By Christine Macri
When I bought an M&M Meat Shops franchise in Lloydminster, Alta., it marked a major shift in my career direction, but I felt confident because I had the franchisor’s support behind me. Today, I’m heavily involved in decision-making across the franchise system and I’m proud to have just recently opened Western Canada’s first location rebranded as M&M Food Market.
Pursuing my early dream
I was born and raised in Elk Point, Alta., a farming community of some 1,400 people on the North Saskatchewan River, about an hour’s drive from Lloydminster. My dad was a farmer and my mother was a nurse. I played lots of sports growing up, including fastball and European team handball, which is a bit like squash with a soccer net.
At school, my favourite subjects were English and French and I did a lot of public speaking at events. Starting around Grade 4, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up—a broadcast journalist on TV or radio.
After finishing high school, I left Elk Point for Calgary, where I ended up living for 17 years. I applied for a broadcasting course there at Mount Royal University, but didn’t get in. So, instead, I went to University of Calgary to study communications, with an eye to get into the public relations (PR) business. I spent five years at university, minoring in leisure and tourism, during which I met my husband Noel.
For my first job in Calgary, I was a manager-in-training at The Shoe Company. My second job was more directly related to my field, as I supported marketing for the Calgary Flames, the local National Hockey League (NHL) team. I developed a great working relationship with their head of marketing. When he left the organization, I moved within to more of an executive assistant (EA) role, working for the chief financial officer (CFO) and the president.
Next, I worked in the radio business at Corus Entertainment’s Calgary offices. That was the best career move I ever made. I worked behind-the-scenes to support the regional general manager (GM), Garry McKenzie, on everything ranging from promotions and presentations to human resources (HR). I started there in 2002 and stayed until 2009. While I never got to host a radio show like I’d dreamed, I did get to voice commercials, which I now continue to do for my M&M franchise.
The big move
Noel and I have two sons, the second of whom was born in 2009. At that point, we both decided we didn’t want to live in a big city anymore while raising our kids.
We moved in January 2010 to Lloydminster, choosing the city mainly for family reasons. By this point, my dad had passed away, while my mom, who had struggled with multiple sclerosis (MS) for years, was getting worse. We moved her from Elk Point to Lloydminster so we could support her. And we still had relatives nearby.
Noel got a job in the physiotherapy field. I was still on maternity leave when we settled into our new house. Unfortunately, the contract for Noel’s work wasn’t what we’d thought it would be and we felt we needed to make a change.
At the same time, Lloydminster’s M&M Meat Shops franchise location was listed for sale. We saw the ad in the paper, then it was gone—and then two weeks later it reappeared.
Noel and I had always wanted to own our own business and we had shopped at M&M in Calgary all the time. I also knew the company well because one of our sales representatives at Corus had M&M as a client. So, we started to wonder if that was the business we’d want to own. The fact it was a franchise helped, as we knew we wanted to benefit from a franchisor’s system and support.
As the ad popped in and out of the newspaper, I went online to read about the process of becoming an M&M franchisee and e-mailed their Western Canadian head office in Calgary. The whole process, from inquiring to being granted the franchise, took about nine months.
It was scary and overwhelming at first. Noel and I had decided I would run the business and he would be a stay-at-home parent for our sons. We didn’t have any other income and we were younger at the time than most other M&M franchisees. We made sure to go over the numbers to see if the business would be viable and there were a lot of meetings along the way.
I flew to Kitchener, Ont.—where the first M&M store opened more than 35 years ago—for two weeks of training at the corporate headquarters (HQ). I was all on my own for this experience while my youngest son was only one year old. It was a lot of change for me to handle. Fortunately, the seminars really prepared me for running the business once I was back in Lloydminster.
The previous franchisees had owned the store—the only M&M in town—for four years, but they decided to sell it so they could turn their focus toward another business they owned. We took it over in April 2011.
It took me some time to get used to the store’s specific design and processes, but I learned a lot from the previous franchisee’s employees, who stayed on and showed me the ropes.