Matthew Corrin is Founder and CEO of Freshii.
1) Freshii is to McDonald’s as _____ is to ____?
Fresh is to frozen.
2) How’s business in the Healthy Convenience Food category?
Ask me January 1, 2011 once we have 65 units open and operating in 15 cities around the world, including Dubai, NYC, LA, Orange County, Vienna, Houston, DC, Denver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Chicago and Nashville.
I THINK and HOPE I can say, “GREAT.” Time will tell.
3) With nearly 100 new locations on the horizon, how are you managing to keep Freshii on-brand?
The make-or-break is with our $30,000/year store managers and their $9/hour part-time staff. Most of the time we get it right. Sometimes we don’t. When we don’t, we use all means possible at a corporate level to make good and fix a mistake in real time.
4) Do you have any good examples of staying true to Freshii’s sustainability manifesto at the expense of business growth?
Our Freshii Green Mission is simply that: a mission. To us it means to constantly strive to be more and more ‘green.’ We don’t take on a green initiative if it will significantly compromise profit – that wouldn’t be prudent to our shareholders or franchise partners. However, we are proud of the steps we’ve taken to date and look forward to opening new stores so we can continue to leverage economies of scale to implement additional green initiatives.
As an example, we’ve stayed away from building stores with LEED certification because of the significant additional cost, and the ROI pressure. I think one day this will change. We have been able to implement almost totally biodegradable packaging, as well as operational techniques that have eliminated the need for dishwashers in our stores – and the additional chemical, water and energy waste that comes with commercial grade dishwashers.
So, we do everything we can and have big plans for the coming year.
5) How important is it to keep the Freshii brand separate from the “Matthew Corrin” brand?
In Toronto, our home market, I get recognized a lot – at the airport, in line at Starbucks, within our restaurants – and actually really like it because it reinforces the sense of passion people have for Freshii and their willingness to say it to my face, sometimes positive, sometimes constructive. My friends call me a D-List celebrity.
In the infancy of our growth, attaching myself to the brand really helped generate media attention and sell franchises, which in turn helped drive our company growth. However, the concern with me being too tied to the brand was what it could do to the valuation, should I ever choose to step away from the company and no longer associate myself with it as intimately as I do today.
The good news is that in every other market that we’ve opened or are opening in – Chicago, DC, Denver, Dubai, LA, etc. – nobody knows me and nobody cares about me. The ‘buzz’ is now mostly derived around the Freshii brand, itself, and is not tied to one person. I guess that makes me an E- or F-Lister now . . .
6) How much return on investment are you getting from the company’s social media marketing spend?
I noticed that as Freshii grew from one, to two, to 15 stores, there was a particular demographic that felt we had ‘sold out’ and lost our ‘local’ appeal. I was, and am, extremely sensitive to this, as I saw what it eventually did to Starbucks. Focusing social media on a local level has been really helpful in keeping that important demographic engaged with our brand and motivated to support our local restaurants and be evangelists for Freshii.
7) What’s one of the common marketing mistakes you see coming from less experienced entrepreneurs in the social media space?
I’m more interested in companies that use social media really well, then we try to put our own spin on it and launch it to our customer as fast as possible. For example, we took the Supersize Me movie and launched Lettuce Size Me a few years ago. It was very buzz-worthy and generated national media attention for several weeks.
8) What’s your leadership style?
Talk a big talk and then walk a big walk.
That is: Dream big and then work my butt off to reach those dreams. Everyone on my team subscribes to this philosophy. We have a motto internally: Merely ‘good’ managers need not apply. You will only fit into our organization if you’re a ‘super-achiever.’ It took us some time to figure that out – but it’s really helped. It’s the same reason that I personally fly to every single market to perform the final stage interview with our Store Managers. I need to make sure they embody the ‘super-achiever’ mindset.
In fact, I’m flying to San Francisco as I type this to perform exactly that: a final round interview. Then I go to LA. And then Dubai. My wife loves it . . .
9) How do you make sure your employees are growing in their roles?
Give them the message that they can be anything they want within Freshii – all they need to do is prove it.
We reward for results and not tenure.
10) Do you think Canada does a good job of supporting its young entrepreneurs?
I think it could do a better job – and I’m about to put my money where my mouth is with a really cool website I am launching with my brother. Think American Idol meets Monster.com meets TMZ meets a talent agency. The domain is still a secret, but our tagline is: “Rising Stars Wanted.”
Can I come back for another interview once we go live?