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New franchisees take out major awards at Columbus Coffee
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Brent and Vicki Wilson "Columbus Coffee encouraged us to push the boundaries to build our business"
Peter Webster with Franchisee of the Year Cate Sutherland (centre) and Franchise Support Manager Rowena Cooper
When Brent Wilson and his wife Vicki gave up their motel in Nelson to be closer to family, they searched for another business they could run together. Now, just a year after buying Columbus Coffee in the Palmerston North Plaza, they’ve been named the franchise’s New Franchisees of the Year.
‘Vicki had previously worked in customer service while I was in the army,’ Brent says. ‘We’d learned how hard it was going it alone so, for our first time in the food industry, having the support of a franchise appealed. We chose Columbus Coffee because it has such a good reputation and offered the chance to grow.’
Brent and Vicki quickly gained confidence. ‘After training, we spent a couple of weeks getting practical experience with another franchisee which was invaluable,’ says Brent. ‘We were then able to take over our own café and hit the ground running, with a good idea of how things should be done.’
Vicki explains, ‘One of the things we really value is the focus on new ideas – staying fresh and relevant to new food trends. Columbus Coffee not only provided the support we needed as first-time owners in the industry; they also encouraged us to push the boundaries to build our business. If we were doing it alone, we might play it safe and avoid making changes that could really help us grow. Being a part of Columbus Coffee has allowed us to achieve a lot more things in a lot less time, and with fewer mistakes, too. As a result, we’ve seen roughly 10-15 percent sales growth already.’
Being named New Franchisees of the Year at the glitzy awards ceremony was a great surprise, and has encouraged Brent and Vicki to keep up the hard work. ‘We’re very hands-on so winning the award has given us a real boost, showing us that we’re on the right track.’ The next big step for the couple is a new fit-out of their café early next year to match the fresh look that Columbus Coffee has been rolling out across the country – another proven source of growth.
Brent and Vicki are following in the footsteps of Cate Sutherland of Columbus Coffee Timaru. Cate won the New Franchisee award in 2017 – and this year she took out not just the overall Franchisee of the Year award but four other titles as well, including Customer Service and People’s Choice.
It’s Cate’s focus on service that has really driven her success. Columbus Coffee was new to Timaru when she opened in March 2016, ‘And while the franchise has a national reputation, the closest Columbus Coffee is two hours away so it wasn’t familiar to the locals,’ she says. ‘Timaru’s a small town, so building a reputation for great service and connecting with the customers was as important from the start as serving good food and coffee.’
For 19 years, Cate had worked as a high school catering manager. ‘I loved it, but felt that I had contributed everything I could and it was time for a new challenge – if I didn’t do it now, I might miss my chance. One of the best things Columbus Coffee did was make me do my own due diligence before committing. They gave me the push to start off with a business plan, financial plan and research on the area/demographic of my potential customers. Though I had worked in catering for most of my life, I had no café experience and the franchise gave me great training and support. It definitely wasn’t easy, but it has been so rewarding already.’
Like Vicki, Cate also values the brand’s commitment to evolving with food trends. ‘Every market is different. Columbus Coffee’s Lifestyle Favourites range of recipes caters for all sorts of diets, and as I get to know my customers, I learn what works for them.
‘Having good systems in place is the backbone of a business, and Columbus Coffee gave me those tools so I could focus on my customers. We have a sign up in the back that says, “Be the reason someone smiles today.” That’s why the People’s Choice award maybe means the most to us – it’s not my award, it belongs to my staff and our customers, too.’
A home-grown franchise with over 70 cafés nationwide, Columbus Coffee can be found in a variety of high street and mall locations, as well as within Mitre10 MEGA stores as part of an exclusive deal with the retail giant. Investment levels range from $280,000 - $400,000, with existing cafés in proven locations also available from time to time.
‘Both new and existing outlets offer considerable growth potential, as Brent and Vicki have shown,’ says Peter Webster, general manager of Columbus Coffee. ‘They’ve also proved that you don’t need to have café experience to be successful with us. If you want to be a part of an award-winning franchise with award-winning people, and you are committed to providing great service, give me a call. Who knows? – you could be our next New Franchisee of the Year!’
See this advertorial on page 37 of Franchise New Zealand magazine Year 27 Issue 2
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|industry||food and beverage|
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This material is copyright © Franchise NZ Marketing Limited, Franchise New Zealand ™ magazine and Franchise New Zealand On Line . While it may be downloaded for personal use, no part may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the specific written permission of the publisher.