This week’s Teacher Entrepreneur profile is Yul Craig Martin of Biggby Coffee in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I first met Yul when we were both administrators for Fort Wayne Community Schools. Yul’s heart for service made him a great administrator and it also makes him a great business owner. I recently had the chance to sit down with Yul at his store to find out a little more about his business. Next time you are in the Georgetown area and want a great cup of coffee in a fun atmosphere, stop by Biggby Coffee. You won’t be disappointed.
CS: What is the name of your business and where is it located?
YM: Biggby coffee
6568 E State Blvd
Fort Wayne, Indiana
CS: How long have you been an educator and what positions have you held?
YM: I have been an educator for 25 years. I have been a Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant Principal, Principal, and Director of Student Services.
CS: Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
YM: I always wanted to try it. I always had the itch but never knew what I wanted to do or how to go about doing it. I knew I was pretty good at education, and I wanted to see if I could have the same level of success in something that was my own. I have always been in leadership roles, now I’m leading myself, my business and my staff.
CS: Why did you choose your particular industry?
YM: There are 2 reasons. Coffee is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world right now. It allows people who are educators and who love people to interact with people. It allows me to be a servant leader, to serve the community and earn a living. My wife is a coffee connoisseur. She loves coffee. It is a fun atmosphere, we enjoy coming to work. It gives you a greater opportunity to get to know people in the community and to serve them. I also get to do some mentoring. I get into high schools and colleges to teach young people about business. As a minority, it gives me the opportunity to be a role model to the young people of the upcoming generation. Being a business owner allows me to be a role model for young minority men.
CS: Tell me a little bit about your business?
YM: Biggby Coffee started as a franchise in Lansing Michigan in 1995. They were called Beaners. They later discovered that Beaners was a slang name to Hispanics, so they changed the name to Biggby. In 2011 Biggby Coffee received an award from CNBC for being the fastest growing franchise in America. They are now up to over 300 franchisees. We offer a wide variety of beverages for the coffee and non-coffee drinker alike. We also offer meals and light snacks.
CS: What is the best business advice you have ever been given?
YM: There are 3 things that make business work; people, process and product. Those three things have to be working at a high level to be successful in business. That is the best advice I have been given and it comes directly from Biggby. If you take care of the customers, the 3 P’s will take care of themselves. If you don’t take care of your customers, nothing else matters. Relentless customer service is what it is all about. We focus on PERC.
P – Perception by customers that we respect their time and serve them as quickly as possible.
E – Every customer leaves the store in a better mood than when they arrived.
R – Recognize each customer as an individual.
C – Consistently produce a high quality beverage.
CS: What is the greatest challenge of being a Teacher Entrepreneur?
YM: Being patient in building your brand. Everybody has an idea for you. The customers that love you want you to expand. Everybody has suggestions. You have to be patient while you build it. You can’t chase the numbers. If you follow your people, process and product you will be fine.
CS: What advice would you give to other Teacher Entrepreneurs?
YM: Two things. Number one, teachers think that all they can do in life is teach. Broaden your horizon. Teaching never stops. Whatever field you are in, there is teaching to be done. A teacher is who you are, it isn’t what you do. Number two; don’t be afraid to cross careers. If you think there is something else that you want to do, try it, start small and build it to the point that it gives you options. When your business grows to the point that you can leave education, be courageous and do it. Have the courage to do something new. Courage is not lack of fear; it is doing things in spite of fear. Be scared and do it anyway. When the time comes to live the dream, take the jump. It is a soft landing.
CS: What books or resources would you recommend to other Teacher Entrepreneurs?
YM: There are three television shows that I would recommend.
- Bar Rescue – It’s this show where a guy goes into failing bars and turns them around. There are great lessons for entrepreneurs to learn.
- Shark Tank – There are incredibly smart people that can get things done, but presentation is everything.
- The Profit – Similar to Bar Rescue a guy goes in and takes failing businesses and turns them around.
One of the best books I have read is Good to Great by Jim Collins. It is a great resource. In our franchise community everybody wants to move fast. I think you need to be more measured and thoughtful about it. Don’t move too fast. Are you willing to wait for the success to come?
The real key is. Sit down and talk with other entrepreneurs. Learn from each other. Talk to others that are at the same stage of business as you. They will be honest. Share ideas, encourage each other and help each other grow your business. It is all about making the contacts and doing the networking, helping each other. Get with other entrepreneurs that are on your level and learn from each other
CS: What is your vision for your business?
YM: Three stores. The vision is to build the Biggby brand through this store in Ft. Wayne and then to have two more locations. Build it to three locations, retire, make a decent living and then pass it on to my kids if they want it.
CS: How will you know when you have achieved your vision?
YM: When all three stores are up and running and profitable. The second store won’t happen until the first one is profitable. It needs to be profitable before we take on another one. When I am able to sustain my family financially I will consider it profitable. The factors that bring you profitability are location and drive through. We are doing a great business and we don’t have a drive through.
CS: What would you do differently if you were to start another business?
YM: I would pull the trigger a little faster. I wouldn’t be so afraid to step out there in faith and do it. I would not fear the fear as much. The fear is the thing that holds you back. It is the fear of the unknown. You begin fearing the fear because you don’t know what the future holds. We all get to the point where we know it is time, take the leap when you know the time is right.
CS: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or your business?
YM: Biggby Coffee is a different coffee place. We don’t try to compare ourselves to anyone else. We are a family oriented coffee shop. We serve people from the very young to the very old. That shocked me. Young people like there coffee. Elementary kids love their coffee and parents are buying it for them before school. We get people of all ages. They feel the warmth of the atmosphere and they like being here.
I want to thank Yul Craig for taking the time to sit down and talk with me. He is very busy, but he is also very generous with his time and very gracious. Stop by Biggby Coffee and see him next time you want a great cup of joe.