Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with John Baker, Co-founder of Boxcar Social, located in Toronto, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Boxcar is a group of cafes and bars around Toronto. Our focus is on curating rotating lists of coffees, natural wines, craft beers, and whiskeys for our customers to enjoy. Due to the nature of our rotating offerings, education has become a key pillar of our business as we walk our customers through the selection processes.
Tell us about yourself
At Boxcar, we only offer products that we're passionate about. We first started eight years ago with the goal of combining a highly curated coffee program with a bar program of equal intensity. We're motivated by the amazing products our suppliers are creating, and delivering them to our customers in an inviting environment where people are encouraged to learn about what they are consuming.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We've been able to grow our company from 1 employee to over 100. We're very proud of that accomplishment because we've worked hard to show our team that there is room to grow within the company, which isn't always the case in the restaurant business. We've also been able to grow without sacrificing the quality that has become associated with the boxcar brand. This has allowed us to develop partnerships with seemingly unconnected businesses in different industries because our brand has come to represent more than just being a cafe.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
At the end of the day, you are responsible for the outcomes of the business. Many people rely on you and your partners to deliver on the vision and ensure that the business succeeds. As employees remain with the company, you're always trying to help move them upward within it, so constant growth is important. Without it, it is easy to lose good people and become complacent in what your business really is. But with growth comes increased risk, more difficulty in quality assurances, and often less profitability. So it's a bit of a catch 22 and one that my partners and I are cognizant of and take very seriously.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Focus on, and protect your brand at all costs. It's very easy to get laser-focused on the dollars and cents coming into (and out of your business). Not to say that isn't important, but it's just the table stakes of running any successful operation. If your goal is to expand beyond the basic definition of your business (for us, a cafe) then you need to look at your brand equity as the most valuable thing you control. If managed properly, your brand can open doors to partners and industries that you wouldn't typically foresee as an entrepreneur.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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