Opening a Biggby Coffee Shop: Interview with Dave

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Opening a Biggby Coffee Shop: Interview with Dave

Have you ever wanted to open a Biggby Coffee shop? If you have this is a great interview for you! 

You can listen to the full podcast at - or listen to it on YouTube further down on this page.

The Journey of Dave Opening Up His Biggby Coffee Shop

John Kinnunen:                 Hey, everybody. This is John from How are you today? I'm hoping you guys are having a great week. This next interview is Dave from Biggby Coffee. He opened up his first Biggby Coffee right down the road from me actually. Just from us working out at the same gym together, we got to know each other a little bit and I thought it would be a great interview to do and it turned out to be a good one. Without saying anything more, here it is in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Take it away.

Announcer:                        I'd like to welcome you to podcast brought to you by someone who used to sleep with his socks on until he was 10, John Kinnunen.

John Kinnunen:                 All right. Hello, everybody. This is John from I'm here today with Dave from Biggby Coffee here in Fowlerville, Michigan. He recently just opened up probably about three, four weeks ago, yeah, on the 17th, right.

Dave:                                    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Kinnunen:                 How has it been going so far?

Dave:                                    It's going great. My business is picking up, did a lot of couponing the first couple weeks, and we've got two more mailings going out for couponings, but so far, it's going real well. My numbers are right where I want them to be.

John Kinnunen:                 Have you always been working for yourself or is this something new for you and how'd you get into the coffee industry really?

Dave:                                    This is really new for me. This is outside my wheelhouse. We looked at this business probably 10, 12 years ago and we were actually looking at doing this with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and timing just wasn't right. I retired three years ago, going on four years ago as a police officer and my wife said it was time for me to get a job so, that's how this played out. I didn't want to work for anyone. I wanted to go in business on my own and that's how I ended up with going with Biggby. They lay it out to where it's pretty easy as far as following the steps through. They train us. They bring in people to help train us so, it's been going really good.

John Kinnunen:                 You said that you've been thinking about doing this for 10 to 12 years, now?

Dave:                                    Yes.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah?

Dave:                                    Yeah, yeah.

John Kinnunen:                 How long did it take you to open up your first Biggby Coffee?

Dave:                                    We started in August of 2015 and that's when we purchased our franchise. We opened the 17th of January of this year, 2017. It took us almost a year and a half to go through the process. Part of it was on us because we were looking at different locations in Fowlerville and we had one spot in particular that we were looking at that was on the north side of 96 and the gentleman was going to build a building for us. That went on for about six months and then, we finally came back to the spot on the south side of the bridge and we've been happy ever since.

John Kinnunen:                 You've been happy in this location so far? What's made you want to come to this location? What made this a good coffee location for you?

Dave:                                    Initially, when we started the process with Biggby, Biggby gave us a couple choices where they wanted stores to go. One was in Williamston and one was here in Fowlerville. Doing my research on what's best for Biggby is one, having a drive-through and two, being close to the highway. I've got to say I'm probably one of closest Biggby's to the highway. There's a few others that are in the same boat that I'm in. Then, having a drive-through, 30 to 40% of our business goes through the drive-through. Those were two key components that I was looking for.

                                                When I went to the Williamston area, I couldn't locate any buildings that one, that was close enough to the highway and two, that would have a drive-through in it. This location already had a drive-through. It's used to be a coffee shop so the drive-through was already there and so, this made it a really easy choice for us and being as close as we are. We're a 10th of a mile for the east bound traffic and 2/10ths of a mile for the west bound traffic.

John Kinnunen:                 You'd say the highway is a big key factor in having a coffee shop and a drive-through. I'd have to agree with both of those. Any time I go to a coffee shop, any kind of fast-food really, I usually go through the drive-through. You're usually in a hurry. You don't want to get out of your car, especially here in Michigan in the cold weather.

Dave:                                    Right, right.

John Kinnunen:                 Did you look at other coffee franchises besides Biggby or was it always Biggby or did you look at Starbucks? I think there's Colorado Coffee, too, or something like that. If you did, what made Biggby your choice?

Dave:                                    I would say no, we didn't look at any other coffee shops. Biggby was our choice and it goes back to just being a Biggby fanatic myself. They've been open for 20 some years and I've been going to Biggby since they've opened so kind of a loyalty to the product. Not to knock Starbucks, I think they've got a great business and they've got a great marketing scheme. Just I like the flavors of Biggby better and I think that goes for a lot of people. You're either a Starbucks fan or you're a Biggby fan.

John Kinnunen:                 Right. You have to be behind the brand to really want to open up business. It could be even if we're talking about like a fast-food restaurant, you'd have to be behind that brand really, open it up to really sell it. It's like that with anything really. You have to like the product. Yeah, I'd have to agree with you there.

                                                What was the process like? You said you started a few years ago before. You said a lot of it was you looking at different locations, but what's the process like? You go, you buy the franchise and then what? Do they help you pick the location or do you pick it? Then what's the steps involved in a franchise?

Dave:                                    For us, prior to me even meeting with Biggby to purchase our franchise agreement, I had already did my homework. I came out here for Fowlerville. I did traffic counts. I got online. I looked at the county's traffic surveys on what they had done in the previous years. Then I had actually talked to the landlord and gotten into the building, looked around the building. I had an idea where my rent could be at. Biggby has a top end limit on where the rent can be and so, I knew where my rent had to be.

                                                Then after going through that part of the process, basically, me and my wife made a decision that hey, this is a go. We're going to do this. When we signed our franchise agreement, Biggby had a number of people in that same meeting with us. One was their accounting firm. Two was the person that they used for locating properties and then obviously, the Biggby people that were there in the signing.

                                                While going through that process, there's a lot of things that come up while you're trying to get going and one of the things was the brokerage firm that Biggby actually used was CBRE and I got to tell you that I did 90% of the legwork, 95% of the legwork, and I would basically get an attorney for it, if I was to go into another Biggby on my own, I would get an attorney and have it drawn up that way.

                                                That process once we had signed our franchise agreement and we moved forward, it was then trying to find the property. I had already located the property. That just takes time. There's a lot of negotiations that go on in between the property owner and myself and the brokerage firm. Then, it's finding a builder to build out the inside of the Biggby and it's done to Biggby's specs. It was quite a lengthy process and that's probably why it took so long to get through it. Would we do it again? I don't know. Give me a few years in this or a year and I'll have a little better idea how well we end up doing with the Biggby, but yeah.

John Kinnunen:                 All right. What has been the hardest part about owning your own business? You used to work for the city or the county or something like that, but going from that to owning your own business, what's been the hardest part about becoming an entrepreneur really?

Dave:                                    I would say at least with the Biggby part, hiring the right people. They told me that I had to have 20 people to start. They would not allow me to open my doors without 20 people. I ended up with like 24 baristas, one of which was my own son and right now, I'm down to 15 and so you lose probably 5 or 6 people right off the bat. They didn't show up. That I would say the big part-

John Kinnunen:                 Staff.

Dave:                                    Yeah, staffing's got to be one of the harder parts and I've got a great staff now. It took a little bit to get to this point to where I feel comfortable enough now that I can actually leave and they can close up or they can open up the store, giving out keys to some of the employees. I would have to say that those first two weeks of being in business is like hell week because you're so involved. You have to be on top of everything and there's just really no time for rest. We opened up at 6 AM. I was here at 4:30 AM. I didn't leave 'til 10, 10:30 every day of the week for like two weeks straight. I was sleep deprived and then on top of that, if you lose a couple people during that process, just it really makes it tough. They were smart to have us have a good number of people to start with staffing it.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah. I've been in business for myself now going on six years now and I'd have to agree with you, staffing is one of the hardest things to do as a business owner because like you said, a lot of them sometimes don't even show up for the first day. Some of them don't even show up for the interview. Having multiple people is I think key because even when I'm fully staffed, I still make sure I have like maybe two to three people more than what I really need because at some point, especially in the spring, that's like my highest turnover time. That's when change crews basically is in the spring. A lot of people will leave and then, I'll get a new crew.

                                                That's been going on now for six years like clockwork, but another month or two, I'll be rotating my crew, not by choice, but because they're just going on to college or summer jobs, mowing lawns, just doing things like that. Yeah, staffing I would agree is pretty difficult.

                                                My background is I have a master's degree in architecture and I don't have a business degree, but do you happen to have a business degree or does-

Dave:                                    No, I do not. I definitely ... This was out of the wheelhouse and the first month now being in it, my feet are wet now and there's not too much coming at me that I don't feel like I can handle. I've touch based on ... One of the things with staffing, I know your listeners are probably if they're looking at going into business, is there something that you can do while you're looking for these candidates and for me, one of the things that was key is I felt like I had to have something else that I'm going to be offering some of these people that I'm hiring.

                                                One, wages, you're paying minimum wage to a person and there's got to be something that makes it worth their while to come in. I would have to say that during the interview process, the one thing that I told every employee that I hired was, "I want you singing. I want you dancing. I want you acting goofy behind my counter. If you want to come in with red hair, come in with red hair. I want you to be yourself," and I think with every one of them when I said that, they got a big smile on their face and they said, "Hey, you don't know what you're asking for," and I said, "I know exactly what I'm asking for. I want that person in you that wants to come and have fun at work."

John Kinnunen:                 Right.

Dave:                                    Because it's got to be fun. I think if you polled my staff, most of them they really do like coming to work. They like meeting the people that come in and sit around the coffee shop and they like getting to know the people that are coming in, and I think that that for me, when I hired these and all I have are ladies so I call them girls, my girls, they're like family to me.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    I want to come across that, "Hey, if I can help you out, I want to help you out." I think that that's probably a key thing when you're looking for staff is-

John Kinnunen:                 Treat them like family?

Dave:                                    Treat them like family and make it a fun atmosphere if you can at all costs. I had one person that I had hired in the beginning of the process and I could just sense that the rest of the group was not ... It just wasn't a great fit and there were some little things here and there, but it took care of itself when that person decided to move on. I would say that get a handle on it quick.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah, yeah. I'm glad you touched on that a little bit because I'm in the restaurant industry as well and my crew becomes part of my family. There's nothing I wouldn't do for one of my crew members as long as I can do it. I've helped them get cars before where they pay me back with their paychecks, only ones that have been there long time do I do that for. I don't want to do that for somebody and then them just walk away. I've helped them pay their electric bills before. It becomes like a family. That's the best way to describe it.

                                                There is one time I hired somebody. Her name was [Carrie 17:05] and she worked for me and she worked for Home Depot. She ended up going just working just for Home Depot and I asked her why and she said, "Because it's funner there." I was like, "It's fun? It's more fun there? Why? What makes that place more fun?" She said it was just she was cashier there and she liked how they ran little contests and things like that for the cashiers and things like that. That gave me an idea where I started running little contests for people that work for me. Who can sell the most Duke's [sized up 17:37] or something and then I give them a $50 gift card to Outback at the end of the month, but yeah, you make it fun for them and they actually want to come to work.

                                                I had a partner and a lot of them didn't like working with him and I didn't understand why, but a lot of them said it was because I made the work environment more enjoyable, more fun. It's not like I didn't let them work. They actually worked more for me than they did for him, but yeah, just touching on that reminded me that yeah, it is like a family. You better like your employees because they're going to be with you a lot of time. You're going to spend more time with them than you do your wife and your kids sometimes.

                                                What do you wish you would've known going into this that you know now, now that you've been in business for a few weeks? You're still new to this, but is there anything that you wish you would've known at the beginning that would've made it a little more easier or is it still too young to answer that question?

Dave:                                    No, I wish I would've before jumping right in with Biggby, I wish I would've maybe went and worked for a Biggby store so I had a little understanding on the background of the store. One of the ladies that I have actually working for me, they are considering a Biggby and I told her, I said, "Hey, when the year gets through and you're still interested in doing this, I'll open my books up to you. You can see exactly what I'm doing," and so she has an interest in it, which is good.

                                                When we got into this, it's mostly been me. My wife's involved, too, but it's been me. I went and did the training. It was like six weeks of being a barista at a Biggby store. I happened to do it in Jackson and then, going from there back to home office and them training me how to be a manager, how to be a trainer, how to be a barista. There's a lot coming at you and once we had started, the first week of training here on site, I've got an ops mentor who guides me along and we came back in the back of house and then, she started showing me how to record some of the stuff for the accounting part of it. I guess that part was the part that I didn't know anything about and seemed overwhelming at the time, but now, it's gotten better.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    There's a lot to jump in in opening a business. There's-

John Kinnunen:                 Right.

Dave:                                    Then not having the help of a franchise to guide you, you're really going to want to have some type of business background I would think.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah, like a basic accounting class or something like that.

Dave:                                    Yes, yes.

John Kinnunen:                 I always suggest no matter what you're going to get into, whether it's owning your own construction firm or owning your own pizza place, food truck, whatever, go work for a food truck or a pizza place or construction company so that you can get some of the basic knowledge and understand how things work. You go from there really. I suggest that to everybody who's going to be opening up a business.

                                                Obviously the accounting part, I didn't have any accounting background and I think it was my first month in business. I think it was after my first two days, I was like, "Man, I got to come up with a program here," and coming from an architectural background and working with spreadsheets, I put together my own spreadsheet and my accountant still ... I just switched accountants and she was like, "Do you use QuickBooks?" I said, "No, I put together my own," and she was like, "Wow, it actually works, too. You did a really good job," but yeah, I would have to agree with you on that.

                                                Owning a franchise, you have a franchise name behind you. There's a process like you said. What would you say is the best part and the worst part about owning a franchise? Is there a worst part even?

Dave:                                    Oh, yeah. Being in a franchise, there's no ... At least for me, they've got it set like if, for example, they're running coconut milk in one of the stores or doing a test with coconut milk. I've had customers literally walk in, ask for coconut milk, and turn around and walk out because I don't have it and that's not something I can just add to my menu or I've had requests, "Hey, cheesecake would be nice or brownies would be nice."

John Kinnunen:                 Right.

Dave:                                    Not even on my list. I can't even purchase those things.

John Kinnunen:                 Right.

Dave:                                    They limit in some areas, but then in the big grand scheme of it, they've been around for 22 years or 23 years, they've got it figured out what's selling, what's not selling.

John Kinnunen:                 Right.

Dave:                                    That is helpful. Now for me personally, you come in my store, my store's a different store. I've got a conference room. I've got a huge fireplace in the middle.

John Kinnunen:                 I love that fireplace by the way.

Dave:                                    Yeah. For my type, some of the people that would be coming in in the evening hours, they might like a different choice of something different to eat to sit down and I can't offer them that.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    There's pluses and minuses on both sides of it, but as far as guidance goes, they're watching my books. They're making sure that everything looks good behind the scenes.

John Kinnunen:                 Right.

Dave:                                    That's helpful, plus the product. I'm putting their product out there. It's their name.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    That's about all I can say about it.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    There is pros and cons.

John Kinnunen:                 Right, right.

Dave:                                    The pros outweigh the cons, yeah.

John Kinnunen:                 Right, obviously. I would have to say since I'm an independent, one of the nice things is being able to put whatever I want on the menu. On the menu, I have an employee that says, "Oh, this would be great to put on there." Then we try it out and if we like it, we put it on the menu the next day. Where you, there's a whole process. You'd have to submit it to Biggby. They'd have to do a bunch of testing, but just like you said, they know what works and what doesn't work, and they know what sells and what doesn't sell usually.

Dave:                                    Right.

John Kinnunen:                 It's like that older person that's set in their ways though. You can't get them to change sometimes and that kind of stinks, but having that name behind you means everything.

Dave:                                    [I agree 25:01].

John Kinnunen:                 I wish I could've opened a franchise when I got into business, but just some of their requirements sometimes are just outrageous, just what they want you to have in liquid and assets and how much money they want you to have on hand and things like that, but do you think you'll expand in the future? I know you said give yourself a year or something, but when you went into this, did you think, "I'm going to open up and make three or four of these or ... "

Dave:                                    Absolutely. Initially when we went into this, obviously, our thoughts were are we one and done or would we go into this and do more? Believe it or not, my second location, I've already got picked out. If this goes the way I feel like it's going to go, then in a year from now, we'll be approaching Biggby and looking at another store.

John Kinnunen:                 That's awesome.

Dave:                                    Yeah. How many stores? My personal goal, to have four, one for each of my kids and then, we have our original store, but that's a goal and we'll see if it ever transpires to that, but right now, we're getting this one going and hopefully, it'll keep going the way it should and we'll be looking at another store.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah. That's awesome. That was always my goal, too, was to expand. Right now, I expanded to two stores and we're getting ready to downsize to just one store. I got a partner that's going to go work, do something else so I'm going to take a little while to regroup and we'll see what happens.

                                                Obviously, they helped you pick out the location. They told you if it was going to be good or not. What was the best thing that you did for your grand opening that made it a success? A lot of people are opening up their own business or their own restaurant and really, if you botch the grand opening, it's hard to recover from that. What was some of the great things about Biggby and the process?

Dave:                                    One of the things that I did is early on with Facebook, I got on there. I started that page probably six months ahead of time and then, just kept putting little blips out on it and little blips here and there. Then eventually when it got closer, we did obviously, "The grand opening is this day." I had to go by the franchise standards, I had to spend $5,000 right off the bat for my grand opening and we did EDDMs, which is mass mailings.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    I had a lot of those coupons come back. Was that a success? I would say yes. Now the couponing that I did do was we had Red Bull Freezes Talls for $1.50. A Red Bull costs me $1.70 so I'm giving product away in a lot of the couponing. It's about building your customer base. I understand that, too. Was the EDMs my best option? I don't know. I got on the [blue boards 28:39] for the highway. I think that that's going to be a huge play for me.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    I did the flags out in front of the store. My money maybe would've been a little better spent maybe if I had put a big billboard out on the highway. They're real expensive.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    They're like $1,700 a month, but would that have given me a better draw from the highway in the months to come? I'm not sure, but I would say that Biggby, our marketing days, one of the days, what we did is we made probably 100 drinks that we made and we distributed out to the businesses in the community and left some coupons with them when we did that. I think that was real good so the community knows, "Hey, we're here," and they get to sample some of our stuff. I think sampling is pretty big, but yeah, that was what we had to go through for our grand opening. I'd say the Facebooking thing, that was crazy and I think you were part of it with us when we did that giving a couple cups away, you gave pizza, and I had 46,000 views.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    Which is just absolutely a ridiculous number. Then we also did a free day where we gave stuff away free to the public.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    That turned out to be just total chaos. We had kids coming in two and three times ordering four drinks at a time and doing that part over again, I would put more control on that.

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah.

Dave:                                    That was just a total ... It was chaotic as can be.

John Kinnunen:                 Giving away drinks for free, you did the mass mailing, which I have done, and social media is huge nowadays. You got to be on social media so, starting that early. Those are all really good ideas and really good things to do.

                                                I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me and hope that you have success in the future and I'm sure I'll see you around so just thank you.

Dave:                                    Thank you.

John Kinnunen:                 All right, guys. Thank you for tuning in. That turned out to be a great interview. I hope you guys got something out of it. As always, we'll see you next time. Talk to you later.

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