“CEO Marla Kott pushed her own limits and has applied the same gusto to propelling forward Imprint Plus”
Marla Kott walks into the office sporting the friendliest smile and right away offers coffee.
The CEO of Richmond’s Imprint Plus seems relaxed and doesn’t appear rushed.
Given that she is credited for taking the company from yearly sales of $2.6 million in 2000 to $6.3 million in 2006 and a customer base of 2,600 to 15,204, it’s surprising to find her not watching the clock.
“Take all the time you want … I enjoy talking about business,” said Kott.
Imprint Plus is the premier manufacturer of reusable nametags, signage and accessories. What makes its name badges unique, said Kott, is that they are among the only 100 per cent reusable and recyclable name badges produced in the world. Badge components include a metal plate, lenscover and patented insert, which is the customizable piece. Reusability means Imprint Plus products are a green alternative to disposable badges.
The 56-year-old has amassed many prestigious accolades, such as Top Canadian Women Entrepreneurs in the Profit W100 guide seven years running, Global EXEC Women’s Magazine’s International Women of Influence award and most recently, Kott was awarded the Done Deals — an international award from WE Connect Canada.
In 2007, she was also a finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. That was also the year Kott had open-heart surgery, yet she was still handling deals from her hospital room.
“I was out for eight weeks but you still have to take care of business,” she quipped.
When asked about her honours, Kott shrugs and laughs off the awards by saying: “There aren’t that many successful businesswomen who are running companies; we are a small demographic.”
However humble there’s no denying Kott’s track record.
This dynamic dealmaker recently closed international deals with some large companies, including MGM Resorts International, The Office Depot, U.S. Armed Forces and Avendra Hospitality Group.
“As of September this year, we are also the exclusive distributor for the Fairmont chain of hotels worldwide,” she added proudly.
Kott often works 10 to 12 hour days, six days a week. “What can I say, I love business, I thrive on it,” Kott shrugged.
So what’s this dynamo’s story?
“I grew up in a world of accounting and at one point I was the only woman in a firm of 100 men,” said the mother of a grown daughter and son. “I understand numbers … numbers are a language for me.”
Growing up in Montreal, her father was an accountant and a successful entrepreneur. She graduated from McGill University in 1980 in the top 10 of her class. By 28 Kott was named partner in a large accounting firm in Montreal.
She went on to work as a chartered accountant for more than 18 years before being lured to B.C. to run Imprint Plus.
“The company was started by Ellen Flanders and her husband,” said Kott. “I had invested $20,000 (and) Ellen would often call me for professional advice.
“Then my bank loan went up to $600,000, so I thought I needed to get my money back, so I took the position of CEO.”
That was 11 years ago.
Because much of Imprint Plus’ business is back east, Kott travels at least a week a month to visit her clients, many of whom are Fortune 500 corporations.
“I know in the new year, I’ll be traveling a lot more,” said Kott. “That’s because, I want to sell our product in retail stores such as Office Depot and Staples.”
If Kott had to choose one woman as her role model, she said, it would have to be Smead CEO Sharon Avent.
“I’d really like to be like her, she took a company that sells file folders to sales of $500 million a year and that’s all they sell,” Kott said. “She’s amazing … I’d love to take a single product to $500 million in sales before I’m too old.
“I have enormous respect for people who successfully make something out of nothing.”
On those rare occasions, when her nose isn’t in books about successful strategists in business and sports, Kott said, she loves to workout. She even sheepishly told the News that in her thirties she did stand up comedy.
“But when I found out how much money comedians made I thought I’d better rethink my future,” she said. “For me, business is incredibly creative … how you evolve and create something big really attracts me.
“I’m always impressed with people who can do that.”
Meanwhile, this holiday season, Kott will take some much-needed time off.
“I’m taking my family to Costa Rica for Christmas this year,” Kott said.
But come the new year, its back to business. Her goal over the next few years is be the leader in her industry. “I want to increase sales to $500 million or more and own half of the industry’s market share,” she said with a hearty laugh. “I want to own the name badges category around the world.”
A lofty ambition. However, after spending a few hours with Kott, it’s likely she will achieve her goal.