Thinking Big: Young Entrepreneur Award Winner

This past week, Matthew Corrin, founder and CEO of Freshii, was named the Ontario Young Entrepreneur winner for 2011. He started what became Freshii only 6 years ago (

A Toronto Star article dated January 19th, 2005 described his first location, called at the time Lettuce Eatery, beneath the TD Centre. The reporter noted that the “line’s speed is surprising, given the restaurant is based on a design-your-own-salad concept that starts at $5.95…It opened January 10 and while it is not a major franchise yet, it looks and feels like a trendy corporation.”

What is great about this case is that Corrin had dreams to go global from day one and set his sights high. Consequently, he says “We weren’t a Canadian company. We were a start-up that happened to be founded in Toronto. I knew the longer we waited to grow outside Canada, the more tweaks we would have made to make it a more Canadian type of business.”

I think this is an especially insightful idea. Consider the pros and cons of something like Tim Horton’s, which is highly tweaked into its Canadian context. That is a strength but then when one tries to take the globally, the very Canadian-centric model can become an impediment rather than necessarily a strength. He goes onto say in a recent National Post interview:

“For example, because I knew I was building a global company my decisions around supply chain, staffing models and even around competition was different than had I been building a Canadian company.”

And so, after opening his eighth location in Toronto, he knew his concept of eating fresh worked. He also knew that outside of New York, the trend of eating fresh didn’t exist. So he opened his first store in Chicago.

That was 2007. Today, Freshii is a chain of more than 50 fresh-food restaurants in Canada (18 locations), the United States (29 locations thus far), Dubai and Vienna (2 locations).

Here’s a video of an interview in 2010: