Today, it seems, most young entrepreneurs are focused on creating the next great tech product or Web service. After all, who can blame them? With Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga valuations higher than the annual GDP of many small countries, it's no wonder young entrepreneurs are chasing big dreams—and even bigger fortunes.
Enter Matthew Corrin. At 29, Corrin is capturing an altogether different market share of users: those who desire fresh and affordable foods in a trendy setting. In 2005, Corrin launched Freshii, a sandwich, salad, and soup joint with all customizable options whose slogan is "Fresh Food. Custom Built. Fast." Now, six years later, Freshii has over 45 locations in four countries, including the United States, Canada, Austria, and Dubai, and many more stores on the horizon. A location in India, Corrin says, is on its way soon.
Despite his success, Corrin has no previous background in food operations; in fact, before launching Freshii, Corrin worked as public relations representative for Oscar de la Renta in New York City. Going out for lunch one afternoon, Corrin noticed that the delis he frequented lacked healthy and imaginative options. Thus spawned his concept for Freshii, which now occupies a spot on 39th Street and Broadway—a block from the deli where he first had his epiphany.
'It was total naivety,' says Mathhew Corrin over breakfast at a greasy diner in New York. 'It is one of the hardest businesses. A thousand things have to go right every day.'
But on Corrin's first day, everything seemed to go wrong. In the first week, an employee stole $1,500. Then, one morning, the kitchen manager sliced his thumb. When another employee caught site of the blood, he fainted, and broke his nose. Scrambling to keep the business doors open, Corrin called up his girlfriend at the time (who is now his wife) and asked her to come help him for the day.
'It was the first time I ever cut an avocado,' he says. 'That was the turning point for me. If I could get through a day like this, I could get through anything.'
Freshii aspires to be, in the words of Corrin, "the Starbucks of the fresh food business" (and, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, Corrin wrote the business plan for Freshii in a Starbucks). The key to Freshii's success, Corrin says, beyond the promise of good food, is the culture created within the organization.
'All of our partners are people that you would want to have a beer and sushi with,' says Corrin, who interviews every single store manager before they are hired, sometimes via Skype.
Franchise partners pay an up front $30,000 fee as well as six percent royalty and three percent advertising fees. The start-up costs of owning a Freshii franchise add up to about $250,000, according to Corrin. 'You're not spending a million bucks,' he adds.
Perhaps the relative success of Freshii is due to Corrin's understanding of image and public relations—traits he picked up on in the New York fashion scene. 'Creating a culture is the most important and profitable aspect,' Corrin says. As Freshii grows, Corrin believes that to reach his target demographic, he'll need to reinforce the brand with outstanding customer service, by leveraging innovation, and by exploiting new technology, like an iPad app that allows you to customize your salad on the walk over to Freshii and pick it up when you arrive (which is currently indevelopment). Oh, and did we mention he uses a neon green Tesla for company promotions?