CLIENT SPOTLIGHT: Soul Origin
Here at Leasewise, we’re privileged to work with some of the finest up-and-coming and established businesses in the Australian retail lease landscape. Over the next few months, we’ll shine the spotlight on just a few of them to help understand what makes them so successful. First up is Soul Origin, who have been a client of Leasewise since 2015.
Soul Origin have been one of the ‘feel good’ stories of the past few years. Launching in Sydney back in 2011, growth was steady if cautious for the first few years, opening only company-owned stores until 2014. Since then, the family-owned company has gone from strength to strength, opening over 100 stores nation-wide.
According to Nick Patrick, National Manager for Leasing and Development, this growth is due, in part, to flexibility. ‘I think in terms of the last few years, just having a point of difference, a product we back… being a fresh and new player in the market certainly creates a bit of excitement around the brand and I think also just not being a corporate entity is important. We’re a family-owned business so we’ve probably got the flexibility to understand and meet (the consumer needs) and not have the bottom line as the sole focus for everything we do.’
Your stores don’t feel like a chain – is this important? Do you feel you trade more on the aesthetic of the store, or the name?
‘I know what you mean. I think our merchandising and the way we put focus on products – and also execute coffee very well – is the biggest reason why we’re a successful brand and successful retailer. I think as we get bigger, we recognise that we can’t call ourselves a small independent retailer. We have to create consistency between the experiences of our stores. So, whether a customer is at Sydney Central, or Westfield Bondi Junction, or Melbourne Central they’re having the same experience. An important part of it is getting the right franchise partner who buys into the brand and what we’re about: creating ambience and environment, customer service and a passion for the product, not just buying an investment because it’s not the way we want people looking at owning a Soul Origin franchise.’
To push the praise for success onto the franchisee is perhaps a little humble. Yes, the franchisees buy into the ethos of the company and without them, the business could not be as successful, but Soul Origin offers plenty of support as well. Ongoing training is offered for franchisees across all areas of business, including product, customer service, finance and marketing. Early days saw a very hands-on approach to the business, with one opening in Wollongong being partly staffed by the founders in the kitchen and the GM on the coffee machine. It’s these small-business values run at a medium-business scale that help propel Soul Origin past some of its competitors.
After you opened your 100th store, Chris Mavris (CEO) said ‘this is just the beginning for Soul Origin’, but with over 100 stores already open, what’s next?
‘We’re coming up to the end of a full retail lease cycle. Our first round of leases are expiring next year so there’ll be a heavy focus on lease renewals, refurbishments of stores and seeing what our next refreshment of the brand looks like as part of that. Certainly, there are a number of markets where we’re not as well represented (as we are in NSW) like North Queensland, Victoria generally and WA, where we currently have only 3 stores.’
You say you’re looking to expand in Victoria and WA – how important is it to get that initial retail lease right?
‘Critical. If you get the lease wrong day one, you’re behind the eight ball and you can put yourself in a position where you just can’t recover from it. You only get one chance to negotiate a lease so if you muck it up, there’s not much opportunity to remedy it. Not without a lot of pain anyway. As far as franchising goes, we feel we have a responsibility to our incoming franchise partner to make sure their business is as profitable as possible.’
Do you have any advice for first-time franchisees?
‘Really intimately get to know the brand you’re looking at, spend time in stores, spend time around multiple stores, watching customers, watching team members, and really make sure you identify with that brand and that product and make sure it’s a lifestyle decision for you not just a commercial decision. A successful franchise, certainly in our business, is one the owner works in every day, is passionate about and has their finger on the pulse not just invests and kicks back. I don’t think there’s many food businesses or food franchises that are suitable for that sort of passive investment, so making sure that the brand is right for them and that they’re passionate about being actively involved with it 7 days a week, because that’s really what will pay off in the long run.’
Leasewise are proud to represent Soul Origin as they look to expand in Victoria and strengthen their foothold elsewhere. For queries on how Leasewise might support your business, call 1300 33 44 32. For more information on our retail leasing services, click here.
By James Kolacz