Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Franchise locations open in Dallas & Portland markets

Just in the nick of time to capitalize on the holiday season sales, our two newest franchise store locations open in Allen Texas (North Dallas area) and Happy Valley Oregon (East Portland area) bringing the USA chain to 9 stores.

Cheryl Kobza, owner of the Allen Texas location, discovered Oil & Vinegar two years prior when living in Germany. Upon returning to their home in North Dallas a year ago, Cheryl and her husband Marvin decided to open the shop they fell in love with overseas in their own their back yard at the Watters Creek lifestyle center. The doors opened November 22nd. Morgen Wright (daughter) is helping out with the marketing of the store locally making the venture for the Kobza's a true family affair.

Follow Oil & Vinegar Watters Creek on Facebook or shop-line from the store at

Three days later, Dani & Paul Bohannon opened their store in the Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley Oregon. The business is also a family endeavor, with Dani's sister Christie by her side running the day to day operations and husband Paul helping out on the sales floor on weekends. For the Bohannon's, opening the store on Black Friday was a mad rush, but they managed to deliver the top sales across the chain on the day. For Oil & Vinegar, this is our first store to open in the state of Oregon. Having grown up in the Portland area, I am elated to be welcoming our brand to my hometown.

Follow the Portland store on Facebook or shop at the store on-line at

Stay tuned for the store openings by our recent franchise partners signed on to open stores in West Palm Beach Florida, New Orleans Louisiana, and Anchorage Alaska.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Franchising back in Fashion

I was compelled to share this recent article from the Chicago Daily Herald on my blog as I felt it captured the state of franchising and how it is impacting lives, jobs, and the economy in general in the US marketplace.

While virtually every sector of the economy remains stagnant in the recession, the franchised business sector is growing — and those new businesses are boosting the local economy.

The International Franchise Association projects 1,900 new U.S. franchise businesses for 2011, creating 194,000 jobs and adding $33 billion more to the economy. The average new franchise business creates 10 jobs, according to FRANdata, an independent organization that analyzes the franchising sector.

This year, one of every 10 businesses in the United States is a franchise business, and 27,000 franchisees own and operate two or more franchise units. Experts say the franchising model works because of its tested, proven approach and streamlined operational characteristics. Add to that equation a popular product or service and you have a business model rich with potential.

“With the disappearance of corporate loyalty and the instability brought on by downsizing and buyouts, the greatest appeal to new franchise owners is not money, but control and independence,” said John McLellan, president of FranNet of Chicago, a franchise consulting firm. “People want control of their future. They want to and are willing to invest in themselves rather than the stock market or with banks. Franchises give people the opportunity to ‘ be in business for themselves, but not by themselves.’”

“The overall economic impact of new franchise businesses opening this year is big, but at a local level, these numbers mean real jobs for real people,” said McLellan. “If even 10 new franchises open in our area, that’s 100 jobs — and that’s huge,” McLellan said.

But one of the biggest obstacles to franchise is the choice itself, he added. “Not everybody is cut out to a franchise owner. You need to do the proper due diligence and be financially and emotionally prepared to be an entrepreneur".

Each new franchise adds substantially to the economy. A business service franchise, for example, creates an average of seven jobs; commercial and residential service franchises create an average of six, according to FRANdata. “We are seeing great franchise candidates from many age groups and industries, and many of them want to be part of the economic recovery,” McLellan said. “Franchising is attractive because it works.”

In fact, franchising creates jobs at a faster clip in down markets than the overall marketplace, the IFA says. After the 2001-05 recession, jobs in franchised businesses grew 40 percent compared to 26 percent in other sectors, said IFA spokesman Matthew Heller.

But like any business model, some are successful while others are faltering. According to McLellan, high-performing franchise opportunities are available in food, retail, and service businesses. Some are new names while others are longtime franchise players. “Franchises which provide a ‘need’ versus a ‘want’ are certainly performing better in this economy,” he said.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Grand Opening & Ribbon Cutting for new Asheville store

With their first month of store operations under their belts, Dana & Terry Hunter - owners of our latest franchise location in Asheville, NC - hosted a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting event to mark their one month anniversary. The event was sponsored by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce at the Biltmore Park Town Square store location.

The Asheville store results have been well beyond our expectations and here at the HQ are extremely pleased with the reception of our brand in the local market.

"We are very pleased with how the local community has immediately embraced our shop and are somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of guests we are handling every single day since we opened. Having the franchise supporting our start-up has been a life saver as we had no idea what to really expect when we opened the doors for the first time" says Dana Hunter. "There are two other local "Fusti Shops" in the downtown area of Asheville, which opened earlier this year, but there does not seem to be direct competition from what we have experienced so far, or from the comments from the guests visiting the store. We believe we have found the perfect location with Biltmore Park Town Square and the great community surrounding."

The Oil & Vinegar concept is very different from the "Fusti Shops" in the sense that our proposition revolves around an international experience and a vast selection of gourmet food items and unique ceramic kitchenwares which tell a story about the country they are from. All products in our 400+ sku collection are carefully selected to offer the highest personal use and gift value. Our HQ in Europe work directly with the farmers and local producers in the country of origin to develop the products and packaging. We are importing directly from the source and not through US-based distributors allowing us to deliver the highest quality items, while eliminating unnecessary distribution costs in the supply chain. The "On-tap" element of our retail concept is our focal point in the store, but our broad selection of gourmet items and our passion for delivering a truly unique tasting experience, are what allow us to stand apart.

The Asheville store is now live with ON-LINE SHOPPING, accessible through the USA Oil & Vinegar website and actively engaging with their local guests on FACEBOOK business page.

The Asheville store is the first USA location to be opened under our new store design (click to read about new format) and all prospective stores will follow with this format. Franchisee-owned locations are scheduled to open in Portland, OR and Dallas, TX this November. We have three additional new franchise owners signed on with plans to open stores in West Palm Beach, FL; Arlington, VA; and Anchorage, AK this coming year. Based on the increased interest in our concept, we expect to reach our store additions target of 7 new stores in 2012 with commitments made prior to the end of this calendar year.

Find out more about franchise opportunities available in your own area of interest at or call Matt Stermer at 206-285-0517.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Asheville North Carolina store opens under new interior design

The new OIL & VINEGAR store design was unveiled in the USA in Asheville, NC with the opening of our 7th store on American soil this past weekend. The shop is located in the newest up-and-coming "life-style" center in Asheville, the Biltmore Park Town Square.

We are excited to introduce this latest store format in Asheville, North Carolina with our newest franchise owners, Dana and Terry Hunter. Dana & Terry are long-time residents of the Asheville community and will be tantalizing the local tastes with Oil & Vinegar's vast selection of culinary products and gifts. Follow the Asheville Oil & Vinegar shop on Facebook. The Hunter's will be hosting a Grand Opening Event on September 15th.

The store concept is the 3rd evolution of the Oil & Vinegar specialty store concept, designed by the well-known Terry Moore Design from the UK. The contemporary Southern European kitchen look and feel is a visual element of our consumer experience we believe will make our concept even more inviting for the food enthusiasts we welcome into our stores.

All future stores will be constructed under this new format around the world. In the USA, we will be opening two more franchise stores in Q4 of 2011 - Portland, OR and Dallas, TX. We have also just confirmed West Palm Beach as a future destination for an Oil & Vinegar store in 2012, with the signing of our 10th franchisee. More are soon to come as the interest in our concept continues to grow.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

OIL & VINEGAR - A Franchise for the Food Enthusiast

Enjoy this video created by our HQ in the Netherlands to inspire the food enthusiast and highlight our retail concept.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


At Oil & Vinegar we often speak about the formula to business success being rooted in the owners’ passion for the brand concept and products, plus the burning desire to share that passion with their customers.

Some suggest that passion alone is enough. Maybe this is true in some cases, but generally other “hard” business skills, and solid financial backing, are necessary to make a business a success in the today’s market environment. With that said, I still believe strongly that without the underlying passion for what you are doing day in and day out as your “work”, the ultimate success of the business and your personal satisfaction will not be realized.

I was prompted to write this blog post from an article written by Lisa Girard for Entrepreneur magazine and have included excerpts from the article which address the question of how to determine what business is right for you.


For today's aspiring entrepreneur exploring avenues of creativity to find your passion is likely the quickest route to increase your chances of launching a successful business. Where to start? Here, five exercises to help you uncover your passion.

Exercise 1 - Revisit your childhood. What did you love to do?
"It's amazing how disconnected we become to the things that brought us the most joy in favor of what's practical," says Rob Levit, an Annapolis, Md.-based creativity expert, speaker and business consultant.

"Research shows that there is much to be discovered in play, even as adults," Levit says.

Revisit some of the positive activities, foods and events of childhood. Levit suggests asking yourself these questions to get started: What can be translated and added into your life now? How can those past experiences shape your career choices now?

Exercise 2 - Make a "creativity board."
Start by taking a large poster board, put the words "New Business" in the center and create a collage of images, sayings, articles, poems and other inspirations, suggests Michael Michalko, a creativity expert .

"The idea behind this is that when you surround yourself with images of your intention -- who you want to become or what you want to create -- your awareness and passion will grow," Michalko says.

Exercise 3 - Make a list of people who are where you want to be.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Study people who have been successful in the area you want to pursue.

For example, during the recession, many people shied away from the real estate market because they thought it was a dead end. Levit believes that's the perfect time to jump in -- when most others are bailing out -- because no matter the business, there are people who are successful in it. Study them, figure out how and why they are able to remain successful when everyone else is folding and then set up structures to emulate them.

"If you want to be creative, create a rigorous and formal plan," Levit says. "It's not the plan that is creative; it's the process that you go through that opens up so many possibilities."

Exercise 4 - Start doing what you love, even without a business plan
A lot of people wait until they have an extensive business plan written down, along with angel investors wanting to throw cash at them -- and their ideas never see the light of day, according to Cath Duncan, a Calgary, Canada-based creativity expert and life coach who works with entrepreneurs and other professionals.

She recommends doing what you enjoy -- even if you haven't yet figured out how to monetize it. Test what it might be like to work in an area you're passionate about, build your business network and ask for feedback that will help you develop and refine a business plan.

Exercise 5 - Take a break from business thinking.
While it might feel uncomfortable to step outside of business mode, the mind sometimes needs a rest from such bottom-line thinking, says Levit, who has recently taken up Japanese haiku, a form of poetry. Maybe for you, it will be creative writing, painting, running or even gardening.

After you take a mental vacation indulging in something you're passionate about, Levit suggests coming back to a journal and writing down any business ideas that come to mind.

"You'll be amazed at how refreshed your ideas are," he says. "Looking at beautiful things - art and nature - creates connections that we often neglect to notice. Notice them capture, them in writing and use them."

OK, so the bottom line is the first step is to hone in on what you are truly passionate about to develop your business around. If the passion is not there, then it is just another job and a lot of hours away from family and friends – assuming you are not in business with family and friends. The trick is to find that balance between doing something you are passionate about and running a business that can be profitable for you as an owner.

At Oil & Vinegar, we believe we have the perfect model for the Passionate Foodie!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Search of Funding

The greatest hurdle for the inspiring franchise-owner-to-be to overcome on their quest to become their own boss is business financing. One might think that a proven business concept, solid business plan, liquid funds amounting to 20% of start-up investment, and a great credit score is all you need, right? Well, not necessarily the case in today's lending world as many hopeful entrepreneurs have painfully discovered.

There is no magic formula, but there are ways to secure funds. Here are a few of the options and my personal experience with each:

1- Angel Investors and Venture Capital

If you can find an Angel Investor who has a passionate for the business concept, sees the potential and believes in you as the owner/operator, this might be your best option. Typically an Angel is fairly risk tolerant, has a longer term view of payback (4+ yrs), and willing to invest smaller amounts (under $1m). You may have to give up an ownership share in your company, but often the Angel will agree to loaning the cash for a competitive interest rate. For a single unit retail franchise, Venture Capitalists are not really going to be interested as the investment level would be too low. Furthermore, a VC typically will want a stake in the company and will require their active participation in the management of the business.

2- SBA Loan Programs

Government-backed SBA loans are often the only option an individual might have to secure a loan from a bank. There is some misunderstanding by many about what the SBA qualification requirements are for the prospective business owner. Actually, the SBA (government) requirements are fairly limited compared to the requirements imposed by the specific lender itself. In general, to qualify for an SBA loan under most banks' requirements, an individual will need:

a) a high credit score,
b) ownership or work experience in the same industry as the new business,
c) strong business plan showing ability to repay loan,
d) personal assets to use as collateral,
e) cash infusion of 20% or more, and
f) secondary income source (ie. spouse).

There is a significant amount of documentation and paperwork that will come with the loan application and it will take at least 60 days to get to a point of approval. Also, don't be fooled when the banker gives you thumbs up on the first visit and saying you are "pre-approved". All this means is they like the idea of loaning your business money and your credit is good....not that you are in any way approved for the SBA loan. This approval is typically out of the local bankers hands.

If a specific bank declines you SBA loan application, do not get discouraged. I recommend that people go to 3-4 banks at the same time so they don't lose time. I know of cases where the franchise prospect was declined by 6 banks and the 7th gave them the loan. Goes to show, determination and persistence pays off!

Banks will also look to the Franchise Registry to see if a franchise is "approved" by the SBA. If not on the Registry, most banks will stop the process at that point. The SBA requires certain flexibility provisions in the franchise contract for the business which allow the owner to make the right decisions to run the business profitably. The approval and inclusion on the Franchise Registry ensures the bank that the franchise in question is meeting these requirements based on an independent review of the FDD. Oil & Vinegar is approved and listed on the Registry.

3- Commercial Bank Loans

A standard Commercial loan, secured by the business assets, are typically not offered for new business start-ups and specifically franchises. However, for individuals with strong credit scores, a second source of income (ie. from spouse), and personal assets to put up as collateral, a secured loan could be a viable option. No equity share will need to be handed over, but the cost of servicing the debt will significantly cut into profits of the business and strain cash flow in the initial years. Most banks will also look for a sizable cash infusion from the owner (potentially 50% or more).

4- Home Equity Loans

For those who purchased their house a number of years ago and actually still have some real equity built up, this could be an interesting source of funding. Of late, banks are very conservative in the valuation of real estate, so what you think your house is worth and in turn the equity is, might well be miles away from what the bank is willing to accept as collateral value.

5- 401k Financing (ROBS)

I often here prospects say that tapping into their 401(k) or IRA savings is the last resort, but given the tightening in the financial markets, many are indeed investing their retirement funds in "themselves". This can be done through a vehicle commonly known as Rollover as Business Start-ups (ROBS), which enables entrepreneurs to use their 401(k) or IRA funds to invest in a franchise without taking a taxable distribution or getting a loan.

ROBS are becoming more commonly known and accepted as a proven small business financing option. FranData estimates that in 2010, more than 4,000 individuals successfully acquired a franchise as a legitimate 401(k) investment. Industry experts estimate that since 2005, more than 10,000 small business start-ups have been capitalized in this manner. The firm that most entrepreneurs rely on to support them in setting up and administering a ROBS transaction is Guidant Financial, who is considered the leader in the specific financing segment.

This form of funding is not for everyone, but is the ultimate way to put your financial future in your own hands. We have current franchisees who have used Guidant's iFinance program to start their business. Here is how it works....

Guidant's goal is to ensure the funding process of their clients business or franchise is as simple and beneficial as possible. The following describes the steps that Guidant takes to roll existing funds into a new business or franchise - but their
representatives will be handling almost all of the legwork.

STEP 1 | Form a Corporation
Guidant will form this corporation or work with your attorney during the formation process.

STEP 2 | Corporation Sponsors a 401(k) Plan
Guidant's unique 401(k) Plan has been designed to allow for investment into your corporation. The 401(k) Plan comes complete with a favorable determination letter from the IRS at no additional charge.

STEP 3 | Rollover to new 401(k) Plan
Guidant will help you through the process of moving your retirement funds from your previous employer or IRA into the new Guidant 401(k) Plan.

STEP 4 | 401(k) Plan Invests in the Corporation
Your new 401(k) Plan purchases stock in the corporation. This 401(k) Plan now holds stock in the corporation and the business is debt-free and cash-rich from the sale of the stock. At this point, the corporation will now be able to purchase your new business or franchise.

In the end, there are ways to realize your dreams and get beyond the hurdle of obtaining financing and each individual situation will likely dictate the options that are available. But, the money is available for those willing to do what it takes to go find it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ideas for Success from the Bellevue Collection

Kemper Development, owner of the Bellevue Collection shopping centers, presents "Successful Ideas for Sales, Promotions and Service", a collection of stories to enlighten and inspire businesses of all types. Oil & Vinegar is part of the Bellevue Collection with the store located in the Bellevue Square property.

Each month a retailer or restaurant from the Bellevue Collection is selected as the spotlight for this series (see all featured businesses at TheBellevueCollecton Channel).

The story of how the business was inspired, philosophy of service, role of staff and the secrets to success are highlighted. The ideas captured in these videos are shared each month with owners and managers of the 200+ businesses making up the Bellevue Collection.

The Oil & Vinegar Bellevue Square store is the feature for March.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New store design set to launch in US Market

We are excited to announce the introduction of a new “3rd Generation” store design in the US Market following a successful launch by our parent company in Europe.

The un-veiling of this 3rd evolution of the Oil & Vinegar store concept, designed by the well-known Terry Moore Design from the UK, will be with our next franchise location slated to open in April/May 2011 in Asheville, NC.

Our current design is still very fresh, so there are no immediate plans to re-fit existing locations. However, when we visited a new store in Belgium this past summer, we immediately knew this was the direction we want to take with design and functionality.

The culinary “boutique shop” concept of OIL & VINEGAR brings together a wide range of international food and cooking products, all designed to please the senses and are presented in alluring, Mediterranean-style surroundings. At OIL & VINEGAR, customers are referred to as “guests”, and the guests are invited to smell, taste, and touch products before purchasing. The retail philosophy revolves around three key aspects of a consumer visit: Experience, Service, and Taste.

The OIL & VINEGAR shop ambiance reflects this philosophy. Products are attractively presented, the music is carefully selected to reflect the cultures of product origins, lighting brings the stories to life, and service revolves around encouraging guests to sample products at their leisure and receive advice on product use, recipe ideas and recommendations for that one-of-a-kind gift.

The new design reflects a contemporary interpretation of a Southern European kitchen. The fixture systems, specifically the new amphora wall, really allow us to tell clear product and category stories and deliver our guest experience at a whole new level.

A visual walk through of the new store format