An entrepreneur describes the heart wrenching risks and earnest rewards of growing a small Canadian business.
On November 9, 2013, we celebrated and gave thanks for a tremendous first year in Barrie. As with most celebrations, there was cake, many guests and of course no shortage of coffees, teas and cappuccinos. More importantly, there was an opportunity to thank our loyal clients (we prefer to call them our guests), meet new friends and celebrate a vibrant and growing community we are privileged to be a part of.
So how did it all begin?
We started our business in 1996 by investing our savings into a few Office Vending Machines. We were first generation Canadians in our 20s with a vision (or delusion our family feared) of growing a flourishing small Canadian business. We ran the business from our parents’ home, using our family vehicles and with financial help from parents. Those early days were tiring and exhilarating, inspiring and deflating – the typical roller coaster entrepreneurs’ encounter – they were fantastic!
One day, early on, a client asked whether we offered Office Coffee. We didn’t, but assured our client we could and from there thrived our love affair with Coffee and Tea and the warmth comforting moments these beverages surround. Despite no prior knowledge of the Office Coffee business, we figured it out. With Yellow Pages in hand (those were different times!) and a determined spirit we grew the Office Coffee business by carving out a niche as a young, energetic Office Coffee Service company with a deep appreciation for Brand, Design and Service.
Why retail and e-tailing?
After 13 years, in 2009, we were ready for a new challenge: tackling the retail and e-tailing business. We decided to open our first retail location within our Warehouse. We spent months renovating the space, investing thousands of dollars so we could offer the same great products to consumers as we had for over a decade to offices. Now in our thirties and with children to support, this decision was much more taxing. Shortly after the first store, we opened a second in Toronto followed by a third in Barrie. We’ve learned that retail and e-tailing is a difficult business and we’ve certainly had our ups (winning awards for customer service) and downs (closing one of our Toronto stores). All in all it has offered us an opportunity to learn a new industry, keep our skills sharp and our hearts open.
Why Barrie, Ontario?
When we first considered opening a retail store outside of Toronto, we quickly settled on Barrie, Ontario. We did so not only because we had spent a considerable amount of cherished moments in the community as children but also because Barrie is a lively and growing city that we looked forward to reconnecting with. Its residents have proven to be lively and compassionate, friendly and generous.
So what kind of year has it been?
The first year has been characterized by special in-store events, fun contests, awards, giving back, blossoming new friendships and laughter (lots of laughter). We’ve hosted a Santa Clause Meet & Greet, a Tea Party, VIP Coffee Cupping events, Special Weekend Tastings and Demos. We’ve given away loads of brewers, coffees, teas, Muskoka chairs, school desks and even trips. We’ve given back locally to Movember, Terry Fox Run, David Busby Street Centre, Momstown and Breakfast for Learning among others.
And we’ve received so much more in return. We’ve been awarded with Barrie Examiner’s Best in Barrie Award, Barrie Advance’s Reader’s Choice Award and been recognized by Profit Magazine as one of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies.
In the end, we’re grateful and appreciative for the friendships we have made, the partnerships we have established and the opportunity to realize our dream of operating a flourishing small Canadian business.
Here is a look at our first anniversary celebrations: