Unlike Ivan, I had never heard of Coffee News, although that is likely due to the fact I didn’t grow up in Canada and have lived only in Toronto, where the publication wasn’t previously available. But once he told me about its feel-good editorial content, exclusivity for advertisers and its potential as a franchise, I knew it would offer me the change I was looking for and help achieve my goal of owning my own business.
I’ve moved around quite a bit in my 34 years, which is probably why I don’t really consider one place home. For the first seven years of my life, though, our family lived in a suburb of Paris, France, before moving to Luxembourg. Eight years later, we settled in Brittany, which is on the west coast of France, and remained there until I was about 25. When people ask me where I’m from, I can’t always give them a simple answer. I suppose not growing up in one place helped give me a sense of wanting to see where life would take me. I didn’t think about it too much at the time, but looking back, I can say I made new friends quite easily, as I like connecting with others.
My parents both have university degrees, but school didn’t hold as much interest for me as they would have liked. Going to different schools at various stages of my education also made things a bit more challenging. I admit I was much more interested in finishing high school and getting out into the work force as quickly as possible to earn a living. I never pictured myself going to university, although it turned out I would spend much more time in school than I originally thought. At 16, I enrolled in an apprenticeship program, working in a boutique and earning a sales diploma. After two years, I realized retail wasn’t really taking me in the direction I wanted to go, so I signed up with a staffing agency that placed temporary workers. This saw me working in different factories; the money was good and it allowed me to figure out the next step. Although I worked my way up, I decided to quit and return to school.
At 22 years of age, I enrolled in another apprenticeship-type program, which once completed, would be the equivalent of having finished two years of university. This time, I was placed with Crédit Agricole, the biggest bank in France. I was really excited to be working in such an established place and felt really special at being hired as a consultant for products like car loans, credit cards and savings plans. Two years later, I had exhausted all my options in terms of professional diplomas, so I applied to study business management abroad through an exchange program and ended up at Napier University in Scotland for four years. Courses like marketing and entrepreneurship held the most interest for me, as I still had my eye on someday owning my own business.
Before long, a notice for studying in Canada caught my attention and once again I found myself deciding to move and further my studies. English not being my first language, I knew it would be tough to support myself while studying, but I also knew I was young and committed to achieving my goals.
Arriving in Toronto in 2007, I didn’t know a soul. At the same time, I was pretty excited at having made it into the program and being given such a wonderful opportunity. I spent the first few weeks living in a youth hostel and made a few friends. I soon found myself renting a room in a house in Chinatown, which was convenient for attending classes at Ryerson University. As an international student, I could only work on campus, which I did, getting a job at the university’s fundraising call centre. The experience helped quite a bit in improving my English. A year later, I had earned an honours BA in business administration. It’s funny where life takes you. As a teenager, I never pictured myself attending a post-secondary school, but I’ve spent quite a few years doing just that. I knew finding a job and making money would never be a problem, but you gain perspective and a broader sense about where you are in life as you get older, and in the end, giving myself a good education seemed the right decision to make.
Romance and love also came into my life around that time, and I began the process of applying for a work permit. Life was quite hectic back then in terms of organizing all the immigration paperwork, but I was committed to establishing myself and attaining permanent resident status. In the meantime, I worked for a few companies until getting a position as a bilingual account executive in an accounting department of a marketing firm, overseeing TVA Publications, a division of Quebecor. It was my first taste of working in the publishing industry, although it didn’t last long. A year later, my employer announced it was shutting down the business due to increasing competition in the United States. It was around this time that Ivan and I had discussed the possibility of partnering up to buy a Coffee News franchise.
The proposition intrigued me; after working for several companies in the previous years, the thought of running my own business at this point of my life felt like the right thing to do. Both Ivan and I were working full-time, but looking for something that would satisfy our entrepreneurial spirit. After hearing more about Coffee News on the drive home from a day of skiing, I knew I wanted to take a closer look at what the franchise was all about and how my skills fit into the business model. Like I said, I always wanted to own something of my own, and a partnership gave me a sense of security in terms of what we both could bring to it.
By the middle of 2013, Ivan and I were publishing Coffee News in Toronto, our territory encompassing a fair chunk of the city (Eglinton in the north, Don Valley Parkway in the east, Lakeshore in the south and Dufferin in the west). Given we both live in Toronto, we understood from the start the diversity within this territory—as well as the identifiable neighbourhoods like the Annex, Little Portugal and Rosedale—posed a challenge in terms of advertisers reaching their local customer base.
Within a few months, we decided to create four neighbourhood editions to better suit the needs of advertisers located in and around the downtown core. Although this is still a significant geographical area, it is chockfull of cafés, restaurants and potential advertisers.
As co-owners and publishers, Ivan and I split the responsibilities. Although he still works full-time, my days are spent mostly selling ads and prospecting new clients. But as we continue to grow with new editions, we will also bring in additional sales staff. With 32 ad spaces per issue and four editions, maintaining a client base and finding new customers takes time and energy. If all goes as planned, we see the potential to support three or four sales reps to cover our territory.