The Canadian franchise industry continues to show innovation and leadership, and the range of systems profiled here are further proof that despite recent obstacles, franchising remains as strong and vital as ever.
By David Chilton Saggers
One meaning of “maverick” is someone who does things their own way. Maverick’s Donuts fits that definition to a T.
Jon Martin, vice-president of franchise development for the Ottawa-based system, says that Maverick’s distinguishes itself with features that make its stores stand out. For example, it offers custom donuts with impressive decorations for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentines, and has even created a specially themed 6-pack in conjunction with Warner Brothers to help promote the movie Wonder Woman 1984. Martin adds that Maverick can provide specialty products for birthdays, weddings, and other events. All Maverick’s donuts are baked fresh on-site every day for hungry guests.
Maverick’s story began in 2016 with one store in Ottawa, Ontario owned by husband-and-wife duo, Geoff and Gen Vivian. They began franchising in 2021 and have expanded to three more stores in the capital with two more planned in Ottawa. Future expansion is focused in Ontario, with single- and multi-unit franchise opportunities available. “We have plans for 12 locations in 2022,” says Martin. His preferred markets are in the suburbs located in that stretch of Ontario between Ottawa and Toronto.
The qualities Maverick’s looks for in a franchisee are a willingness to work hard, a hands-on approach, and a positive personality. Baking or kitchen experience is welcome but it’s not essential. Training takes one week in Ottawa and there’s further instruction on-site that lasts an additional week. Maverick’s franchisees’ backgrounds are a “mixed bag,” Martin explains, mentioning an Ottawa police detective and her husband who’s in the insurance business. The cost of a franchise runs from $100,000 to $250,000. Maverick’s “sweet spot” for a store is 1,200 to 1,500 square feet and the company does both retrofits and new builds at street level retail.
Maverick’s has fared much better than many businesses during the pandemic. “Systemwide sales actually excelled,” says Martin, noting that since their model has no indoor seating, there are fewer COVID-19 protocols to adhere to. Maverick’s also moved to curbside pickup with full online ordering and is designing a proprietary app for its customers.
As for the benefits of investing with Maverick’s, Martin says there are many. Donuts and coffee sales have high margins, and the system offers open territories to accompany its high-quality products and strong franchisee support.
LaserQuit Therapies Corp
Breaking a tobacco habit for most people is a huge challenge. But thanks to laser therapy, Meridee Hlokoff was able to kick that habit. Hlokoff received laser therapy in Surrey, B.C., and as she says, “I forgot to smoke for five years.”
Unfortunately, the owner of the laser therapy firm then became ill and couldn’t continue operating it. So, she offered Hlokoff the chance to buy her out. Hlokoff did that in 2011 and hasn’t looked back. Today, LaserQuit has a 95 per cent success rate, says the entrepreneur.
LaserQuit uses cold laser therapy, and the application of the cold laser is based on the points that acupuncturists use when they provide a treatment. “We tell the body what to do and the body does it,” says Hlokoff, who explains that LaserQuit also works for other addictions too.
The system began with a single location in Kamloops, B.C., about three hours northwest of Surrey, and has since added corporate stores in Fort St. John and Quesnel, both in B.C. She sold her first franchise in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Immediate expansion is planned for other cities in the province such as Kelowna and Abbotsford, and in Alberta by January 2022. “My expansion goal in the next five years is to spread across Canada,” says Hlokoff.
As for the qualities that she looks for in a potential investor, Hlokoff wants a “certain level of spirituality,” empathy, and strong interpersonal skills. A background in health and wellness would be ideal, and a franchisee should be located in a spa or a spa-type setting. Training takes three to five days. The target customer is anyone wanting help to overcome an addiction. The cost of a franchise is about $50,000—though Hlokoff adds that she believes so strongly in the concept, she’s willing to finance a portion of the purchase herself.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that Hlokoff had to close down her system at first, but within two months, LaserQuit was declared an essential service and there have been no further closures.
Hlokoff says her own skills and experience are three of the benefits of investing with her: she’s a personal coach, a business coach, and a bookkeeper. There’s also the advantage of getting in on the ground floor of a new system. Hlokoff concludes, “LaserQuit is the next big thing.”
As the retail arm of Sundial Growers Inc., Spiritleaf has more than 100 locations across the country—a sure sign that the legal sale and consumption of recreational cannabis is now an accepted part of Canadian business life and a prime investment opportunity.
Zach George, CEO of the Calgary-based firm, says Spiritleaf began in 2017 and franchising was a part of its business model from the start. The franchise partners—just a few are corporate—stretch from coast to coast, says George, except for Quebec where the government-owned SQDC is the sole retailer of recreational cannabis.
As for further expansion, George says he thinks his market segment is “very close to peak retail,” so a lot of the best real estate has already been snapped up. Consequently, he expects the system to grow by acquisition store by store. And it’s the store and customer experience that’ll be a central focus for Spiritleaf.
The system’s franchise partners range from those in their late twenties to those who are more mature, and some have backgrounds as lawyers, engineers, and more. There are also husband and wife investors, with the gender split among all franchisees about 50-50. Among the qualities he looks for in prospective franchise partners are strong financial acumen, an entrepreneurial outlook, and significant business experience. The cost of a franchise is between $300,000 and $400,000. Training is provided to franchisees on-site and online.
All Spiritleaf stores have “the same branding aesthetics,” says George, and customers can expect a consistent in-store experience in a location that’s ideally between 1,200 and 2,500 square feet. Locations are chosen for being in an area that’s highly visible, highly trafficked, and ideally adjacent to a liquor store or a supermarket. Young consumers, in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket, are “the foundation of the industry,” says George, but older customers are also a significant part of the mix.
“The pandemic has been disruptive in some sense,” he adds. However, Spiritleaf hasn’t suffered as much as other retailers, and was deemed an essential service from the start.
As for the benefits of investing in the system, George says Spiritleaf has “tremendous resources,” a strong balance sheet, the ability to invest in and support a thriving network, and the skills to negotiate a volatile environment.