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Graf-Martin Communications

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Bankruptcy Sows Seeds for Startup Graf-Martin Communications

Ellen Graf-Martin started her own marketing and communications business after her former employer, R.G. Mitchell Family Books, went bankrupt.

Waterloo, Canada, December 11, 2009 --( Ellen Graf-Martin was working from home the day her employer, R.G. Mitchell Family Books, a book retailer and wholesaler that was about to celebrate its 75th anniversary, suddenly went bankrupt and shut its doors.

“It was a shock,” recalls Graf-Martin, who was manager of consumer and media relations at R.G. Mitchell’s Kitchener office when they closed Sept. 15 last year. “I got a phone call saying: ‘We’re cleaning out your desk. Tell us what you want us to take’.”

But Graf-Martin was able to do something she had never before imagined – she became her own boss. She started a communications and marketing business, Graf-Martin Communications Inc., which employs her and two staff.

The 33-year-old Waterloo resident says at first starting her own business seemed daunting. Bookkeeping, in particular, was something she had never done before.

But former clients and co-workers, as well as her husband, encouraged her. “Why don’t you start your own agency?” they asked. So she began to make some inquiries.

Within weeks, she had contracted a web designer to create a website and a logo. By the beginning of November, the website was live and by February of this year, less than six months after losing her job, her new company was incorporated.

She learned some basics of bookkeeping and got the person who normally did her taxes to help with reconciling the books.

By February, she had hired a business graduate from Laurier who has expertise in marketing and new media. She also now has a part-time administration person. Plus, she has a network of contractors who do graphic design and printing work for her.

Graf-Martin is now considering hiring a second full time employee. She still runs her business from home, but will probably be looking at getting some office space soon.

Meanwhile, her client base is diversifying.

She was already doing promotional work for well-known authors such as Dr. Barry Sears, who wrote Zone Diet and Marcus Buckingham, a career and management guru recently featured on Oprah. She also had well-established relationships with brands such as Big Idea, a faith-based studio behind the Veggie Tales animated series and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Now, her clients include owners of small businesses in Waterloo Region who are looking for reasonably-priced marketing profiles and packages.

“We can apply the same principles to very different situations,” she says. “That’s really exciting for me, because the small business sector is something I have a huge passion for.”

Graf-Martin is surprised and pleased at how well things have turned out. “It has been really encouraging,” she says.

A year after losing her job, Graf-Martin is doing exactly what she loves to do – understanding the big-picture vision and then pulling together all the details to make it happen,

“The tag line for our business is ‘discovering the oak within the acorn.’ We work with that small idea that has a lot of potential to grow into a massive oak tree. I love that. That gets me up in the morning,” she says.

Rose Simone, Record staff

Graf-Martin Communications Inc.
Phone: 519-342-3703

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Graf-Martin Communications
Tim Underwood

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