top of page
Search

Freshii Squamish - Our Story


An interview with Gerald Cote, owner of two Freshii locations in Squamish.

With two locally owned franchises downtown Squamish and at Glenalder Place right off the highway, Freshii is a fast casual restaurant serving a variety of healthy bowls, burritos, wraps, soups, salads and treats.


What is your business story?

For 30 years, I had a career as a professional ballroom and latin dancer and I owned a dance studio in Calgary. My wife Robin and I were expecting our second child and I had the epiphany that I couldn’t do dancing full time anymore, because I wanted to have a balance of work and family. 


I thought about selling the dance centre and by the law of attraction, as soon as I made my decision, someone approached me who wanted to buy the studio. They were serious and now we had to figure out what to do next.


We didn’t want to stay in Calgary, and decided to move to Squamish, where Robin’s family was living. But what about work? I didn’t think that teaching dance full-time would be financially stable in Squamish, so we needed a new plan. 


I had always owned businesses since I was sixteen. I came from a bee keeping background, and then I owned the dance studio. I also loved food from Freshii and was eating there multiple times a week. So I called the company and asked about setting up a new franchise. They told me there was a huge line of people waiting in Calgary and I said no, I want to go to Squamish. The company representative said that was interesting, because they were looking for someone to open a franchise in Squamish and did we want to do it?


It was meant to be! Still, we needed financing. So I called back, said yes, let’s do it. I called the BDC and got financing easily, since it was for a quality franchise. One thing led to another, we moved to Squamish, and the dominos fell into place. 


What has been a challenge for your business?

It was definitely a challenging time for the restaurant during Covid. We had been doing quite well until then. However, our business philosophy and great team got us through and we had very little turnover and survived covid pretty well, all things considered.


As someone with a business in the Sea to Sky, how has Community Futures Howe Sound helped you?

We got to be known as a strong and quality franchise operator, and the company decided to offer operators such as us the option of opening another location with no franchise fees for a specified period of time. We wanted to go ahead and seize the opportunity.


However, Covid had rattled a lot of the financing options. We approached various banks and were told we didn’t qualify, even though we were better off than when we were looking for a loan for the first location.


While signing some documents, I ended up chatting with someone who was involved with Community Futures and they suggested we contact the organisation about financing. They were great to work with and we were able to secure financing to open the second location.


What is a project that you’re working on right now? 

We are excited to have recently opened our second Freshii location in downtown Squamish. It was initially hard to find the right location, as the area is very much at full capacity. However, we managed to find a great spot and had our official opening at the beginning of 2024. A lot of the restaurants downtown are sit down while ours is grab and go, which helps make us unique in the area. There are 1,500 more homes being built within walking distance of the new store, and I have a suspicion this location will surpass the Glenalder location.


If you could go back to the beginning knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?

I would have trusted myself more in terms of my skill set, and trusted in the process more. For example, with the first store, I had the option of choosing a corporate contractor and I selected a different contractor instead, thinking it would cost less. However, it ended up being not quite the right fit, and the timeline and budget blew up. 


What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start their own business?


It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. You have to push yourself to ask questions, and challenge your own thoughts about what you think is true, while still trusting that you have prior knowledge that will help in making decisions. At the end of the day, you don’t know what you don’t know. You need to open your mind and find better solutions and evolve your way of thinking. As a business owner, never stop questioning why you think what you do, or you risk becoming arrogant.


What sets your business apart?


I would have to say it’s the level of empathy and support I give the team. I take a real interest in where people’s lives are going, and balance that with what is needed for the business to succeed. 


When I conduct an interview, I ask potential employees to envision what they want out of life and where they want to go in the next few years, and try to match that information to make sure it fits the business. It really comes down to understanding employees as people and providing the opportunity to create success for everyone. I also make sure that our existing employees are involved in the process. After an interview,  I ask current employees for their feedback, and I also ask them to recommend people who would be a good fit.


Recently, I took everyone to a Canucks game for our Christmas party, and people were so thrilled. Most had never been to a hockey game, and it was such a fun time. When I came to the restaurant a few days later, they had all bought me a Canucks jersey to celebrate the evening. 


Our employees really are amazing. One woman who worked with us left for Toronto to pursue a new career. However, after several months of trying to find a similar work environment, she couldn’t find what she had at our location. The team found out that she wanted to move back and they came together and bought her a plane ticket. 


Another thing that sets us apart is that I am completely transparent with the books. Once or twice a year, depending on how the team is feeling about reduced hours or if they have questions about the business, I will show them the numbers. I show them how much we make, and show the level we need to keep for the cost of goods and labour, and how we are doing overall. I started doing this because people didn’t realize what they didn’t know.


Who is someone who has made a big impact on your life? Why?

I would have to say Laura Watson, who was my business coach and dance student. We traded services for a long time and she was pivotal in helping me think outside my own perspective. 



If you could choose anyone as a mentor, who would you choose and why?

Sean Webb, who is the author of Mind Hacking Happiness. His level of insight and understanding on how to master the mind is amazing and it would be incredible to have the opportunity to learn from him. 


What is something about you that not many people know?

I danced on the Dancing with the Stars Tour when they performed in Calgary. 


What is your favourite hobby?

Watching or playing hockey. 


For more information about Freshii, please visit their website at https://freshii.com/

13 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page