When Noodlebox partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in 2016, the cause hit close to home. The growing fast casual chain specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine first got wind of the organization from one of its franchise partners operating out of Victoria, British Columbia.
“Our team in Victoria has been involved since 2013,” says Dustin May, Noodlebox’s CEO. “The franchisee at that location lost a brother to mental health, and it obviously had a major impact on him and his family. After hearing his story, we thought it would be a great honour to work alongside him to raise money and awareness for the cause.”
Since its founding in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association has supported Canadians experiencing mental illness, helping to erase the stigma surrounding it in the process. Through a variety of initiatives, ranging from research and education to advocacy and in-house programs and services, CMHA has assisted more than one million Canadians to date.
For its part, the West Coast brand wasted no time getting involved, implementing the initiative as part of its annual National Charity Day. Held every September, the company-wide event donates 50 per cent of its proceeds to various charities.
For years, franchisees across Noodlebox’s Alberta and B.C. locations chose the initiative they wanted to get behind, but May says franchisees quickly and enthusiastically came on board in support of CMHA when they partnered with the organization at a corporate level.
Today, almost all franchise partners choose to donate their earnings to the Association, something May reckons can be contributed to two defining factors.
“We picked a charity that was meaningful to our franchisees. There’s a story behind it that impacted someone within our organization that people have a relationship with,” he says. “That was a powerful way to get everyone involved to champion it.”
Maintaining open communication about the results of their charitable giving hasn’t hurt either. Noodlebox communicates regularly with CMHA, allowing head office to relay to franchise partners specifics about how their actions have positively benefited Canadians from coast to coast.
And the charitable initiative isn’t just a hit among franchise partners. In just two years since partnering with CMHA, Noodlebox has raised nearly $50,000 for the Association, even finding creative ways to make the Day meaningful for franchisees, staff, and devoted customers.
“Yes, we’ve been able to raise a good chunk of money for the cause, but just as importantly, if not more, we’ve actually raised awareness by educating our customers about mental illness and the association’s work,” says May.
During the 2017 National Charity Day, CMHA personnel joined Noodlebox at all franchise locations to provide educational resources to customers, significantly helping to shine a spotlight on the topic.
“It was very impactful for experts in the field to communicate and connect with our customers,” May says. “This is an issue that affects a vast majority of Canadians in a variety of different ways. Giving people this platform to communicate is powerful.”
It’s this educational aspect of Noodlebox’s charitable contributions that have really made a difference for franchisees and their communities. May notes that some of the areas that Noodlebox locations serve are greatly impacted by mental health issues, and facilitating a space where people can come together is one of the many benefits of the partnership with CMHA.
Now, as May and the rest of the Noodlebox team gear up for their next National Charity Day in September, they are optimistic they can raise more funds than in years prior, and are looking for creative ways to bring new franchise partners on board, though this shouldn’t take too much convincing.
Though Noodlebox will continue to support all franchisees and their passion for giving back to charities outside of CMHA, the important cause will be at the forefront of the franchise’s future giving back strategy for the time being.
“We’re big believers that it’s better for us to concentrate our efforts in major meaningful initiatives, allowing us to raise funds that will make a significant difference for that specific charity. For us, the money we raise for CMHA is extremely meaningful for them and helps them do something really important for all Canadians.”
By Kristin Di Tommaso