Franchisee in Action: Van Go Coffee

By Wendy Laursen

This article appeared in Issue 1#3 (Mar/Apr 2007) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

A Family on the Go

"It is a lifestyle,” says Van Go Coffee franchisee, Craig Currie.

It is a lifestyle that, for Craig, is the ideal combination of business and pleasure. “My customers are like friends. We chat every day and it is a great environment because we are mobile, not locked away in a shop.”

Craig has been in the catering industry for 18 years and operating a family business for the past 12 years. Prior to buying the Van Go franchise for Whitehorse, Melbourne, he was successfully operating a café located in a super centre in Melbourne.

The café had won many awards but Craig found that the rising costs and complications associated with employing staff made him think about change. He still wanted to be in business but wanted more flexibility, stability, and the potential for greater income.

“Once you have run your own business it is very had to consider ever going back to being an employee. The opportunities are endless working for yourself and you know that you have to make it happen. You have no room for being complacent. You are always thinking and trying to stay ahead of the game.”

Craig assessed a range of franchise options, looking for one that would suit him and his family. “Will it be profitable? Will it be fun? How will it impact our life?” The supportiveness of his wife and three kids was a great asset throughout the selection process and has continued to be a key factor in his success as a Van Go franchisee.

“Our approach has always been ‘have a go and give it your best shot’. When you are all heading in the same direction and supporting each other, it makes a big difference. We have blended business with family life. There must be time for both but at times they cross over and that is when a strong family shines through,” said Craig.

One of the greatest challenges Craig faced was the leg work involved in determining that to go it alone was not a good business decision and then to look at which franchise to choose. He chose a mobile Coffee franchise in the belief that the Australian lifestyle and climate works magically with Coffee, especially in Australia’s Coffee capital, Melbourne.

Van Go franchisors Joe Bruzzese and Adrian Fodera made the final decision easy.

“We ultimately chose Van Go because they are real. Real people, real Coffee, and not hyped up salesmen with empty promises,” said Craig.

“You deal directly with Adrian and Joe from day one. Early on in discussions they said when you join our franchise you become part of the Van Go family. We will treat you like family, and I can assure you they have stayed true to their word, you are treated like family with Van Go. It’s not about shiny brochures, they offer real support.”

Joe and Adrian have many years of experience in the art of Coffee. The Van Go Coffee is an exclusive blend that is roasted and packed fresh by a local Melbourne company. It has of a smooth, rich Coffee flavour finished off with a slight kick and is perfect for a morning latte, an evening short black and their legendary summer time winner the Ice Cube Chilla.

The moment of signing up for the franchise was easy for Craig. “It felt fantastic because I knew it was the right move,” he said. “Once I met the boys at Van Go, which was some 12 months prior to signing on, I knew that they had a winning formula and a business that totally met all our needs without compromise. They were part of my inspiration to take the leap into a franchise and change.”

Initial training consists of one week learning the art of Coffee and customer service techniques followed by two weeks on the job building a client base. Craig found the training was comprehensive and conducted at a comfortable pace. The training program encompasses Coffee making, sales, and marketing. As well as an exclusive territory, new franchisees are provided with a tailor-made launch plan designed to increase product, service and brand awareness in the territory.

According to Craig, he has learnt his barista skills from the best and his totally self-sufficient van looks and functions brilliantly. The proof is in the high level of customer loyalty he achieves.

Van Go is a new, dynamic business that commenced franchising in 2004. The Van Go brand is unique and eye catching and marketing campaigns are targeted towards a large range of customers and events. As well as fresh espresso Coffee, Craig offers a range of healthy treats.

It is a franchise model that offers a simple cash business system with a consistent cash flow. The franchisors provide round-the-clock support and an on-going training plan aimed at securing a solid customer base.

Craig has a regular Monday to Friday run which sees him on the road early and back home mid-afternoon to clean and refill the van. On weekends and occasionally during the week he attends events, functions and markets. Some run all day, others only a couple of hours.

The business gives him plenty of family time as well as flexible working hours and when he is not working his van is locked away safely at home so there is no need to worry about a shop front or alarms going off in business premises that are located away from his home.

Craig and his family are already expanding their business and have just signed up for another territory. His wife, Kylie, and his sister, Mel, will be running the Casey/Cardinia area.

In Craig’s opinion small business is the best business because you can control the pace and direction of your life. His advice to others looking at franchises is, “If you are considering a mobile café / Coffee concept, do your homework. Ask, ask, ask and ask more questions. Look around at the franchisors, who will you be dealing with once you start? You need to feel totally comfortable with the concept and committed to the brand. If you are not passionate about the brand and what it delivers, it will be a greater challenge and more likely to fail.”

Craig’s passion for the Van Go concept, brand, and people has enabled him to build an extremely successful business while feeling more relaxed and healthy than ever before. He is now part of two families and enjoys his time with both.