This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We ask readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories.
Introducing Gary Taylor, the co-founder of Fuel Plus, a Toronto-based café and health store that serves local organic coffee with a selection of healthy baked goods and protein smoothies.
1. Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?
FUEL+ focuses on coffee, protein shakes and healthy food. Our store does not sell anything with artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup (gluctose fructose). We also don't have anything with trans fats. We believe eating healthy should not cost more and taste just as good. FUEL+ is a team of people who believe in providing good fuel for everyone. Through our own personal relationships with food and drinks, we are passionate about what is good fuel and how we can best educate everyone about it. Our current and only location is at 471 Church Street in the Village. FUEL+ opened in December 2012, founded by partners Gary Taylor and Chester Wong.
2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?
Like most great inventions FUEL+ was born out of need. Both of us are healthy eaters but we found it hard to maintain when we are on the go. And when you ask people why they are not choosing a healthier meal, the two biggest obstacles are price and taste. We want to merge both of our retails skills (Sephora and Apple) and bring healthy eating to the masses and make it accessible. We believe people will choose to eat healthier if they are educated about food and it is accessibility.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
We strive to include everyone. In the past one and a half years since opening, we found a higher percentage of female clients between the ages of 19 and 49. We have found these clients to be big advocates and supporters of ours. I feel like we have the same mission and ideals. Aside local traffic our clients have found us through social media, word of mouth and various groups we have supported. We are also active in different sport organizations. Nike Central running group and others run out of our store weekly. We provide free lockers at the back of our stores for them so they can quickly lock up and go for a run.
4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?
We are fortunate to have a great team of people on our staff. Like most small businesses, we all have to function in multiple roles on any given day. Generally the team members are servicing and educating our customers front line. Gary is our gold standard of customer service where Chester is responsible for marketing and ongoing expansion of our brand and mission.
5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
We are all very passionate about what we do. And we hope it shows to our customers. We want to build a brand that makes a difference for people. Besides making healthy accessible food that tastes good we want to help our community. Just this past year, we were part of Camp Ooch, Canadian Cancer Society, Ryerson Student Association, Toronto PrimeTimers and various other organizations that contribute to better living here in the city. We believe all these are opportunities to educate people about healthy eating while spreading the word of our mission. Education and communication via various social media channels have greatly amplified our voice and message to our audiences. Education is marketing done with the intention to share, not sell.