Muffin Break Franchisees From Coolalinga Are Serving Up Success

Taking on a new challenge can be daunting, but with an entire town on their side, these regional Muffin Break franchisees are serving up success.

By Nick Hall 

When former school teacher Gayle Purdue and her husband Des decided to open a cafe franchise in their local town of Coolalinga, it was about more than just money. The pair were committed to not only building a stronger future for themselves, but a more inclusive one for their daughter, Olivia, who lives with an intellectual disability.

“There isn’t a lot of supported employment in Darwin,” Gayle explains. “So, we knew that when Olivia was about to finish school, we would have to look at other options. We love coffee and thought we’d get into a Muffin Break.” 

Having control over their workforce was a big pull for the pair, but it meant that Gayle would have to step down from a role that she loved dearly. 

“Des is more of a risk-taker than I am,” Gayle jokes. “At the start, I was the one who was like ‘No, I’m not giving up my career’ but it was Des who said ‘You’ve got to give things a go’. When we really got serious about it, I thought ‘Wow, we can really do this.’”

The Northern Territory franchisees underwent an extensive research process, taking into account all the aspects they were looking for in an opportunity before finally settling on Muffin Break.

“Being a teacher, I am very data driven. We did a lot of research, spoke to a lot of different stores, went to franchise expos and in the end, when we shortlisted, the benefits and support from Muffin Break were outstanding.”

SUPPORT

From day dot, the Muffin Break team took Gayle and Des under their wing, with the former school teacher invited to attend a hands-on, three-week head office training program, before completing one week in the corporate-owned store at Moore Park.

“Being a teacher, it’s completely different from running a business, but from the second we arrived at our training, it was amazing. The staff just make you feel like you’re part of this massive family, you can ask any question.”

It was a big step for Gayle, who underwent the training alone due to her partner’s complicated working structure. For a number of years, emergency services operator Des has worked week-on, week- off on a mine site. 

“It works out well on my week off,” he says. “I’ll generally stay at home for a couple of days, do a bit of housework around the block; we have a 5-acre block and then I’ll come in and help out at the store for the rest of the week off.”

To help him get up to speed when the store first opened, the Muffin Break Northern Territory state manager and fran- chise consultant were on-hand providing assistance. 

“It shows the benefits of a franchise. People sometimes shy away from that, but that’s why we got into franchising to begin makes small business great in Australia: an entrepreneurial spark and a homegrown love of the town in which they operate. Ask the locals and you’d be hard-pressed to find one who didn’t know Gayle, Des and Olivia by name.

“It’s a really strong community, it’s a rural area and they do get behind things they feel are important,” Gayle says. 

A LOCAL FOCUS

While the pair aren’t thinking too far into the future, growth certainly looks on the cards, just not in a business sense.

“One of our employees is due to have a baby in a week so it will be our first Muffin Break baby!” Gayle says.

The beaming entrepreneur and her husband reveal that one of the most unex- pected benefits of owning a Muffin Break franchise has been the ability to become a meaningful employer in an area otherwise sparse of opportunity.

“We have 13 employees, some only do a few hours, and some do up towards the 30-hour mark. They are just like a little family, and that’s what we love about it,” Gayle says.

“Especially when you look back and think ‘I’ve just created 13 jobs for people’,” Des adds.

The family connection isn’t just a pass- ing comment either. In fact, many of the Coolalinga franchisees’ employees are kids that Gayle taught in her former life.

“It’s good but it can be sad too because you see some of them grow up and move away,” she says.

“It’s really kept me connected with the young people in a different way because I’d finished the school journey. Now they come to us as teenagers looking for their first job.”

After two years and a wealth of support helping to boost her little rural business, Gayle reveals she couldn’t be happier she made the leap into franchising.

“We’re really passionate about our store, and I think that’s something you need in any job. If you love what you’re doing, you’re going to do it well and work really hard at it. Do you research and go with what feels right. For us, looking back, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

“Having Olivia, we opened in our local community because it was really important that people knew her and had a bit of an understanding of where we were coming from. So we’ve really tried to partner with a lot of local events and activities.”

Earlier this year, the Northern Territory franchisees partnered with the Cancer Council in support of the foundation’s Biggest Morning Tea initiative. Gayle says she was blown away not only with the support the locals gave her, but their willingness to get involved.

“The Biggest Morning Tea for Darwin is really important, because a lot of families in the past that have someone with cancer have had to travel and move away from the Territory for treatment. When the Cancer Council does an event in Darwin, all the money stays in the area and they’re able to keep families together.

“Our loyalty customers were all on-board, so we had people asking about it for weeks before we did it. As soon as we put it out there, they just wanted to be part of it. Our local member came in and she was serving coffee to our customers, so it was a really good morning.” 

The husband and wife team typify what makes small business great in Australia: an with,” Gayle says.

“We wanted to be successful and we wanted to have the support behind us. We can’t say we haven’t had it because we’ve had so much support it’s been amazing. I think that’s why our journey has been so amazing.” 

COMMUNITY INITIATIVES 

Breaking into a tight knit community isn’t easy, and with the added challenge of a new business on their hands, Gayle and Des knew it would be difficult, but the rewards would be plentiful.

“The Territory is really a place where a lot of businesses are kicking off. There was only one Muffin Break in the Territory; there’s now three,” Gayle says. 

“It was a really good opportunity for us to stay where we were and again, with Olivia being in a small rural community, a local community because she’s now grown up there, it just worked. It was just the right fit.” 

The locals agreed, and since opening the Coolalinga franchise more than two years ago, the pair have amassed an army of loyal customers and fans, happy to show their support in more ways than one.

NOV/FEB 2019-2020 |  WWW.FRANCHISEBUSINESS.COM.AU 

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