As part of Small Business Month’s Small Biz and Money Digital Residency, we’re profiling the speakers that participated in our NOW Futures panel on thriving as a small business in Toronto.
What is your business and what do you do?
I’m the CEO at iQ, a healthy fast casual restaurant brand based in Toronto and one of the fastest growing in the country.
What inspired your small business? Tell us the story of your inception.
I’ve always had an affinity for food, wellness and retail. I was 25 years old – working in Toronto’s financial district – and struggling to find a great place to grab a quality healthy lunch. Rather than complaining, I figured – why not build the brand of my dreams? So I left a job in finance to open a cafe that my friends and I would love.
When it comes to customer payment and check-out experiences, what is the biggest challenge you face in your small business?
We’ve actually done a great job at making the payment and checkout process as frictionless as possible. In 2017, we went fully cashless at all of our restaurants which has been a win-win for both our teams and our guests.
Why are low-cost, reliable solutions important to a small business owner?
In the world of retail and restaurants in particular, we work on narrow margins. There’s no one silver-bullet that’s going to make our businesses profitable. Instead, we rely on being shrewd at every level – including payments.
How do you build trust with your customers? Why is building trust important?
Our source of trust with our guests comes from transparency. We’ve proud (and very open) about where we source all of our products and how we do business in general. Whether we’re opening a new location or changing the way we do something, I’ll almost always accompany any kind of news with a personally written blog post explaining our excitement and position. It’s important that our guests know there are real behind the decisions our company makes. That human 1-1 connection is what we believe helps build trust.
What piece of advice would you share with others who want to grow their own small business?
Look outside of your industry from inspiration. Too often, companies will be influenced by what their competitors are doing – which sadly results in a ton of copy catting and brands that all look and feel the same. I’d encourage small business to look outside of their industries and find inspiration from others doing great things in fields that seemingly have nothing to do with their own.