By Rajinder Minhas
I’ve been a multi-unit Pizza Pizza franchisee in Brampton, Ont., for many years now. The brand has stayed fresh because it changes with the market. What at first was only a pizza business has added something new every year, from fries and onion rings to sandwiches and pastas to chicken wings. A small menu has become a big one.
From Punjab to Ontario
I’m originally from Punjab, India. When I was a kid, I was good at math, so I felt I would probably work in accounting one day and I never planned to own a business.
At college, I earned a Master of Commerce (MComm) degree. Afterwards, I worked as an accountant for the government.
In 1987, when I was 29, I got married. My wife, Gurdip, was already based in Edmonton by that time. She sponsored me to move to Canada about seven months after our wedding.
In Edmonton, I worked at a Mac’s convenience store for about six months. Then our daughter Meenu was born in 1988 and we moved to Brampton to seek greater opportunities. Gurdip and Meenu arrived at our new home two months after me. We were just living in a basement to start.
When I moved to Brampton, it was difficult to find a job. The first one I got was in a factory and that was hard work. I stayed on there from 1988 to 1997.
At the same time, I also picked up a part-time job as a driver for Pizza Pizza, delivering meals to customers’ homes. It paid good money. I was working very long weeks, but I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the franchise system. Soon, I was working as a part-time cook and learning how to prepare their pizzas.
In 1993, I sponsored my parents to move here from India. My siblings came, too. I saved up my money and bought a house in Brampton for the whole family to live in together.
A different way forward
Meanwhile, I also continued my earlier focus on accounting. I took a part-time course at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., and became certified as a Level 3 general accountant. I was definitely interested in starting a business based on that experience. While I had never planned to own a business back in India, I saw a different way forward here.
The pull of Pizza Pizza was also strong, as I already had a lot of experience with and knowledge of the business model. I knew the profit margins were better than with some other franchises. And owning a store would help me find jobs for other members of my family.
So, in 1996, I applied to become a franchisee and did the training in Toronto. My initial deal didn’t go through, but then after a while another Pizza Pizza location was coming up for sale in Brampton, so I spoke to its owner and to our director of franchising and expressed my interest in buying it. We made a deal and I took over that store in 1998.
Running my franchise kept me quite busy. I was working seven days a week at the beginning. My wife and my brother, Surinder, also helped out. Our efforts paid off and sales went up and up. In fact, we managed to get to four times more sales than at the start.
In 2006, I bought another Pizza Pizza franchise. It was a new location just opening up in our area. My brother, who had helped me run my first store, partnered with me on ownership of the second. His first job in Canada had been as a truck driver for a factory and he saw the opportunities with Pizza Pizza were better.
That new location was a challenge at the beginning because it was in a newly developed area. The landlord told us the road being worked on would reopen within a year, but actually it took about three to four years!
After that difficult period, however, we got it running very well and sales went sky-high. Soon we bought a third location together.
After another one-and-a-half years, I gave my share of that third location to my brother and kept the first two myself, by which point there was not much difference between how they performed. And I would say my brother and I run our businesses the same way. They’re all in strip malls and, while some may handle more pickup orders or deliveries than others, it’s pretty easy now for us to run any of them.
Most recently, I bought and opened our fourth franchise this past summer, so now I have three of them myself. I’ve been going out to the local community to let them know we’ve arrived.