A new path
Unfortunately, I really did not enjoy my first term of university. I found my classes less interesting than my Grade 13 classes in high school. I went to the registrar’s office to ask if I could take second-year classes in my second term and was told that was fine as long as I had the prerequisites. With that strategy, I sort of fast-tracked through university: in second term, I took second-year classes; in second year, I took second- and third-year classes; and so on. I ended up finishing my degree a term early.
Then Mark and I started talking about what would come next. I would need to apply to teacher’s college, which meant travelling to either Toronto (to attend York University) or London, Ont. (to attend Western University), since the University of Waterloo did not offer a teaching program. I had no interest in going to Toronto, because it seemed like too big of a city for me, so we started looking at London.
My husband suggested I get set up with an apartment there for the winter, because he didn’t want me to have to drive back and forth in bad weather, but I didn’t like that idea at all—after all, we were still newlyweds. Then I got what I had thought would be my last transcript from university … and I was missing two courses required for graduation. Even worse, they were first-year classes.
Throughout all this, I’d still been working at McDonald’s and the team there had been offering me further promotions if I wasn’t in school and chose to stay in food service long-term. I’d been torn about my career path for a while, since I knew I was at the bad end of a teaching cycle—even if I did get all my credits and go to teacher’s college, I probably wouldn’t get a full-time job out of it. I made the decision not to get my last two classes and instead to make McDonald’s my career.
I told the company that and right away I was promoted to salary management. I spent the next eight years working my way up the ranks there, and in that time, my husband and I had our two children: Tyler, now 23, and Abbey, now 18. As we raised our kids, we were also juggling two restaurant schedules, which can be quite tricky, to say the least! After we had our daughter, I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom.
I did that for eight years, which was much longer than I had originally planned, but I knew it was the right thing for our family. During this time, Mark continued to move through the ranks within corporate McDonald’s. Finally, though, I wanted to go back to work and I started wondering: now what? The only place I’d ever worked was McDonald’s, and I’d been out of the workforce for a long time.
My husband and I had always thought we would eventually become franchisees with McDonald’s. We very much had an entrepreneurial spirit, we wanted to have our own business and of course we knew the company very well. A local multi-unit franchisee who my husband had gotten to know suggested Mark come work for him and start buying his restaurants one at a time over the coming years, so he could slowly retire. My plan was to get involved in food service again by assisting in this venture any way I could, knowing my role would grow as we started to transfer ownership. That went on for another eight years, but eventually, we decided to take a different path and look at what other franchises were out there.
I stumbled upon Cobs Bread in April 2016, through one of the company’s Facebook ads. I looked through the website and loved everything I saw. The visuals were very appealing and I liked the sound of all Cobs’ community partner initiatives. For example, the End of Day Giving program brings different charity partners to the bakery each day at closing time. They take all of the unsold product and provide it to those in need in the community. That was just one of the reasons Cobs stood out as someplace different.
I called my husband at work and told him we had to check out a location in person. The closest Cobs was more than an hour away, but we decided to go that weekend and get a bunch of products. I thought that would be a very good indicator of whether or not we’d like the franchise.
When we walked into the bakery, the look and smell of it blew me away. We had a great experience with the sales staff who were helping us, too. We ordered a few different bread ranges and some sweet and savoury treats, went back out to the car and started inhaling the food as though we’d been starving for months. All the bread had been baked on-site from scratch without additives or preservatives and we could tell by the taste. We just could not get over the flavour profile and the quality of the product. By the time we got home and our kids asked us where the food was, we had to tell them we’d eaten most of it on the drive!
I grabbed my laptop, contacted the franchise recruitment manager, Abbie Burns, and requested an information package. I heard back from her very quickly—she said she was definitely interested in speaking with me and asked for a Skype interview.
After we spoke, Abbie told me the next step was a face-to-face interview with Cobs’ director of operations, Karen Frost. I met Karen at a coffee shop in Port Credit, Ont., and for the whole first half hour of the meeting, we bonded over my interest in running and our long histories in the food-service business. That’s how my connection with this company has been right from the get-go—I have never felt more at ease, welcomed and accepted.