Fingerprinting company pushes for national expansion

Belt-tightening by local governments created a growth market for Fingerprinting Express LLC in Washoe County, and now the company sees an opening to franchise its concept nationwide.

At its most basic, Fingerprinting Express takes fingerprints most often, from candidates for jobs that require a criminal background check and submits them to the FBI or state law enforcement agencies for analysis.

Launched in 2003 by Becky Riersgard, a former fingerprint technician with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office, Fingerprint Express found a growing niche as local law enforcement agencies were forced by budget problems to reduce the hours that they took fingerprints from the public.

Initially located in a low-profile location on the second floor of Shoppers Square at Plumb Lane and South Virginia, Fingerprint Express was open six days a week and collected fingerprints that met the standards of national and state agencies.

Today, it relies on an inkless fingerprinting technology that works something like digital scanning and avoids the mess of old-style fingerprinting.

From that start, Fingerprint Express has grown over the past decade into something approaching a one-stop location for pre-employment screening.

Its now conducts background checks, provides the photographs that workers need for state and local licenses, and handles drug testing for employers.

And Monica Pappas, the company's general manager, says its recent move to a 1,900-square-foot location at the Airport Square shopping center on Plumb Lane is boosting its visibility for consumer-oriented offerings such as notary service and passport photos.

With the walk-in traffic generated by the new location as well as deepening relationships with employers in the region, employment at Fingerprint Express has grown from three workers at the start of the year to eight, largely part-timers, today.

Now Pappas is preparing to expand the Fingerprinting Express footprint nationally.

As a first step, she's working with family members who would open and manage Fingerprinting Express locations in Arizona, Tennessee and Ohio.

From the experience of those locations, as well as the history of the initial store in Reno, Pappas expects to develop a compelling story to begin franchising the concept.

She's already begun writing the detailed franchise documents herself maintaining a tradition of cost-saving, do-it-yourself work that's helped the family build the Reno location entirely from its own resources.

Working within the regulations of franchise offerings, Pappas says, is nothing new after years of collecting fingerprints and background data.

"You're dealing with the government," she says. "You have to play by their rules. This business is consistently inconsistent."

The inconsistency extends to state laws as well. Not all states allow private firms to collect fingerprints, and that's a limitation on the company's ability to develop a nationwide presence.

Pappas says, too, that Fingerprinting Express faces some competition from big companies such The UPS Store with its 4,700 locations in the notary, money-order, photocopying and fax services that the Reno company has added to its core fingerprinting business.

Against those big competitors, Fingerprinting Express brings both its experience in the specialized, highly confidential world of pre-employment screening, as well as one-on-one marketing skills.

Pappas tells a story: When her mother launched the company, she figured casinos would be an obvious market for pre-employment services. She couldn't get in the door.

In a brainstorm, she started bringing boxes of doughnuts with her. Suddenly, everyone had a few minutes to talk.


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