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100% Canadian Franchises Company Profiles September/October 2020

Home-Grown and Locally-Owned: 3rd Degree Training/Actual Nutrition, Caffe Artigiano, Stick Fix and WP Creations

By David Chilton Saggers

Even in these challenging times, Canadian franchises remain an attractive investment. It doesn’t matter whether the system repairs hockey sticks, sells coffee and baked goods, creates valuable keepsakes, or offers a chance to get fit and eat nutritiously after a workout. The right concept, hard work, and continuing support for every franchisee means success is there for those who can look beyond the current circumstances and towards a brighter business future.

3rd Degree Training/Actual Nutrition

Steve Collette and his wife Pamela were in their later 20s and starting to think about how change their unhealthy lifestyles. They tried exercise classes and different gyms, but nothing did the trick, so they created their own workout routines. These caught on and soon friends joined them, and a part-time business was born. That was 10 years ago in Stratford, Prince Edward Island.

Today, that business is now a full time, growing concern with six franchises spread over Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Langley, British Columbia. CEO and Co-founder Collette says 3rd Degree Training/Actual Nutrition began franchising in 2014. “We didn’t want to move too fast,” he says from his Stratford head office. “Now we have the models down pat.”

There are three models in the system: there’s the owner-operator, another that sees an investor hire staff to run the business, and a third for those who want to buy franchises strictly as investors. Most of his franchise enquiries come from men, says Collette, but most of his franchisees are women. But, irrespective of gender, all investors have to be “wowed” by his system’s models.

A background in health and nutrition will help but isn’t necessary, Collette says, because he can teach the program. However, sales and marketing and business development exposure are very useful, as are strong community roots. Business training takes five to 10 days at head office for all investors, and there’s continuing education after that. A 3rd Degree franchise costs $150,000 to $175,000 and an Actual Nutrition franchise costs $70,000.

3rd Degree Training offers exercise classes in a gym, and Actual Nutrition provides freshly prepared meals such as burrito bowls, pasta salads, and fruit parfaits. Some 3rd Degree locations offer Actual Nutrition meals and some don’t, and non-members of a 3rd Degree gym can also buy meals, but Collette says the two brands are intertwined. “The two of them working together is definitely the way of the future,” he says.

Collette wants to expand from coast to coast, and his business model targets smaller markets. His smallest is in Montague, Prince Edward Island, a town of just 2,800 people. Collette’s “sweet spot” for a franchise is 2,500 to 3,000 square feet. All locations have an open concept and unlimited membership.

When COVID-19 hit, Collette moved his workouts online, and now offers multiple live classes on Facebook that are also recorded for members to use when convenient. As for Actual Nutrition, he says, “They’re closed. We had to bite the bullet.” They will reopen when post-virus restrictions are lifted. The benefits of investing with 3rd Degree Training/Actual Nutrition are clear, says Collette: three financial models, a strong system, and an attractive lifestyle for franchisees.

Caffe Artigiano

Caffe Artigiano is a coffee culture mainstay in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its design and atmosphere were imported more than 20 years ago from Italy by the Piccolo brothers. The current owner and custodian of the brand is Knightsbridge Capital Partners, which is owned by Vancouver-based Dean Shillington.

At the moment, the system is entirely corporate, says Shillington, although he intends to turn Caffe Artigiano’s 17 locations in Vancouver and Calgary into franchises – or cooperative partnerships, as he prefers to call them. And he’s been readying for that day. Caffe Artigiano has launched a mobile app, and partnered with DoorDash, the food delivery service. Training was expanded, too, using Zoom, and even his staff stayed busy painting café doors and windows.

When the business climate allows, Shillington says he wants to expand his system in British Columbia and Western Canada more generally. “We’re doing very well with the West Coast and want to continue perfecting our service offering here, then expand elsewhere,” he says.

A Caffe Artigiano location is 1,000 to 1,500 square feet with a large patio, and the cost of a franchise ranges from $150,000 to $550,000. Unlike many coffee shops, those in the Artigiano system all have different décor, and eventually the Vancouver Mural Arts Society will decorate the outside and the inside of its cafes through an exclusive long-term partnership. Training for franchisees, managers, baristas, and everyone in between is provided at the Artigiano Academy in Vancouver and takes four to eight weeks, depending on their previous coffee experience.

As for potential franchisees, Shillington says he wants a “conversation with people who see coffee as a career.” Sales and marketing experience would also be welcome, with Shillington calling that exposure “a key strength.” The benefits of investing with him are numerous, he says. Caffe Artigiano is a well-established brand with a large footprint in Vancouver, extensive operational know-how, and excellent and ongoing support.

Stick Fix

Hockey is played just about anywhere there’s a level surface. And it’s thanks to hockey that Calgary’s Cliff Hendrickson is the owner and founder of Stick Fix.

Advances in technology can lead to more expensive hockey equipment, so Hendrickson reasoned 20 years ago that there would be a business repairing composite (carbon fibre) items, sticks in particular, that can cost up to $400 each. Since starting Stick Fix, the company has expanded and now fixes any and all composite sports equipment including bicycles, skates, and rackets. Hendrickson has repaired about 21,000 sticks in 20 years, with the sticks coming from individuals and pro teams such as the Calgary Flames in the National Hockey League.

Stick Fix now has 10 franchises, six of them in Western Canada and others in Sudbury, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is also one in Ohio and one in Texas in the United States. Hendrickson will consider expansion anywhere but says whoever joins the system must be prepared for the hard work and long hours of being an owner-operator.

Each franchisee receives an exclusive territory, which includes at least 10 indoor ice rinks, and the minimum cost of a franchise is $35,000. Hendrickson himself provides each franchisee’s five-day training. “There’s a lot of skill involved,” says Hendrickson. “It’s not a quick in and out.” Franchisees will need a strong work ethic, he says, and the ideal franchisee will be someone who’s stable and approaching middle age. He notes that two of his most successful investors came from the oil industry.

As for the effects of COVID-19 on his business, Hendrickson says, “I’ve got no business. In Alberta, there’s not a single skater. I’ve just had to endure (the downturn).” However, now that the province has started lifting its emergency regulations, Hendrickson expects to be back working flat out again and telling potential investors about the benefits of Stick Fix. They include, he says, an original concept, an established system, and a low cost of entry.

WP Creations

The WP Creations franchise concept started as a way to provide women with the opportunity to work from home, raise their kids, and contribute financially to their families, and has since grown into an established brand offering life casting services.

“Behind this brand are a team of women who possess an entrepreneurial spirit, who want to support and grow with each other while making connections in their communities,” says Jamie Berube, president and CEO of WP Creations.

WP Creations (formerly Wee Piggies & Paws) got its start when founder Debbie Cornelius wanted to have a unique keepsake – a 2D handprint – made for her husband for Father’s Day. When she saw that no one around her was safely creating these keepsakes, she decided to make her own, and soon others were asking for the service, too. “She grew the business to the point of needing to expand, and from there, a franchise model was created,” notes Berube.

WP Creations now has over 30 locations across Canada. Berube says the franchisee team, comprised entirely of women, is the cornerstone of the brand’s success.

“We support each other and despite mostly not having met each other in person, we feel like a family. We root for one another. We have also proven to be a sustainable business, as we were able to transition from in-person to online service during the pandemic shutdown with very little impact to our team,” explains Berube.

When COVID-19 struck, franchisees were set up with online stores to sell jewelry, photo crystals, and canvases. The core life casting service also needed to adapt, and clients can now purchase life casting and impression DIY kits online, which includes a face-to-face virtual service where artists walk them through the process of life casting on their own.

“It has been extremely successful, and we have received incredible feedback that not only are clients happy to not have to wait to create these keepsakes, but they love the idea of being involved with the process,” says Berube.

Berube says the ideal WP Creations franchisee is willing to learn and take feedback, but most importantly “is a team player, who will learn from mistakes and support her teammates.” Franchisees receive hands-on training, along with a start-up kit containing the tools and materials they’ll need once they open. They also have access to the online “university,” a business coach to help with start-up and beyond, and a private Facebook group which provides ongoing peer support.

Berube’s advice for those considering franchising: “Follow the system. It’s built on years of experience, trial and error, and successes. Everyone is different and each franchisee has their own strengths, so to hone in on your individual strength and use it alongside the already set up system will allow for greater potential for success. And when in doubt, ask!”

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