Riders on the Storm
Every cloud has a silver lining, but those accompanying Hurricane Katrina carried a golden opportunity for Yvette Hymel and Rachel Zabala.
Hymel was a sales executive and Zabala was a graphic designer for a New Orleans-based company that provided promotional products and some printing. A little more than a week after the storm devastated the area, the owner relocated to Houston and rented new office space.
“I was born and raised in New Orleans and was getting married in November, and Yvette has two kids in school here,” said Zabala. “Our roots are planted in New Orleans. We couldn’t fathom moving from home.”
Many of Hymel’s long-standing customers were vowing to remain loyal to the region and keep their business local. “The fact that I would lose good customers who wanted to support New Orleans was another factor in my decision to stay,” she said.
Facing mounting financial hardship, Hymel, a 13-year promotional products industry veteran, learned of Proforma franchise opportunities from an ASI supplier. Given the urgency of the situation and the two partners’ experience and enthusiasm, they were able to condense the normally three-month orientation and training period into a little more than two weeks. On Oct. 31, Hymel and Zabala opened for business as Proforma Key Solutions, with the slogan "The key to rebuilding your city". They worked out of Hymel’s home until moving into a 1,250 square foot office and showroom on Dec. 26.
Soon into their new venture, the women picked up one of the largest hospitals in the region to supply printing and promotional products needs. “The customer believed in us enough to give us a chance,” said Zabala. “The hospital is a great account and, through Proforma, we’re really excited to be able to provide such great products and services.”
Proforma Key Solutions’ current customer base consists of 25 strong—“not just onesies and twosies orders”—
accounts, including health-care facilities, car dealerships, a lottery commission and communications companies.
As for being a women-owned business, Hymel said it is a huge plus since many companies must send a certain percentage of their business to minority-owned companies while the region rebuilds. “We like to say that, yeah, we’re probably getting some of the business because we’re a women-owned company, but we’re keeping it because of us,” added Zabala.
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