How One Entrepreneur’s Creative Streak Grew Into an Experiential Enterprise

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at


Take a pinch of creativity, a dash of ingenuity, and a whole lot of determination—and what do you get? The answer is Ricky Pacheco. Originally hailing from South Africa, Ricky made the move to Canada with his family in 2004 and decided to dive headfirst into the competitive Canadian small business marketplace. “I immediately saw a need for unique marketing ideas, and that was what inspired me to start up Pop49,” Ricky explains

Working with many large advertising agencies and brand managers to produce custom designed point-of-purchase (POP) displays to capture the attention of customers in retail environments, Pop49’s goods are used to support new product launches at tradeshows, grocery-stores and supermarkets throughout Canada. Nine years later, and his gamble has more than paid off. So what’s the key to his success? Today we sit down with Ricky and learn about his entrepreneurial journey and how Staples helps him to ‘make more happen’ in his business.


Ricky, your line of work is so interesting—what originally inspired you to start your own business?

RP: I’ve wanted my own business for as long as I can remember. From a very young age, I would always be inventing new things and trying to sell them to people. My dad was a successful businessman who started out with very little, and so he’s always been a big inspiration to me.


How did you get your business off the ground?

RP: Initially, I started out by visiting trade shows and cold calling local businesses to see if they were interested in my products and services. I would also broker other peoples’ services whenever I couldn’t fill an order myself.


How long have you been in business?

RP: I started my first business when I registered as a market trader at a local flea market in Johannesburg, South Africa. Later on, in 2004, I moved to Canada and started my business as it exists today.


Who is your ideal customer?

RP: By and large we deal with manufacturers, supermarket chains and advertising companies—basically anyone looking for eye-catching point of purchase (POP) displays.


What makes your business unique?

RP: I would say definitely our combined creativity. I employ people who are artistic and who challenge me to be more creative. I would also say that our passion for what we do makes us unique; I love the challenge of taking on a client brief and exceeding their expectations. It’s a great feeling taking something from a piece of paper and turning it into something that’s real—something tangible.


What is your secret for 'making more happen'?

RP: A friend of mine who also runs his own business recently gave me a really great tip: every Sunday, plan out the whole of your week in a diary. This forces you to allocate your time usefully and find gaps to focus on different aspects of your business—such as sales and marketing. It also helps you set appointments in advance. By planning out my week in this way, I was surprised at how much more time I had compared to what I thought I had.


What has been your greatest achievement so far?

RP: I’m really proud of so many of our creations, but if I had to choose one, it would be the sampling table we invented for Pepsico for the Pepsi Taste Challenge test—that was a real feather in our cap.


What is your biggest challenge, and how do you overcome it?

RP: Moving to a new country and getting to grips with how business is done was a challenge for me, but I overcame it by seeking out information online before I arrived which answered most of my questions.


What marketing channels have worked best for getting the word out about your business?

RP: Definitely word-of-mouth referrals and networking.


What’s the best thing about owning your own business?

RP: The best thing about having your own business is being your own boss, and having the freedom to explore ideas and challenge your limits.


How has your business evolved over time?

RP: When I first started Pop49, we were primarily dealing with just smaller businesses. Nowadays, however, we’ve come on leaps and bounds and deal mainly with larger companies.


Is running your business harder than you thought it would be?

RP: Absolutely—there are so many moving parts that need to be tended to constantly, which can sometimes be challenging.


To what do you attribute your success so far?

RP: I would attribute Pop49’s success to surrounding myself with the right people. The support of my team, my wife, my family and my friends has been invaluable to me.


What are your goals for the future?

RP: Our goals for the future are to expand, break into the US market, and grow the Pop49 brand. We’re also working on developing some videos for our website and creating a YouTube channel to explain our products. We’re hoping this will help generate interest and direct more traffic to our website. Stay tuned!


What’s the most important item you buy at Staples?

RP: Definitely my diary to plan my business schedule. I spend a ton of time choosing one as it tends to get pretty well-used throughout the year.


How has Staples helped you make more happen for your business?

RP: The first purchase I ever made in Canada was an HP printer from Staples. In fact I still own it today, and I've used it to fax crucial documents and print important proposals since starting my business all those years ago. It has definitely moved me forward in a big way.


Have you ever been surprised by something you’ve found at Staples?

RP: Funnily enough, I recently discovered that Staples sells gas bottles for my Soda Stream soda maker. I wasn't expecting that at all—I usually wait in line at the supermarket to buy them, but will definitely be heading down to my local Staples store from now on!


What is your must-have Staples product?

RP: Definitely my digital camera. I usually always have it on me for business, and I also always ensure it’s on hand for days off and during down time with the family.


What advice would you give to people who want to start their own business?

RP: The best advice I could give would be to follow your passion; find people you can trust and consider their thoughts and opinions; always persevere; and never be afraid to change direction. Don’t stick with something that isn’t working—be willing to pivot.

By Adam

December 30, 2013