Growing A Franchise

Sunday, April 17, 2011

With hard work, imagination and business savvy, Angie and Brad Barber now have Cabin Coffee establishments in Clear Lake and Mason City plus four franchise stores. And they're not done expanding.

In December 2002 the couple started the original Cabin Coffee on Main Street in Clear Lake. When they started to remodel, Angie looked around and asked if they could really do it. Brad just started in, she said.

Even then, the goal was to establish franchise stores. So Cabin Coffee Franchising Inc. was started 4½ years ago. A franchise store rather than starting from scratch means a much greater rate of success, Brad said.

But a lot of people don't realize that Clear Lake is the original store, Angie said. "We didn't purchase a franchise," she said. "People also don't realize we supply to other houses, some online." Franchising headquarters are in Clear Lake. The franchise stores are in St. Charles, Minn.; Forest City; Waterloo; and La Crosse, Wis.

In each franchise store, the owner is local and hires local people, from eight to 12 full- and part-time workers.

The four franchise stores all just kind of happened, Brad said. Three owners were customers. The Barbers, who will be attending a franchise convention in Milwaukee at the end of April, said it's been slow growth to this point, but "we really don't want 20 or 30 a year," Brad said.

For franchises, the process begins with simply talking to potential franchisees to determine if it is a good fit. Next they move on to a franchise agreement and circular. Brad does background and credit checks. Agreements usually last five years and can be renewed.

There is a $30,000 fee to cover what the Barbers put into the new store.

Franchise stores keep the Cabin Coffee name and the slogan: "Just be happy and have fun." Other fees include a 2½ percent service fee for 24/7 support and a 2½ percent royalty fee, both based on gross sales. Other franchisors charge 8-11 percent on gross sales, the Barbers said.

There is assistance in site selection, negotiating lease or purchase and initial construction.

Training in Clear Lake and Mason City is followed by training in the franchise store. Brad and Angie spend several weeks in each new store.

The Barbers say they look for people who are willing to take a risk but don't have the knowledge or experience. They want people who are willing to serve and who can be good businessmen, not just ask, "What's in it for me?" Cabin Coffee is listed with the Small Business Administration as a referral, which speeds up the financial process.

Training for franchisees and staff is at a much higher level than average, Brad said. There are tests and quizzes for every barista (Italian for bartender). Hiring from within is encouraged.

In keeping with the Clear Lake and Mason City stores, all of the franchises have similar appearances. One unique communication for all stores is the website where franchise operators can get online with any of the stores for information, such as a point-of-sale problem. The website address is

Brad and Angie felt both of them should work in Cabin Coffee if "we really believed in our dream," said Brad. They started in Clear Lake because they love living there and wanted their roots there.

Both have had great business experience from other companies and both have entrepreneurs in their families, increasing their business savvy.

"Angie is the biggest part of our success," said Brad, "dealing with day-to-day questions and training." Lake, M.C. Cabin Coffee stores: • Clear Lake "" 303 Main Ave.; phone 641-357-6500 • Mason City "" 1304 Fourth St. S.E.; phone 641-423-6502

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303 Main Avenue
Clear Lake, IA

Phone: 641-357-6500
Fax: 641-357-6538

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