By Sonia Yooshing
When Good Earth Coffeehouse opened its first café in 1991, founders Nan Eskenazi and Michael Going aspired to provide great brew and food.
The franchise has since grown to have more than 40 locations. People visit for a variety of reasons such as dinner, a date, or even just for a break.
Canadian Business Franchise recently spoke with two multi-unit franchisees, Chelsey and Joel Wilde, about their experience in operating their Good Earth Coffeehouse locations. Through this conversation, we learned about the couple’s early beginnings with the company, their highlights and challenges, in addition to their future endeavours.
Canadian Business Franchise (CBF): Did you always envision yourself as an entrepreneur? (If not, what were your career aspirations?)
Joel Wilde (JW): I have an entrepreneurial spirit and, therefore, obtained a master’s of business administration (MBA) degree as my ultimate goal was to pursue my own business.
Chelsey Wilde (CW): I did not consider working in this industry until we researched the franchise. In doing so, I admired the company’s values. It is ironic Joel still maintains a full-time job outside of the family business, while I manage the daily operations of both Saskatoon locations.
CBF: Why did you choose franchising?
JW: The efficiencies the company provides such as purchasing power, marketing, technology, product development, and research are invaluable. Having a dedicated team at the head office to support us and help us grow our business is also beneficial.
CBF: How did you discover this franchising opportunity? (What drew you to this business?)
CW: We saw a sign stating the business was looking for franchisees in a developing neighbourhood (downtown Saskatoon).
Intrigued, we went home and researched the company. We liked the franchise’s emphasis on good food and coffee, while also focusing on the environment and sustainability. The business is also progressive by offering compostable cups, encouraging customers to bring in their own reusable mugs, and its dedication to fairly traded brew.
CBF: When did you buy your franchise? (Describe the process e.g. securing financing, selecting a location, legalities and documentation, etc.)
JW: We opened our first location in 2014. The company already had a pre-leased space and needed a franchisee.
The next step was determining a construction budget. The franchisor provided insight on total amounts and a good estimate on the construction process and associated fees. We used a few different programs to secure financing including the Women’s Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan Futureprenuer program. We also received assistance in different forms from our family and friends. That said, the process for opening a second space in Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon was quicker as we were more familiar with the financing requirements.
CBF: What was involved in opening your franchise (Describe the process e.g. constructions/renovations, franchisee training, hiring staff, marketing and promoting your franchise, etc.)
CW: We trained for six weeks at the franchisor’s headquarters in Calgary. The first two weeks was spent on the front lines in a busy downtown location learning how to make drinks and manage daily operations. After this, an additional four weeks were focused on learning about important aspects of overseeing a unit. Two weeks prior to opening, we hired and trained staff. This was an exciting time, as we could finally see our efforts come to life. As Joel stated, it was a short journey to open our second space, and I only had to train at the corporate office for a few days.
CBF: Describe your opening day.
JW: For the first location it was a whirlwind. We decided to include only family and friends to give staff the chance to familiarize themselves with the operations; however, many people showed up.
CW: We were lucky to have a large gathering of people come support us and see our work. There was no event for the second unit due to its hospital location. Instead, we were greeted by a line of waiting customers. This was overwhelming, but thankfully a team from head office was there to support us.
CBF: Describe a typical day of running your franchise.
JW: The hardest part of our day is waking up our three kids (aged two, four, and seven), ensuring they are fed, and dropping them off to school and daycare. After that, I go to my full-time job and Chelsey heads to the café.
CW: When I arrive to the shop, I immediately serve customers. When it’s less busy, I answer emails, check supplies, and talk to staff members. Next, I go to the bank to get change and make deposits. When I return to the store, I perform a variety of activities such as helping customers, placing food orders, conduct interviews for new employees, and serve coffee. By mid-afternoon, I pick up our children and meet Joel. Later, we answer emails, review bills, and update the accounting software. There never seems to be enough hours in a day, but it is a rewarding job; be it chatting with a regular client on a slow day or working alongside an engaged employee.
CBF: Do you feel your educational background helps in your day-to-day tasks and when makingl business decisions?
JW: I find my MBA useful as I oversee budgeting and bookkeeping in the evenings for the franchises.
CBF: What have been the highlights and challenges of running your franchise?
CW: An obstacle in our first location was when the anchor tenant vacated the building two years after we became occupants. Our sales were negatively impacted which affected our bottom line. Another difficulty is informing people in the province about the business—since it’s new in Saskatchewan—it doesn’t have the same brand awareness as it does in Calgary. We’re confident once the local community visits our cafés, they’ll become supportive of the company. That said, the immediate success of our newest unit is a highlight for us. We are very motivated to provide a great product to customers and it’s rewarding when we are appreciated.
CBF: How do you make your franchise standout amongst others in the market?
CW: The company serves quality food, fantastic coffee, and is a steward of the environment—we haven’t found these qualities in other businesses.
CBF: How has the business evolved since you first started?
JW: Our two locations are different in nature. Our first space is in downtown and is cyclical with busy and slow periods. We are affected by the weather and the season quite significantly; therefore, we try to forecast sales and reduce waste. Our second unit has been consistent in profits. We are currently trying to decrease wait times for customers, while at the same time providing an excellent consumer experience.
CBF: What are your future plans?
JW: We want to grow our sales and improve operational efficiencies, while opening more locations in Saskatoon. Once our second unit is established, we also plan to go on a family vacation.There never seems to be enough hours in a day, but it is a rewarding job; be it chatting with a regular client on a slow day or working alongside an engaged employee. The company serves quality food, fantastic coffee, and is a steward of the environment.