What You Need
Requirements are minimal -- a printer, a computer, some software, and some supplies. The printer is about 6' long, 4' high, and 2' deep; it fits easily in an office, a guest bedroom, or the corner of your loft apartment. You also need a good market: a research university without a subsidized print shop. If everyone you know pays $100+ for a poster, you're in good shape.
What You Do
You commit to printing a certain number of posters (say, 5) every evening, and delivering them to your pick-up location the next weekday morning. Clients submit poster files and payment via our website, PhdPosters.com, and their delivery date is set based on the number of posters already in your queue. You'll correspond with them via email, and they'll pick up their poster from the designated pick-up location when it's ready. You have complete control over your hours and vacations.
Revenues and Profits
Each PhD Posters location is an independently-owned business engaged in a licensing agreement with PhD Posters LLC, which operates PhdPosters.com, processes orders and credit card payments, and provides other support services. In return, each location supports PhD Posters LLC with a small percentage of their revenues. We get no flat fees for licensing or franchising, so everyone is motivated to increase your customer base. Every business and every market is different, and no one can guarantee returns, but existing locations have found that 40-50% of revenues remain after all expenses as their profit.
For a small number of new locations in 2011-2012, PhD Posters intends to provide $8,000 in start-up funds to cover the purchase of a wide-format printer, computer, and supplies. Initially, an additional percentage of revenues will go toward repayment of this investment, but without a fixed timetable, allowing each location to grow at its own pace. Each location should still be able to operate at a comfortable profit during the payback period. Alternately, favorable terms are available to those willing to cover their own start-up costs.
Starting a business isn't rocket science, but there's a lot to do. That's why we guide new operators through legal considerations, market research, acquiring equipment, initial advertising, operating the printer, and more. All locations are invited to participate in our mail-order poster business, which can provide a quick start while you work on developing local business.
Moving around is a fact of academic life. When the time comes to graduate, most of our operators choose to sell their business to younger students, possibly allowing them to pay for it over time. Other arrangements are possible, of course. For example, Amy and Gary chose to stay in Durham, and PhD Posters allows Amy to work part-time from home while raising their child.
PhD Posters LLC was founded by Ian Davis, Brian Coggins, and Colin Crossman in 2005, and we printed our first posters in early 2006. We have continued to grow significantly every year, despite the slow economy. Three additional people are currently involved in the business: Amy and Gary in Durham, NC, and Dan in Boston, MA. We also have several "alumni": Liz and Bob founded the UNC location (now merged with Duke), and Martha ran the Duke location for several years. We've all been graduate students at some point; some got PhDs, others changed careers, and some are still working at it. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.