Christmas was just a few days away, but it was the last thing on Massimo Iafolla's mind.
He had accepted an offer to take over a local university's faculty club. There was one condition: he had to get the club up and running within a couple of weeks for a scheduled function.
Given the widespread shutdown that happens around the holiday season it would be easier said than done.
Mr. Iafolla is a Winnipeg restaurateur who, with his partner Tom Paquette, owns and manages Daily Grind Coffee Inc., a west-side bistro that offers something a little different when it comes to meeting for coffee or lunch.
He had been talking to his friend Denise who, together with her husband, had just taken over a food service contract at the University of Manitoba. Mr. Iafolla was intrigued and he mentioned that if Denise heard about similar opportunities she should keep him in mind.
No sooner said than done. Denise mentioned the University of Winnipeg might also be in need of someone to take over its faculty club. She provided her contact's name and number, and Mr. Iafolla called in short order.
He found himself presented with a rather tall order – more specifically, a business opportunity that involved expanding his operations to include the university's faculty club. Mr. Iafolla was excited by the possibility, particularly because the offer came with some under-leveraged resources.
For example, while he would be committed to meeting the club's need for lunch and coffee Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm (and until 7 pm on Fridays), taking on the contract gave him access to a full kitchen that would enable him to further develop his catering and special-functions business.
Making the deal even sweeter was the U of W's central location, which gave Mr. Iafolla the chance to fulfill his company’s city-wide potential.
Mr. Iafolla was offered the contract, but there was a short-term kicker: he had to have it re-opened within a few weeks in order to quickly rebuild the club's image, which had been tarnished by previous management.
The offer, which came in late December, would also involve a lot of work that needed to be done when many offices, including several relevant government departments, would be shutting down for the holidays. Mr. Iafolla wasn't sure how he would be able to set up operations, or where he'd recruit the staff he needed.
But then again, wasn't this part and parcel of “the entrepreneurial experience” – pursuing opportunities without regard to resources? That said, was this an opportunity that was a bridge too far?
Mr. Iafolla took on the challenge, and to date he has posted very encouraging results. While it was kind of crazy over Christmas, he did get the club up and running as required.
Things have been going so well for him and his partner, who continues to run the west Winnipeg coffeehouse, that the business is currently on the lookout for a possible third location that could allow the venture to offer city-wide food services.
Mr. Iafolla is currently developing a range of ideas for using the location for other functions, such as bridal showers and birthday parties, which Daily Grind Coffee would cater. This is one entrepreneur who has gone back to school in a whole new way.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Reg Litz is a professor in the Asper School of Business of the University of Manitoba.
This is one of a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Your Business website.
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