It’s very important that whenever a store opens in a community, that store becomes part of the local community – with events, charities and everything that goes on there. They have to work to get that business to the next level and some don’t realize that. It’s full-time work. When we go into a store, we’ll show them how to pound the pavement – simple things like taking the chairs and tables and putting them out on the sidewalk, or giving out samples or $1-off coupons on the corner.
Our franchisees are our bread and butter, our most important asset. We have to take care of them and make sure they’re being serviced. Communication is key.
Q: What do they need most?
A: Support. Marketing support. Our franchisees are like our customers now. But we also look to them for ideas because they’re on the front line. They know what’s selling and have suggestions on what they want to see from us, such as new flavours or posters or marketing materials.
Q: What’s been the biggest learning curve for you both?
Marvin: We were already in the retail business so it didn’t take us long to learn. We usually sell to the retailer in the clothing business, now we’ve become the retailer. But it’s good because as the retailer, we can do what we want. When we’re dealing with retailers in our apparel business, we manage the inventory that goes in. It’s different today than it was years ago. We have to be very involved in the sell-throughs on the retailer’s floor.
We analyze and replenish them – we’re doing private label for everyone from Wal-Mart to JCPenney to Target – so we have really good experience from working with these retailers. We have the infrastructure of how to analyze sales, such as how much yogurt is selling in what stores and how much we need to buy for each store. It’s all analytical. I always wondered why I was taking math in school. Now at 54, I know why. Math is everything. Numbers are everything.
Jon: We’ve got a pretty good team from our garment side. Being a small business, we’ve all come together. Some of the executive people who work on our garment side work on the yogurt side. Our president, CFO and analysts from JCorp also analyze our yogurt business. Everyone pitches in with ideas including our sales and marketing people.
Our garment people also help us merchandise the yogurt stores with new product development and promotions. We’re also in the licensing business so we do cross-licensing with movies and character licenses. It could be anything from Pink Panther – because we’re all about pink – or a Justin Bieber ‘meet and greet’ giveaway like we did a while back at the Bell Centre in Montreal. We’re building a brand here.
Q: What’s your advice to entrepreneurs today about starting a business in Canada?
Jon: We have a saying, ‘You go, you get.’ It’s our culture. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t think ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ You go. When you’re in doubt, just say, ‘You go, you get.’ Jump out of that bed and go.
Q: Where did that come from?
Marvin: It came from me. Everything we went for, we got. Whether we wrote the order or that meeting led to success a month later, every time we took the effort, we got. It’s not only in business but in life. If you want to meet people, you go; if you stay home, it’s not going to happen.