Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Grande Dame of DeJeuner

I entered the trade show area, turned left and began walking down the far aisle ... and there, in the distance, she appeared in full view.

Live and in living color.

A legend I had heard about, read about. One of those people we tend to admire from afar.

And now, quickly recovering from that momentary lapse of starstruckedness, I'm about to march right over and introduce myself to a woman who has been a source of inspiration for female entrepreneurs everywhere. Her story is one that leaves you shaking your head in wonder.

"How in the heck did she pull that off?"

Married at the age of 21. Became a full-time mother to three children.

Divorced ten years later. Left to her own devices to support three teenagers.

Opened her first small neighbourhood restaurant in 1980 and quickly discovered a passion for customer service. In no time, vast numbers of customers fill her eatery daily, tripling its value. In 1987, she buys a small, abandoned snack bar in Montreal’s St-Laurent area and decides to focus solely on breakfast. Combining fresh fruit, cheeses, cereal, omelettes, crêpes, waffles and French toast, she soon has customers lining up to experience her innovative morning menu.

"When I was young, I wanted to do things in business, but I thought entrepreneurs had to be unique people with special gifts. I think that they are ordinary people who have extraordinary persistence." "Whenever people ask what made me a businesswoman, I always say it was the business that did it. The same way the first child she brings into the world turns a woman into a mother, so my first restaurant turned me into a boss."

Her story is one of overcoming heartache to becoming heartstrong in launching a national chain, spreading its own brand of sunshine from coast-to-coast. Today, the TSB spotlight is shining most deservedly on Cora Tsouflidou.

At last count, there were 96 restaurants in the Cora's chain with expansion plans for 100 more across Canada within three years.

In 2004, Madame Tsouflidou was inducted into the Canadian Professional Sales Association’s Hall of Fame and in 2005 received the Hall of Fame award from the Canadian Franchise Association. Her company, Chez Cora has been named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies and along the way Cora also captured the “Femmes d’Affaires du Quebec” award for Entrepreneur of the year, granted by the “Reseau des Femmes d’affaires du Quebec Inc.”

When it comes to understanding the challenges of entrepreneurship, this lady offers a "been there, done that" perspective that few can match. "It was never really a question of wondering whether it was going to be easy or not: I just did it. Today I realize that the more comfortable someone is in their job, the more difficult it will be for that person because of the sacrifices that will have to be made. That's what makes it difficult to get in touch with our inner entrepreneur, that longing to be in control of our own life rather than being at someone else's mercy. I don't think it's harder today than it used to be. But the more comfortable we are, the more difficult it will be."

Cora's story not only serves as a reminder of the "turning lemons into lemonade" approach to life's challenges, but also recognizes the fact that life - by it's very nature - is unfair to begin with. The consistent pattern from Cora's and other personal success stories seems to focus on how we respond to the unfairness surrounding us nearly every day. Hey, on some days, you just might want to tell yourself, "Gotta suck it up, buttercup".

Working with what she had, and not worrying about she didn't have, Cora decided one day to do just that and "Get Cracking".

Breakfast in Canada has never been the same since.

"You are the sunshine of my life, that's why I'll always stay around. You are the apple of my eye, forever you'll stay in my heart" STEVIE WONDER


1 comment:

Rick Nicholson said...

I can't help but notice all the "sun" mentions. There is a huge opportunity for Cora's relating themselves to the Sun and the warmth the celestial being provides. Question is will they grab hold of it and own it or will they try to be like everyone else.

Dare to be different Cora's. That's why we love you...