Cafe2U franchise owner Scott Phillips discusses the successes and challenges of his first few weeks in business
Cafe2U franchise owner Scott Phillips launched his Cafe2U business in Denver on Aug. 6. He just had his first anniversary with wife Mirela, and enjoys that Cafe2U allows him to work a more normal schedule, which allows him to spend time with her — something that he couldn’t always for while working nights and weekends for a telecommunications company. We asked him to share his initial experiences.
What were you doing before Cafe2U?
I left a career in telecom, doing cellphone sales. I worked a lot of weekends, a lot of nights, holidays. My wife and I didn’t get to see each other.
How did you find out about Cafe2U?
I had been searching for a business and researching owning a business for a couple of years and my wife and I came across Cafe2U after seeing an article about franchises that offer a great lifestyle, a smaller investment and a great rate of return, and Cafe2U was listed as No. 1. We got in touch with Scott Bundy and spent about eight months researching them. Doing that research, we found that they had a great franchise system and they definitely had a great product.
We had looked at things like doing a Jimmy John’s, but the investment was just too much for us to do. There’s a place in Denver that we looked into, a local place, but the initial investment was just too great for us to get into. And of course we love coffee — who doesn’t? — and when we saw what we could do with Cafe2U, that was it.
Who attracted you to Cafe2U?
The biggest thing was talking to other franchisees and hearing how much fun they were having — not only owning their own business, but the interaction with customers. When my wife and I made a discovery trip to Oregon and met with Cafe2U’s leadership and one of the franchisees, that was the last nail in the coffin. We decided this is it, this looks perfect for us. We knew from meeting with Serena (Liu) and Scott (Bundy) and talking to the franchisees in Australia that my wife and I would have a lot more time together and have weekends.
Will both of you run it?
I’ll run the van Monday through Friday and Mirella will join me on the weekends for special events. I’ll be busy enough that I’m sure I’ll need the help, and it’ll be nice to get to spend the whole day together.
Why do you think it’s a good business?
I’ve spent most of my working career working with customers directly and one of the biggest things is that you spend a lot of time working hard for companies to help them build brand and help them build money and the recognition of your efforts isn’t always there. This way I get to take my talents and experience and put it to work for myself.
The people running Cafe2U are really dynamic, experienced people. And the coffee … I myself have always gone to Starbucks. Once we tasted the product, we couldn’t believe how much of a difference there really was. And the training was just amazing. Again, it cements your decision that you made to go with Cafe2U because they’re so committed to the brand and to the product.
The other aspect of it is that we get to be at the ground level of what we think is an amazing new business and new idea in the U.S. and we get to be the first franchisee in Colorado. We feel like we’re pioneers. Everybody wants to be in at the ground level of something. We’re hoping our time and commitment to Cafe2U and our investment gives us that niche in life that we’ve been looking for, and at some point we hope to be able to give back to other people who want to set up their own business. We want to make ourselves happy and help other people down the road.
What do you think is the key to your success?
Being committed to helping build this brand and to the consistency of the product itself. To make things tasty, be personable, and have fun with customers. The value for the customer isn’t just that we pull up to a business and take an order — we want it to be an experience and we want to make them smile. I talked to Steve McCarthy — I don’t know how often we’ll dress up like he does, but I love talking to people. Everybody has a great story. I learned that working with Verizon. You need to get to know people during the time that you spend with them and treat them as people and not just as a dollar sign. We’ll come around and may play games with them, and we’ll remember who they are and learn their birthdays and making them feel special.
How large is the opportunity?
There are still areas in my territory where I haven’t done any canvassing. There’s a lot of room to grow, especially with events — I’m starting to get in touch with some of them this year to get in for next year. There’s quite a few areas around town that are commercial areas where Starbucks isn’t there, and where people with more discerning palates may want to trade in their office coffee for something better. I hear so often, I heard it from a lady at Convergys today, she said, “I won’t drink that coffee they have inside.”
Who are your main customers? Who are your best customers?
My best customers would be at a company called Full Circle. They are probably the best. They are great because, one, many of them have said they love to support local small businesses and, two, they love the idea of mobile coffee and they think the coffee is great, so they’re real happy to give us their business. I also have five to six regular people there, and sometimes more come out. I’ve got everything from a small screen printing shop to a large transportation company called Aero. It’s nice because I get to serve the owners of that company. They’ve actually given me some lead suggestions — they do a “park and ride” service for the Broncos football games and they’ve said that when it’s cold and people are waiting out in the snow at the bus stops, that might be a great place for you to park and go sell coffee.
What does your typical day look like?
I get up at 4 a.m. — I don’t like to rush in the morning. I’m out the door by 5 a.m. and I get to my first stop at 5:45 a.m. at Convergys, a call center. There are a lot of people there, but a lot of them still have a habit of buying coffee on their way into work, so I’m still working on breaking that habit by offering things like $1 off any drink for a week. The people who have tried it — the coffee, the chai, the hot chocolate — they all say it’s great. From there I switch between a college — Lincoln College of Technology for about 30 minutes. After that I go into a different business about every 10 minutes until about 12:20. At 12:20, I head over to the commissary that I belong to, and then I have a stop M-F around 1:45 at two different places —Linx, a business that likes having an afternoon pick-me-up, and my wife’s office building.
How much of your business is delivering to businesses vs. working at events?
So far, 90 percent is Monday through Friday. I have done some events so far, but several have already had a coffee guy booked. Denver also has a regulation that prevents me from selling from the parking lot at public parks, which has made it harder to serve that Saturday crowds at youth soccer or football games. We’ve found a few parks where we think we can park on the street and sell. There are hundreds of people there — we’d like to serve them. There are so many people who’d like to get a hot coffee or a hot chocolate for their child during the game.
What strategies have been successful for you so far?
One thing I’ve found is making sure that I use the loyalty cards — I get a lot of people who go through those very quickly, and a lot of people love that I offer something like that. No. 2 is offering seasonal drinks that are out there like Pumpkin Spice latté. People love those things and if you’ve got them, people will love you even more. One other thing I do: When I’m making a new drink, I like to try it out to make sure I’ve got the flavor just right, so I’ll choose one of my businesses that I frequent and I ask them if they’ll try some drinks for me. I tried that with a caramel apple smoothie, and a group of ladies were happy to test it out — and they said, “If you ever need help like that again, please let us know!.” After doing that, the next few days they ordered some of those same smoothies. It was a fun way to get customers involved and do some research and development and have them tell you how they would like it.
Would you recommend a Cafe2U franchise to someone else?
Yeah, I definitely would. I know that everything about the business and the concept is tested — it works. Your market might dictate a little bit how well it works and how quickly it works, but I know that it works and I know the benefits of business ownership and earning a great living and being your own boss. Those benefits all out there once you get your business well established.
Are you happy with the direction your business is headed?
Oh, yes. I feel like I made the right choice. I have a couple of small events that we’ll do Saturday and Sunday. Working those events will just put more money in our pockets and bring up our average sales for the week. My wife is happy because we’re getting to spend a lot more time together. There’s no doubt that this was a great decision.
To learn how you can start a Cafe2U business, check out our research pages at www.Cafe2UFranchise.com, check out our blog to see what people are saying about us, and fill out our form to download a free franchise report. We look forward to answering your questions!