Interview with Nan Eskenazi - Co-Founder of Good Earth Coffeehouse and Bakery

Date: MAY 17th, 2011

Topic: Interview with a CEO

Nan Eskenazi and her husband, Michael Going, founded Good Earth Coffeehouse and Bakery in 1991. Together they opened the first Good Earth in a Calgary neighbourhood. From that first café, she and her team have nurtured and grown Good Earth to over thirty cafes in western Canada. Both Good Earth founders hail from a background in retail development, having worked with developers, landlords, and retailers throughout Canada and the USA. Nan began her coffee career with the opening of a small coffee bar in a Seattle suburb in 1986. Nan and Michael live and work in Calgary, Alberta, where Good Earth has its corporate offices and commissary. And they enjoy great coffee every day!

BeTheBoss - Tell us about the Good Earth Coffeehouse concept.

Nan Eskenazi - Our cafes are based upon the idea of coffeehouses of old, places where people have gathered throughout history. Artists, scientists, philosophers, visionaries, and revolutionaries have gathered in coffeehouses to engage in their communities. At a Good Earth Coffeehouse you’ll find this tradition continues. We serve exceptional coffee and wholesome food with a down-to-earth attitude… all in a warm and casual coffeehouse environment.

Exceptional coffee is at the heart of Good Earth. We carefully choose the coffee we serve, and continually search for coffee that offers exceptional taste, unique to a region, a farm, even a season. We seek out farms that practice environmental sustainability, many of which are Rainforest Alliance Certified. We establish Direct Trade relationships with farmers, to help improve communities where coffee is grown. Our full espresso menu is based upon the Italian tradition of espresso. Our brewed coffees include single estates, blends, and featured seasonal coffees.

Our food is fresh and wholesome, and made with real down-to-earth ingredients our customers can identify and feel good about consuming. Our menu includes wholesome and hot breakfasts; fresh baked goods; hearty soups, stews and casseroles; Panini sandwiches; delightful salads; and delicious desserts. Hand-crafted cold drinks round out the menu.

A Good Earth Coffeehouse is distinctively designed to fit into the local community. Our cafes often include a communal table for groups, soft seating areas for relaxed conversation, furniture made from reclaimed wood, and local artwork. Environmental responsibility has been part of our mission for twenty years. Our cafes reflect this by maintaining recycling and composting programs, using green energy, and committing to improved sustainability as we grow.

BTB - How and when did you become involved with Good Earth Coffeehouse?

NE - My husband, Michael Going, and I founded Good Earth in 1991. We opened our first café with the idea of creating an authentic coffeehouse, a community gathering place. We wanted to create a business that was an extension of our values and our lifestyle.

BTB - What was your background prior to joining Good Earth?

NE - Both Michael and I came from a retail development background. Collectively, we had seen hundreds of business concepts and observed what made some succeed where others failed. Michael’s particular area of expertise had been, and continues to be, real estate. My passion has always been brand development and marketing. And of course we are both passionate about great coffee!

BTB - What are some of the advantages in being a Good Earth franchisee?

NE - Good Earth corporately manages site selection, lease negotiation, café design, construction and café commissioning, giving our Operating Partners (franchisees) a solid foundation for a successful business. Our Partners become experts in the Coffee industry and learn all aspects of running a coffeehouse through an intensive six week training program.

Our operating system has been developed and used successfully for over twenty years. With our focus on community comes the opportunity to connect with residents and businesses to build strong and lasting relationships. Our organization has created a valuable network of suppliers and a dedicated and creative corporate leadership team, all of whom are committed to the success of our franchise Partners.

BTB - Who is your ideal franchisee?

NE - Our ideal Partners are people who are passionate about …
great coffee and sharing the Good Earth experience with consumers; growing a profitable business while supporting the environment and the communities in which we conduct business; possessing a positive, can-do attitude towards work and life; and able to work within the constraints of a franchise system.

BTB - Tell us a little about the Coffee Market?

NE - Although there is a great deal of volatility in coffee prices right now, the coffee industry still maintains strong profit margins and remains a relatively affordable indulgence. “With 14 billion cups consumed in Canada every year, coffee is the most popular hot beverage in Canada. Premium blends, ethical products, and upscale flavours are attracting new consumers to this market.

Consumers, both young and old, have rediscovered these beverages and are attracted to the many varieties - hot and cold. Although coffee has historically been identified as a morning beverage, these new consumers will likely contribute to expanding traditional consumption patterns in the future.” (source Agri Food Canada website, http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC)

BTB - What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

NE - The industry, economy and peoples values change and evolve quickly so you have to be prepared to adapt quickly to new trends, preferences and economic factors. That being said, changes need to take place in a manner that respects the brand promise and core values. Essentially, the lesson is to remain true to one’s brand roots and values without being static in an ever-changing marketplace.

BTB - Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?

NE - We have an incredibly committed leadership team at Good Earth. Each person brings their own expertise and experience to the teamwork of building our brand and supporting our franchise Partners. I find working with our team very inspiring. We hold each other to the high standards and integrity of the Good Earth brand. And we have a lot of fun working with each other and our franchise Partners!

BTB - What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

NE - I think it is essential to look for a concept that you identify with on a personal level and make a commitment to, one in which there is a passion for the brand and company values that you share.

BTB - In your opinion, why do you think that Good Earth would be a great opportunity for someone?

NE - Becoming a Good Earth franchisee is a great opportunity to:

be your own boss serving a superior product in a relaxed atmosphere that will delight your customers; realize personal and financial goals while supporting the environment and community; bring your own passions, skills and experiences to help build your business; and be a part of a company that has a strong network of support and sharing of ideas.