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Within months of starting her Cafe2U franchise, an operation that depends heavily on solid, business-to-business relationships, Serena Liu learned a lesson: Never incur the wrath of another business owner.
Liu makes 25-30 stops per day in her van that is equipped with all the accoutrements necessary to make espresso-based coffee drinks; and she sells her product to employees and customers of various businesses. But when she parked the van in a retail center that included an ice cream franchise, the owner of that business saw her as competition — even though there is nothing on her menu that competes with ice cream.
In addition to berating her personally, the angry store owner, who felt Liu was infringing on his business, went to the property manager and requested that Liu no longer be able to park her “supreme bean machine” in the center’s parking lot to transact her business. She was asked to move along, despite the fact that many other tenants of the property were loyal customers.
It ended well when a neighboring business — an automotive center with its own parking lot adjacent to the retail complex — invited her to park on his property. Not only did she gain a new client, but her current customers had only to walk a short distance to still buy her coffee. Her nemesis, meanwhile, ended up looking like a bully in the eyes of his fellow tenants.
The whole ordeal, Liu said, made her sensitive about stepping on any other business’s toes. She is very careful about choosing the locations she services to avoid any competition from other beverage and food providers, especially those that sell coffee.
“We learned our lesson a little bit early on,” Liu said. “We’re not trying to take business away from any other people. We try to be wary of that. We don’t go where there’s a Starbucks really or a Dutch Bros. unless we’ve been specifically asked to.”
Discovered Franchise on Vacation
An operating franchisee since February 2012, Liu, 34, represents a brand that started its franchise system in Australia in 2005 before spreading to the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, New Zealand, and, most recently, South Africa. There are more than 185 Cafe2U franchises worldwide.
Liu was one of the first Americans to sign a franchise agreement for a territory in Eugene, Ore., after discovering Cafe2U while on vacation in England with her British husband and their two children.
A stay-at-home mom, she had received an associate degree in business from Lane Community College in Oregon and had worked in a variety of jobs, including data entry and substitute teaching, before giving birth to her children. But as they reached school age, she began looking for a career. All it took was a sip of Cafe2U coffee in Reading, England, and she was on a new path.
“We were taking a walk in a park one day and saw the coffee van. I was very excited to try it; we got in line and it was delicious, and I said to (my husband) Steve, ‘I have to do this,’ ” she said of her decision to pursue becoming a franchisee.