Another Entrepreneurial Journey: Meet Vilmars Forstmanis

Vilmars Forstmanis always had an interest in entrepreneurship. But he didn’t have much of an idea of how to go about it. During his former career, he didn’t have the need to pursue this interest much – until one day, when he did. How he responded to the challenge is an inspiration, and it’s also why FranNet of Canada chose to interview Vilmars for our series of client success stories. Assisted by Lee Smithson, president of FranNet of Southwest Ontario, he was able to turn his entrepreneurial dreams into reality. Below, in his own words, Vilmars talks about his personal entrepreneurial journey…




“I’m happy to say that I’ve been married since 2009 and we have two beautiful children. In school, I studied both materials engineering technology and economics. That launched a 15-year career in manufacturing, where I most recently worked with Siemens Energy as their manufacturing supervisor. It was a dependable job, paycheck, and lifestyle. Until one day in Oct. 2020, when it wasn’t. Unfortunately, my position was eliminated in a corporate restructuring. I had never lost a job before. And it made me more determined than ever to never lose another one through no fault of my own. ”


On Becoming an Entrepreneur

“It’s safe to say that I’ve always had an interest in entrepreneurship – but I just had no idea of how to go about it. I never really confronted that type of change until losing my job forced my hand. That was a defining moment. I remember thinking clearly, ‘I’m never working for anyone else ever again.’ Being downsized was very unpleasant, as I was one of the employees who always went above and beyond in my duties.”

Why Franchising?

“Part of not knowing how to capitalize on an entrepreneurial future was a reluctance to start everything from scratch. That’s why I was so attracted to the franchising business model. All the systems, processes, operations – they were all already in place for franchisees. All you have to do is follow their proven business model. Not to mention the support you’re provided. If you go it alone – you get no help.“


How FranNet Helped

“Working with Lee Smithson really helped me become my own boss. We started with a five to 10 page assessment, then looked through nearly a dozen franchise concepts. I kept an open mind throughout the process, but I had a gut feeling I’d end up going with Pop-A-Lock. Lee still keeps up with me and we consider one another friends, not just business colleagues. He was very knowledgeable about franchising. He knew all the right people and made all the right introductions – not just with the brand representatives, but with other contacts such as funding partners. His helpfulness was just unmatched, and he walked me through the entire process. I sing his praises and send him as many referrals as I can. And I know he’s doing the same for me!”


Where Do You Stand?

“I opened my Pop-A-Lock Locksmith Sarnia, Ontario in July 2021, and we’ve been growing steadily ever since. The business serves the communities of Sarnia, Corunna, Petrolia, Lambton Shore, Brights Grove, Brigden, Oil Springs, Mooretown, Camlachie, Wyoming, Watford, Forest, Wallaceburg, Chatham, Courtright, Point Edward, and surrounding areas. Primarily, we’re the only locksmith in the area that specializes in automotive locksmith solutions, but we handle the home as well for re-key services. That means that we can come to your home or work and make your keys onsite while you wait. The only hiccup so far was Ontario’s second Covid lockdown, which cut sales by half and put us behind for the next six months. But when we reopened in June of this year, everything eased back up and we’ve been growing again. In fact, October was our best month ever. Our busiest days are Thursdays and Fridays, which happen to coincide with the bi-weekly payday calendar up here.”


How Things are Going

“I’m extremely happy with my ownership of Pop-A-Lock in Sarnia, Ontario. Looking back, I think my time in manufacturing – especially as a career – had actually become more of a chore than a job. I learned a valuable lesson that when you work for someone else, there’s no such thing as a safe job. Since I’ve become my own boss, it’s now up to me. And in the end, I’d rather have the pressure and responsibility that comes with it. There’s just nothing like being in control of your own destiny.”

For more information, please visit Vilmars Forstmanis’ Pop-A-Lock franchise on the web.


Dec 16, 2022