Village Coffee’s is a licensing program designed for individuals who want to open a turnkey gourmet, community coffee shop without the high costs and restrictions of a traditional franchise. The Village Coffee license program is designed to provide more freedom, lower costs and a strong community marketing philosophy to help individuals build a business they can be proud of.
Top New Franchises recently had the pleasure of interviewing Village Coffee President Tommy Lowrey
Top New Franchises: Thanks for sharing your story with us, Tommy. How did you first get involved in the coffee business?
Tommy: I have always enjoyed coffee. Morning devotions with a cup of coffee is a Godsend. I tinkered around with a small roaster and green beans and began roasting my own blends some years ago. I was operating several seasonal businesses, and when I began looking for something that would provide steadier revenue, coffee was a natural choice.
Top New Franchises: What did you do in your prior life?
Tommy: I spent 20 years in management, developing systems first for the Air Force and then for a series of businesses I started. In 2000, I launched out and opened my first business, then a second. After that, we opened our 3 coffee shops. Now we are helping others to use our efficient business systems to achieve success in their own businesses.
Top New Franchises: How do you describe the Village Coffee license concept?
Tommy: Village Coffee is founded on a passion for coffee. We use the world’s highest quality coffee beans, expertly roasted and diligently brewed to create a variety of gourmet espressos and coffee blends. But Village Coffee is just as much about community as it is about coffee. The inspiration for our name was, in part, the village square that used to be the central gathering place in most small towns across America. The village square was a place where neighbors would gather to socialize, exchange ideas, debate current issues or just be together. And while few towns still have lively village squares, Village Coffee shops are filling the void, providing a warm friendly, gathering spot where neighbors, friends and family can enjoy a warm welcome, hot drinks, and pleasant company.
As a business opportunity, I’d describe it as easy and affordable. We help with financing, we have a real estate office to help secure a great location and even negotiates the rent, and improvement allowance for our customers. We have a track record in finding great locations for our customers. We also have a design team and setup team to make sure the store is ready and Village Coffee approved. Also for what we offer in our package, the price can’t be beat.
Top New Franchises: When did you launch the Village Coffee franchise/license program? How many franchise/licensees are up and running?
Tommy: We began marketing and hired our sales team in May of 2007. We currently have 4 stores in development and about 14 in the planning and financing stages. It takes about 4 to 6 months to get the store opened, sometimes longer if the site is being custom built.
Top New Franchises: What do you see as the key difference between your “license” arrangement and the typical “franchise” arrangement?
Tommy: Our licensing program is designed to give the licensee much more freedom in what they can do. Franchisees generally have little input to color schemes, furniture, pictures, etc.. With us we include them, even in the design and layout of their store. Our stores have a warm relaxing feel to them, you want to walk in, kick your shoes off and stay a while. (Yes, we do have this happen.) People need a family-friendly place to visit, and we let the owners make it more personally theirs.
Top New Franchises: Where are you looking to expand? What types of markets and demographics work best?
Tommy: The continental US. We believe a median household income of $35,000 and at least a population of 10,000 around your location will make a good return on your investment.
Top New Franchises: What is the need in the marketplace that Village Coffee owners will meet?
Tommy: Village Coffee coffee shops have a lot to offer the community: freshly baked muffins for breakfast, espresso macchiato whenever, meeting new folks. But one of the most rewarding things to see is the wide range of people that come through our doors - moms, factory workers, pastors, neighborhood kids, professors, and college students - and they all have the same basic human needs. The need for companionship is so easily met by a coffee shop. It’s a friendly, hospitable space and the sociable nature of coffee allows people to relax and open up to each other.
Top New Franchises: Tell us a little bit about the kind of person who would make a good Village Coffee franchise/license owner.
Tommy: Our licensees are from all walks of life. We have a retired store manager, an IRS auditor, bankers, truck dispatchers, you name it. What they share is a passion for great coffee, great people, and the magic that happens when you bring them both together.
Our tag line is “Making our customers day better one drink at a time” They would need to be someone who stands behind this.
Top New Franchises: What qualities are important to you in selecting new franchise/licensees for your system?
Tommy: We want to build our team with integrity and a great work ethic. Our employees love working for our company, and we want owners who will be good managers but treat their staff with a spirit of respect. The way the staff is treated will be reflected in the stores atmosphere, I guarantee it.
Top New Franchises: What makes a good franchisee/licensee?
Tommy: A people-person who listens to the customers and staff, who can have fun but who is also a good money manager, who is organized, and can maintain an efficient and clean store.
Top New Franchises: How do Village Coffee franchise/license owners attract new customers? How do they create repeat business?
Tommy: We focus on customer service and grassroots “Village” marketing techniques, including maintaining a lively and friendly store environment, consistent drink preparation, suggestive selling and sampling, take complimentary drinks to nearby businesses, marketing our gift card program, and active community involvement and sponsorships.
Top New Franchises: Of the training and support services you provide franchise/licensees, which do you think are most valuable to their long-term success?
Tommy: Besides the drink making and store operations I would have to say, make sure you let the customer know you appreciate them. They usually spend between $3.00 and $4.00 dollars per visit. You need to let them know that you appreciate them, and always give them a reason to return again and again.
Top New Franchises: I understand you are outsourcing services to FC Dadson and possibly other service providers. How does outsourcing help enable your growth and/or better service your owners?
Tommy: A key growth strategy of Village Coffee is to partner with top quality service providers to bolster our in-house team. For instance, FC Dadson has a great reputation and years of experience designing and building out similar store concepts. Troy and his team are great. We are also partnering with top quality roasters, suppliers and real estate professionals. Harnessing their expertise enables us to provide first rate support for our licensees without having to add costly staff and overhead.
Top New Franchises: What role does technology play in your organization?
Tommy: Great Question. Technology plays a key role in the efficiency of our operation. Our electronic POS system provides in house gift card and loyalty card processing. Our licensees have the capability to log into their store’s POS system remotely to check the status of each store. We can look at the sales, find out who is on shift, look at yesterday or last weeks sales report.
Additionally, licensees can opt for having digital video cameras in their stores that they can access remotely via the Internet. It provides security for the employees and security for the owner.
Top New Franchises: What makes Village Coffee different from other coffee franchise/license opportunities?
Tommy: Our program is really structured to benefit the licensees:
The reason this is a unique opportunity is because you have a name and products that really can compete with the big boys in the industry. People continually say that our products stand out in the marketplace. There are so many names out there, but Village Coffee just says it all. It’s inviting.
Top New Franchises: Does Village Coffee have a mission other than creating a profitable business? Is giving back to the community an integral part of your or your licensees businesses?
Tommy: Yes we want to give the community a safe place that even their kids will be welcome. The environment that we have is a place where mothers can come in, kick off their shoes, and put their feet up on the couch while reading their favorite book. Also, business professionals, church groups, etc. have a great place to meet.
We want to help foster a spirit of community, and a spirit of giving. Fundraising and charity involvement are a fundamental part of the Village Coffee philosophy.
Top New Franchises: Thanks very much for sharing your vision of Village Coffee and the Village Coffee licensing opportunity.
Tommy: Thank you.