Q: Why did you decide to buy out your partners to become sole owners?
A: It was time to move forward so we could do what we wanted with the chain. Partnerships can be difficult sometimes. One partner wants to move faster or slower or doesn’t want to move fast at all. After we bought out the company in December, 2012, we’ve moved forward and franchised another 30 stores from January to June.
The difference is the speed. Before, every decision had to go through both partners. You get partners who don’t believe in the same way of thinking. We have our way of thinking and have been in business a lot longer. They were younger partners. We just thought it was better for the business that either they take the chain or we take the chain. Together, we wouldn’t have been as successful.
Q: As co-CEOs of JCorp, you’re used to calling the shots together. Was it hard for you to make decisions with somebody else?
A: Right on. Very difficult. You just said what I didn’t say. Very politically correct. They got a nice chunk of change and were able to move on and start their next venture, which I’m sure they will.
Q: How do you make business decisions?
Marvin: Jon says, ‘I think I’m going to do this’ and then I say ‘okay,’ or I say, ‘I’m going to do that’ and Jon says ‘okay.’ So everything’s okay.
Jon: We’ll bounce things off each other. If we disagree, we’ll just talk it over. It doesn’t take much to convince the other.
Marvin: We don’t really get mad at each other if we make a bad decision. We laugh it off and keep moving forward. There’s no hard approval process.
Jon: We believe in each other and trust each other.
Q: What’s been the biggest challenge in expanding so quickly?
A: We have to be careful. Our philosophy is to go into a territory where we could be the leader and be important in that territory. We have to open up five to eight stores consecutively. When you go into a market, you’ve got to show that you’re a chain. We’d get killed if we just opened up one store unless there’s no one else there. In Halifax, we were first in so we were able to do that. Toronto will be the most difficult market for us to break into because you’ve got other yogurt shops. Yeh! is famous in Montreal but not at all yet in Toronto.
Q: What do you look for in franchisees?
A: Do they really like the concept? Are they prepared to work it hands-on? They have to have a work ethic, passion and the money – and the money’s not the first thing. They also need some sort of experience in business. We have a lot of young franchisees. They see the trend and want to get involved, then they bring their parents in for the money. But we also have a lot ranging from 30 to 50, so all ages really. Yeh! Yogurt is expanding across Canada so we’re looking for great people to take on different territories, say Alberta or Vancouver. We’re open for business.
Q: What’s challenging about having franchisees?
A: Being new to the business, what we’ve found out is that a lot of franchisees are very dependent on corporate. We’re learning as we go along. We have to tell the franchisees that no matter how much support and marketing we give them, they still have to do a lot of work on their side to promote their stores. They have to get out there in the community and not sit back waiting for the customers to come to them.