Marty and Mirjam now had a large operation to run as well as a growing franchise system, and it became clear that they would need some expert knowledge on how to grow and properly run a franchise system. They would join the IFA (International Franchise Association) and attend their annual convention to gain the wealth of knowledge and experience that was available to them through this prominent trade association. Their first IFA convention was held in Palm Springs, California and the learning began on best practices for running a franchise system.
Things were growing comfortably at double digits and Marty and Mirjam were looking to the future and opportunities that were south of the border. They would now start proceedings for trademark registration in the USA. Unfortunately, the original application was rejected and they were denied because of a large corporation that had the trademark registered for a cookie that they had developed. This would not deter Marty and Mirjam and they continued to fight to get their trademark registered.
With their new mini donut concept a great success and having learned from their past experience, Marty and Mirjam branded the mini donut concept as Cin City Donuts, a mini donut concept with an option to add standard donuts in the future.
Corporate operations and franchise growth were still rising steadily at double-digit growth. Lemon Heaven was still fighting for their USA trademark of Lemon Heaven and Marty and Mirjam were learning all they could about franchising’s best practices. The system had now reached a level where franchisees would benefit from an annual convention and they would host their first two day convention in Vancouver, BC.
Another tradition was created when they held their two-day “after party” in Whistler, BC. The after party is for franchisees that want to get together in a casual setting and get to know each other better while doing some great activities. The Whistler trip included ATV Tours, Hummer Tours, and Zip Lining. They quickly found that franchisees benefitted as much from the after party as they did from the convention. Ideas flowed freely as they got to know each other better.
Corporate operations were grossing over $800,000 and the franchise system was still growing and grossing over $3 million. Running a business of this size was a huge challenge for Marty, Mirjam, and Marty’s father Barry, who was working part time. It became clear that they had to make a decision to start to sell their corporate operations and focus solely on franchising. They started by selling off a portion of their Vancouver territory in the Fraser Valley.
It finally started looking like they could get approval for their USA “Lemon Heaven” trademark registration and they would start looking to the south for franchise expansion.
Charles Ashford had done a great job building his business to the point where he would choose Lemon Heaven operations over the stressful job at IBM and in February 2007, he resigned and never looked back.
In 2007, Lemon Heaven developed a new website and intranet where franchisees could log in and have access to custom tools that would help them run their business. Marty worked with the software developers to create an online, custom event management program that would database all aspects of the franchisee’s operations and analyze their business to make sure that it was being run as profitably as possible.
2008 was a big year for Lemon Heaven. Finally in 2008, the large corporation in the USA abandoned the trademark “Lemon Heaven” and they would be granted registration for Lemon Heaven and logo in the USA. The trademark registration came through in January and they were ready to start franchising in the USA.
As their eyes turned south, they felt that they needed added expertise and knew the journey would be more fun if shared with a partner. They turned to the person that was most passionate about Lemon Heaven and who had just left his high stress job at IBM to live the stress-free life, Charles Ashford. They approached Charles to see if he would like to join Marty and Mirjam in their quest to bring Lemon Heaven and Cin City Donuts to the rest of the world. The decision was immediate, “Where do I sign?”
In a matter of a couple of months, they would receive their trademark registration in the USA, form a new company called “Lemon Heaven International, Inc.” (a Delaware corporation), and sign their first franchisee in Washington, DC, where they operate at The National Zoo.
Negotiations were ongoing for the sale of almost all the corporate operations and in December, they would complete the deal to sell all operations except a small territory near the head office in Delta and a small stadium in Vancouver where the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team played.
Unfortunately, in 2008, the USA was hit hard with a recession and there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding any investments and available financing.
Lemon Heaven International (LHI) would join IAFE (International Association of Fairs and Expositions) and attend their convention in Las Vegas. The Lemon Heaven annual convention was held in Cancun, Mexico in March and then again in Vancouver in the fall, with the after party in Victoria, BC where they would go whale watching and see killer whales.
“Cin City Donuts” trademark registrations are granted for Canada.
Lemon Heaven International goes on to sign another franchisee in Minnesota, and Marty and Mirjam continue to operate their small corporate territory in Delta and Swangard Stadium. System sales continue to grow despite the recession. The Lemon Heaven Annual Convention moved to Las Vegas and held in conjunction with the IAFE convention in December.
Cin City Donuts trademark registrations are granted in the USA.
System sales are still growing despite the recession.
Lemon Heaven receives an award from Franchise Business Review for franchisee satisfaction.
LHI signs a new franchisee in San Diego, California.
Efforts are made to take advantage of social media; Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Youtube accounts are created.
Lemon Heaven Beverages Inc. sells off their last small territory in Delta but continue to operate at Swangard Stadium at Whitecaps games.
Lemon Heaven annual convention is held in Vancouver in the fall, with the after party being held in Tofino, BC.
Last year of operations for LHB as the Whitecaps join MLS and move into a temporary stadium while BC Place is being renovated.
LHB joins the CFA (Canadian Franchise Association).
Preparations are being made for a new website and intranet.
Sales are still growing in double digits and system sales reach over $5 million.
Lemon Heaven and Cin City Donuts launch new matching websites with a new upgraded intranet system.
Lemon Heaven receives the Franchisees’ Choice designation for 2012 presented by the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) in April at their annual convention in Niagara, Ontario.