Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Steve Merling, co-founder of Q-ZN Solutions Inc., based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Tell us all about your business...
Q-ZN (pronounced "cuisine") Solutions Inc. is a virtual kitchen community. We rent out turn-key kitchens in our facilities to delivery-only (and pick-up) restaurants. UBS estimates that the online food delivery market will grow ten times in the next ten years, from $35 billion currently to $365 billion by 2030. Furthermore, Morgan Stanley, 40% of total restaurant sales - $220 billion - could be up for grabs for delivery by 2023, compared with current sales of around $30 billion. Online food delivery could grow by a 16% annually compounded rate over the next five years. Our solution gives restaurants a cost-efficient, fully functioning kitchen that maximizes profitability with low capital expenditures in a delivery-optimized centrally located space. Our first location is operational, and our goal is to build four more locations in the Quebec market within 18 months.
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
Q-ZN was born out of necessity. Our business (The Eventure Group, Inc., an event production agency that produces large-scale events across North America) was essentially shut down due to COVID-19. We had just built out a brand new event venue that launched in February 2020. The pandemic hit in March. Such bad timing. We were faced with a difficult decision. Do we "wait it out," or do we "fail fast," redefine our space and move forward. Our event production agency is entirely vertical. One of our divisions is our catering company. Pre-pandemic, we filtered numerous inquiries from caterers and restauranteurs looking to sub-rent out our catering kitchen facility. We were never really able to entertain these requests but, when the event business died, we decided to capitalize on these kitchen rental request and turn it into a business. So we combined necessity with our passion for food and foodservice that led us to cultivate a community in support of local food entrepreneurs to grow their businesses through access to facilities, distribution, shared resourcing, and industry expertise. These local business owners now have a place to thrive in an environment where productivity and innovation are supported and championed. Also, we have been able to shave months off in permitting & licensing, thus getting the member's operations up and running in the shortest period.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Getting our first location built out and operational in under a year. We went from a conceptual idea to an operating facility in under six months. To have secured multinational brands at our facilities like MrBeast Burger and Wendy's is also pretty cool.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
Being a business owner is just like being a parent. As the dad of a four-year-old boy and twin six-month-old girls, Q-ZN has become my fifth child. The business needs to be nurtured, coddled, and cared for.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Get Going. Stop looking at starting your business and do it. This is the hardest part.
- Be persistent. Fail fast when things don't go according to plan. Giving up should not be an option.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Lean on your network, actively look for mentorship, and reach out for support.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
In about a year from now, we expect to have another four locations (2 more in Montreal, Gatineau, Quebec City) across Quebec. Once we dominate the Quebec market, we plan to move westward into Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and hopefully, we will end up in BC within the next few years. Obviously, Q-ZN is a business, and we want it to be profitable, but we also want our tenants to be beneficial, and that is our 'raison d'etre'; it's a big part of the reason we're doing this.
Where can people find you?
Q-ZN Solutions Inc.
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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