Fort McMurray branch by The Beast fire in 2016. With The Beast behind us, the warehouse in Fort McMurray took another hit when floods in 2020 left our facility in five feet of standing water. And then the pandemic hit, which was – and still is – a major issue for anyone in the hospitality, restaurant and food service business.”
It’s enough to cripple a business and force doors to close, but Pegasus Paper had the tenacity, business model and team in place to solidier on.
“We dug-in and we dealt with the problems. We have a great team that, for every challenge, just pulls together to get things done. For example, after the flood I filled a truck with supplies and drove to Fort McMurray. The branch manager and I operated out of the truck until we could get back into the warehouse. You just do what you need to do.
“Retaining the small, independent business model paid off for us too, as with this model you don’t need corporate approval or someone to make decisions on your behalf. You see the problem. You find a solution. Five minutes later you are actively working on the solution. That is what we do.”
The challenges, he admits, are there as they are for every business during these changing times; but the good times are just as strong.
“In any community in our service area I can go to a local restaurant and have a meal with friends. I have come to personally know so many small business owners in Northern Alberta. We are not – and will never be – a big, nameless and faceless corporation. Our customers know us, and I listen to, and learn from, them. That is the part of the job I love the most.”
Pegasus Paper engages strongly in community support and is proud to contribute to Santas Anonymous, Bissell Centre, Hope Mission and Mustard Seed.
“It is important for communities to supply services that people need but it is impossible for charities to do it on their own. Communities accomplish more when we all work together.”
Blacklock says a big and heartfelt thank you to the team. “They have stuck with us through floods, fires and a pandemic. We have the experience of those that have been with us for more than a decade, and the enthusiasm and new ideas of those that have recently joined us.”
He also thanks the customers, suppliers, vendors and communities for their long-term support of Pegasus Paper.
“What comes next,” Blacklock muses. “I don’t know… personally, perhaps retirement. Maybe it is up to the younger people in the company to take the reigns but right now we are still focused on growth and expansion. No matter what happens, Pegasus Paper will always be a locally owned and operated company focused on customer service.”
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