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100% Canadian FranchisesCompany ProfilesNovember/December 2020

Home-Grown and Locally Owned: DermaEnvy Skincare, MRMIKES SteakhouseCasual, and Scholars Education Centre

By David Chilton Saggers

Perhaps they start off with just one location, but with a great concept and real entrepreneurship behind it, there’s no telling how far a Canadian system can go and grow. Even a worldwide pandemic can’t knock these players off their game.

DermaEnvy Skincare

DermaEnvy Skincare clinics are smaller than the more traditional locations, says Cohen MacInnis, president, but smaller can mean better. For one thing, it creates more of a connection between Medical Aestheticians/Skin Experts and client and clinic, he explains.

DermaEnvy Skincare clinics, which run from 400 square feet to 1,200 square feet, offer laser treatments, medical esthetics, and skin care, as well as skincare products. MacInnis says DermaEnvy Skincare began franchising in 2016 with its first location being a corporate store in Dieppe, New Brunswick. Now the system has seven locations, three of them corporate, in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador. There is also a DermaEnvy franchise in Waterloo, Ontario. The cost of a turnkey franchise begins at $129,900, which includes equipment. Training takes two weeks in-house at the new location.

From his recently opened clinic in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, MacInnis says that although there are one or two more opportunities in Atlantic Canada, DermaEnvy’s current expansion plans are geared towards the Ontario market. He says he’s considering communities large and small that are underserved in his category but is careful to point out that he wants to remain mid-market.

DermaEnvy Skincare franchisees are mostly women, as is the clientele that’s primarily aged 24-54. However, MacInnis notes that DermaEnvy is also enjoying success with the male population. “It’s a little more even than you would think,” he says. “Our fastest growing (client) category is men coming in for skin care.”

As for the qualities he looks for in a franchisee, MacInnis says he considers each potential investor case by case, explaining “it’s important to get the full story” behind a desire to invest in his system. He also looks for a willingness to learn, some exposure to business, and what he calls “the usual traits” of work ethic, commitment, and more.

MacInnis admits the pandemic has been difficult, but says DermaEnvy Skincare, thanks to its base in Atlantic Canada, was in a good position relative to other locations. He says DermaEnvy Skincare closed all stores March 18 and had to lay off all staff. However, the system immediately began building an online presence for its skincare and other products and gave 100 per cent of the revenue earned to that client’s usual clinic. DermaEnvy Skincare also created a program to offer frontline health workers in the various communities the system serves an opportunity for esthetic treatments.

The benefits of investing with DermaEnvy Skincare are numerous, says MacInnis. Among them are the clinic’s size, the ease of a turnkey location, an opportunity for owners of independent clinics to rebrand their store under the DermaEnvy Skincare banner, and the low cost of entry.

MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual

Since it all started with a single location on Vancouver’s Granville Street 60 years ago, MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual is just rolling along. “Canadians love the food, the energy, and the experience and with their passion, we believe we can achieve 75 restaurants in the West and similar numbers in Ontario,” says Robin Chakrabarti, president.

At present, MR MIKES has 45 locations, four of them corporate. All but two – both in Ontario – are spread over the four Western provinces. “We continue to grow in the West, building off the long history of the brand, but Ontario, beginning in the Niagara region, is great for us, and we look forward to bringing the MR MIKES experience to Ontario,” says Chakrabarti from head office in Burnaby, British Columbia.

MR MIKES is designed for casual mid-range dining with excellent steaks, burgers, and salads. It also has a very social atmosphere, offering such add-ons as trivia, board games, and more that make it attractive to families and those looking to have a good time.

Chakrabarti wants franchisees to be confident and comfortable with achieving their goals, and says they consider whether potential franchisees will fit into the industry and specifically the restaurant culture of MR MIKES. Business experience and a love of people are also a “real help,” as is a can-do attitude, he continues.

Training, both in-store and in class, takes eight weeks at one of the corporate locations such as Chilliwack, British Columbia. MR MIKES also sends in teams from HQ and the field for two to six months to help new franchisees with the transition to operating their franchise. But that’s not all, says Chakrabarti. There’s also MIKES Best Academy, which provides online training. The cost of a franchise is between $1.4 million and $1.7 million for a new build. Restaurants are typically in the 4,000 to 5,000 square foot range, whether retrofits or new builds.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved a huge challenge given that the system is in five provinces with various and ever-changing protocols and regulations, but says Chakrabarti, “Franchisees have done an incredible job and showed amazing resilience.”

MR MIKES planned for every scenario, he explains, and introduced innovations such as disposable menus, a ringing bell every 15 minutes to remind wait staff and cooks to clean all surfaces, and even a foot pedal on washroom doors. “It’s pleasantly surprising how well we’re doing since we have been allowed to welcome guests again. Some stores are up year over year, which is a testament to our strength and passion for our food and experience,” says Chakrabarti.

As for the benefits of a MR MIKES investment, Chakrabarti says there’s the longevity and strength of the brand, the company’s long-term focus, and how attractive the system is to what he calls “family investors.”

Scholars Education Centre

There are 50 Scholars Education Centre franchises that stretch from British Columbia east to Ontario, where the majority of them operate, and in the United States, Scholars opened its first franchise in August in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Matt Baxter, owner and CEO of Scholars, says he hopes in time to expand to more than 50 franchises in the Greater Toronto Area, and anywhere else opportunities for growth occur. “Word of mouth is number one for us for attracting new franchisees, as our franchisees are successful,” says Baxter from his office in London, Ontario.

Scholars began in 1999 providing academic support and small group tutoring for children from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Later, in 2001, Scholars began to franchise in medium and large markets that supplied its target demographic. Typically, that’s a two-parent household with a minimum income of $50,000. Scholars franchisees, men and women, come from a range of backgrounds, says Baxter, and include those with franchise experience, others pursuing a second career, and even pro athletes who have retired. Experience of, and success in life are among the qualities he looks for with potential franchisees. And, says Baxter, “Business experience is definitely an asset.”

The cost of a franchise is $85,000 and pre-COVID-19, in-person training at head office was 80 hours. However, since the start of the pandemic, training for franchisees has moved online. Tutoring and other instruction for Scholars students has also moved online. “We transitioned students to online starting in March,” says Baxter. “We have had a record-breaking August and attracted a whole new cohort of parents.” These parents, of course, have children who were out of school for a long time this year.

Baxter says Scholars requires prospective franchisees to speak with several existing franchisees and complete multiple standardized tests, which allows them to gain insight into life as a Scholars franchisee. It also helps Baxter learn more about those interested in joining the system, through impressions provided by the existing franchisees. Baxter says this process is a benefit of the Scholars system, as is the relatively low cost of entry.