Canadian Franchises Button: Red 100% Canadian stamp on white background
100% Canadian FranchisesCompany ProfilesJanuary/February 2023Previous Issues

Home-Grown and Locally Owned: Skill Samurai, Mr. Lube Canada, Mamma’s Pizza

By David Chilton Saggers

An innovative idea, a unique concept, and an unfilled need in the market are crucial to franchise success, irrespective of the service or product. These systems have certainly taken those three essentials to heart, and go a long way to ensuring a flying start for prospective franchisees.

Skill Samurai

In the future, employment growth will come from high tech and applied high tech.
And the key to a bright future is getting in early. That’s where Skill Samurai comes in. Originating in Canada, the system offers children from ages seven to 18 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and computer coding programs.

Mathieu Kernaleguen, a Saskatoonbased area developer, says that the system was rebranded as Skill Samurai in 2020, and now has three franchises in Ontario: Toronto, Oakville, and Guelph. Furthermore, “I am looking for great entrepreneurs in my market [of Saskatchewan and Manitoba], as well as the rest of Canada,” he notes.

Skill Samurai has two different models for franchisees: mobile and brick-andmortar learning centres. In the mobile model, they host classes and instruction in schools, community centres, libraries, and similar venues, usually after school. They also host camps during summer and other school holidays. Kernaleguen says his primary focus is expanding in Saskatoon and Regina in Saskatchewan and throughout Winnipeg.

The cost of a franchise varies from $106,000 to $350,000. Online training takes two weeks, and is followed by another week in person, in either Ontario or Texas (Skill Samurai has already experienced success in the U.S. and Australia). Ongoing training includes a weekly coaching program and clientele development plans.

As for the qualities he looks for in investors, Kernaleguen says the ideal candidate will have some business acumen and strong sales and marketing savvy, as well as networking skills and a customer service focus. Many of those interested in a franchise are retired teachers, educators who aren’t currently teaching, people employed or previously employed in IT, and people who understand the need to teach the younger generation real skills of the future. You don’t need to know how to code to own a Skill Samurai franchise. Potential franchisees are evenly split across genders. Typically, college and university students do the teaching. They’re hired by the franchisee, who also finds the brick-and-mortar real estate, usually seeking the sweet spot of 1,000 to 1,400 square feet.

The benefits of a Skill Samurai franchise include the lower cost of entry, says Kernaleguen, along with minimal competition, multiple revenue streams, and a huge curriculum of 150 different courses.

Although the COVID pandemic had an impact on the Skill Samurai system, Kernaleguen says “everything pivoted from in-person to virtual.” Now, however, students are back in class. “Parents want their kids to do the courses in-person.”

Mr. Lube Canada

When Cliff Giese, an entrepreneur from Edmonton, took his car in for an oil change in the mid-1970s, he was shocked when it wasn’t ready for him in a reasonable time. Oil changes should be quick, he thought. You should be able to get one done while you wait. He founded Mr. Lube on those principles of efficiency and good service.

The brand found success because clients realized the value in their quicker technical service, which is faster than that of competitors. The brand began in 1976, but in 1981 their franchising engine revved up, and now there are 166 locations across Canada, with expansion continuing.

Shelley Gable, director of franchise development, says Mr. Lube’s focus is on continued national expansion.

For prospective franchisees, the initial training program takes approximately three months to complete and includes both online and in-store instruction. It covers everything, including operations, accounting, marketing, and human resources. While some training is led by the corporate team leads, existing franchisees also take on new franchisees in a mentorship-style role.

As for ongoing support, every franchisee has access to Mr. Lube University, an online training portal. The company also has a Manager’s Centre of Excellence, where managers and franchisees can go to work on both their technical and customer service skills. Plus, the company has several committees that franchisees can participate in and reach out to, such as the Operations Advisory Council, which strategizes on new services, processes, and protocols.

Today, Mr. Lube technicians offer a full range of fast maintenance services, from batteries, belts, and sparkplugs to tires, to name a few. The company also keeps an electronic version of the owner’s manual for every vehicle on file, making it much easier for customers to trust that technicians are keeping their vehicle’s maintenance on schedule.

Although automotive experience isn’t necessary, new franchisees usually come with some sort of business background and/or mechanical expertise. Knowledge of the local market, and a willingness to learn are essential, and strong interpersonal skills and flexibility are an asset.

“Ours is a triple-faceted business of retail, service, and technology, which requires people who can adapt to working with their hand and tools, and who are mechanically sound,” says Gable.

That ability to be flexible has been key for franchisees during the pandemic. In order to reduce costs for franchisees, Mr. Lube worked with vendor partners and landlords to negotiate better rates for their franchisees and formed a team from human resources to provide regular updates on restrictions and regulations, says Gable. Mr. Lube also launched an in-vehicle cleaning system for car vents during the pandemic. “Of utmost importance to us is the ability to pivot and be proactive to better serve our customers, being our franchise partners and their customers.”

Karim Kara, a multi-unit Mr. Lube franchisee, agrees, adding that prospective franchisees should pay particular attention to franchises that are sustainable through difficult economic times, such as a pandemic, and that are evolving as the world evolves. “I think Mr. Lube ticks all these boxes. You always want to invest your money where it’s secure long-term, and I believe that’s right here.”

Mamma’s Pizza

Yes, there really was a mamma. Her name was Lidia Danesi, and it was her pizza, served up at the Monte Carlo Restaurant in Toronto starting in 1957, that led the brand to the success it enjoys today.

“Mamma’s is Toronto all the way,” says Bikram Singh, director of brand development for the now corporately owned business. “She [Danesi] was known as Mamma, Queen of Pizza.” There are now 15 Mamma’s franchises, one of which is corporately owned, while the remaining are franchised. Most are in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Singh says from the headquarters in Brampton, Ontario. There are two more locations in the works, and a new concept store opened recently in Brampton. “We plan to take the
brand across different parts of the GTA and Ontario. We are already in Whitby and are soon opening in Courtice, also looking at new locations all the way towards Niagara. We are also open to conversations about opening in other provinces.”

Mamma’s Pizza operates in the gourmet pizza segment. Its dough and ingredients are made from scratch every day and the pies are baked in a stone oven. It’s mainly a takeout business, but Singh says a couple of locations offer dine-in seating, as well. The cost of a franchise is $250,000 to $350,000. The comprehensive training is four weeks, unless head office feels a specific franchisee requires more. In-person training takes two weeks and then a team goes in-store for another two weeks with the new franchisee, who’ll also benefit from spending a day working at a franchise that’s already up and running.

Previous exposure to business is a distinct advantage, says Singh, who also looks for a strong work ethic and community involvement when assessing potential investors. There have been franchisees in the past who owned multiple units and numerous locations are family affairs, operated by family member teams.

Mamma’s target customers fall into two broad categories, including the legacy customer who grew up on the pizza, and the new generation customer looking for a gourmet touch and quality ingredients. It’s this latter group that may appreciate the new revamped look and feel. Also, the new technology that has been introduced in store is for a new-age franchisee, making it easier for them to operate the location. They still use the stone oven, but now it’s automated and easy to operate. It cooks faster, too, and allows for the efficient reheating of individual slices. “It gives a perfect slice,” says Singh. “Also, there are other cooking systems in sync with what’s on offer today.”

The benefits of investing with Mamma’s Pizza are many, notes Singh. There’s the longevity of the brand, the success of the product, and a strong understanding of the industry. Yes, he explains, it’s a heritage brand, but it’s also in sync with today’s new trends.

During the COVID outbreak, Singh says it was the system’s responsibility to support its franchisees. That support meant providing flexibility on royalties and advice on government support, and allowing third-party delivery. About 99 per cent of the brand’s locations were open throughout the pandemic, Singh explains, and in the downtown core, the same franchisees are still in business at the same locations.