Kevin Thomas has 30 years of experience in sales and marketing after working in various industries such as confectionery, soft drinks, print and outsourcing. Over the last 10 years, Kevin has held numerous high-level positions including a joint position of general manager and sales director responsible for a team of 30 staff. After being made redundant, he joined another company but was approached by Bunzl – a £4 billion company that provides international outsourcing solutions – to become their client director at the end of 2010.
Although Kevin enjoyed his work, the requirement of travelling up to 50,000 miles each year was not providing the work/life balance that he wanted. He therefore decided that he wanted to do something new and to work for himself. It was whilst travelling around his home town of Cardiff that he then saw a Cafe2U coffee van and realised that the solution to his career dilemma could be closer than he’d thought!
He explains: “I saw a Cafe2U van driving around my local area and wondered what they did. My wife told me that a van calls at the office next door to where she worked and that they seemed really popular, so I visited the Cafe2U website for more information.
“I knew I wanted to work with an existing proven business model as this would make it easier to launch my own business, and it turned out that franchising would make this journey much quicker because you’re provided with backup and expertise you’d have to find elsewhere if you were starting from scratch.
“I looked at a lot of franchise websites so I could compare the opportunities that were available, but Cafe2U was the one that caught my imagination; they were listed more or less everywhere so it became clear that they were a strong option. I liked the business model and the professionalism that the Cafe2U franchise offered.
“Further research about the industry told me that the coffee market is growing at a fast pace so this was a major contributory factor to my decision. The business mobility was also a factor because if you’ve got a coffee shop, you have to wait for the customers to come to you. I’m not reliant on customers coming to me; I visit them and go where the demand is.
“I spent 6 months conducting very thorough research, 3 months of which involved driving around looking at different territories. It helped me to build an understanding of how many customers I might have. Cafe2U organised for me to meet with and follow the Bristol franchise partner on his rounds – and even though it was bucketing it down with rain he still had plenty of customers coming out to him, so it was good to see what a ‘worst case scenario’ could be. Cafe2U also arranged for me to meet with the Cardiff franchise partner, whose van I had originally seen. He also took me on a van ride and met up with me a few times at the end of his day. This meant there was plenty of time to discuss things without disrupting his round – it was a very positive experience.
“The training at Cafe2U head office was brilliant because it gave me a better understanding about coffee overall, provided expert barista training, and helped me understand how to run my own business – experience I did not have. Having worked in sales and marketing previously, they didn’t need to train me on that side of things as much but each franchise partner has a franchise development manager that they can always contact, along with the head office team. One topic I also learnt from training was how coffee is harvested. This allows me to speak with more authority, especially as you can get into more meaningful conversations with customers this way.”
Kevin is married to Lisa, has four children – Lloyd, Zoe, Sam, and Nia – and in his spare time he enjoys reading, playing football and golf. Kevin launched his Cardiff North East territory in February 2012 and finds the new lifestyle very rewarding with big plans for the future.
He concludes: “I want to continue growing the business and eventually put another van on the territory. My advice for anyone looking to buy a franchise would be to research, research, research! You cannot research enough. Talk to as many franchise partners as possible and spend time with them to see what the job is really like. It has to be the right decision for you – it certainly was for me!”