Travelling the world
Another major milestone came in 2011, when Aquin was put in touch with Garry VanDenBerghe, founder of Knifeless Tech Systems in Vernon, B.C.
VanDenBerghe had invented Knifeless tape, which involved a patented method for trimming vehicle wrapping vinyl films using a filament instead of a knife. He hired Aquin to help develop and promote the product further by demonstrating its use on car wraps, so people could see how it would help them with installation.
“I had met his brother at a curling bonspiel,” Aquin says. “It was completely coincidental and felt like it was meant to be.”
Indeed, as Aquin puts it, this opportunity changed his life. He got to travel the world, demonstrating the tape at events in Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan and, most frequently, the U.S.
“When I started to work with Knifeless, they had signed on Fellers as their distributor in the U.S.,” he explains. “I made a video to help the team at Fellers understand how to fold the tape to get it started. Ever since then, I’ve continued to work with them.”
He also got to hone his skills by working with many of the best vehicle wrappers around, such as Justin Pate and Canada’s own Brandon Blancher, gaining from their own specialized expertise. And Aquin was the only Canadian in late 2015 to pass a test designed and administered by Pate to become an Avery Dennison Certified Wrap Installer (CWI).
“The certification exam is rigorous,” says Pate. “It is meant to ensure those who pass are the best of the best.”
“No one else in Winnipeg has those skills,” says Aquin.
Taking part in wrap competitions also brought him international recognition and built his credibility further. In 2014, for example, Aquin joined Jim Miller from the U.S. to compete in the World Wrap Masters event at the largest-ever Federation of European Screen Printers Associations (FESPA) Mexico trade show. They came in first place out of 16 teams after wrapping not just cars, but also mannequins, toilet seats and speakers.
“With the international events, I’m known more as the face of Knifeless than I am for Adhere Graphics,” he says. “A lot of people are shocked when they find out I’m not the owner of Knifeless!”
That connection continues to be strong. In 2015, Aquin served as head trainer for a Knifeless accreditation course for 3M’s own staff in St. Paul, Minn.
Working from home
Today, Aquin’s dad and brother continue to run Country Signs. When Adhere Graphics gets a job, he pays his dad to print the graphics before he installs them.
“I also do colour-change wraps, so in those cases, I buy the films myself,” he says.
Two years ago, he bought a house with a garage on the property large enough to accommodate his car-wrapping business.
“It’s a big two-door garage with a lift for the cars,” he says. “I’m really happy to have my own shop, although I still also work in other people’s shops a lot.”
After a few stints with staff, Adhere Graphics is back to being a one-man operation.
“I had a hard time training new employees,” Aquin says. “Trailer wraps would be a good way to get people started, for example, but we don’t get a lot of those in the Winnipeg area. Over the past year, I worked pretty much on my own and earned better profits that way. I would like to oversee employees so I could work a bit less, but I don’t want to stop wrapping either, so I’m still trying to figure out the perfect scenario.”
When he does need assistance for a difficult job, Aquin often turns to GBLK Enterprises, another installation company based in Winnipeg. He also sometimes turns to Masters of Branding (MOB), a large-format graphic installer community of which he is a member.
“They’re based in the U.S. and some of them have come up to help me, such as with chrome wraps,” he says. “My brother is also a 3M-preferred installer and I sometimes bring him on as my employee.”
As he faces the future, Aquin says he continues to look forward to further changes in the wrap industry.
“I need to get more into paint-protection films,” he says. “I want to be at the front of this industry, keeping ahead of the curve.”
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