2007 + 2006 BComs
How did you end up in the BCom program and what did you specialize in?
Scott: A business degree provides you with endless opportunities. If you find something that really interests you, like Finance or Marketing, you can specialize. If instead you want a more general Major, there's Business Studies. The freedom of that was pretty attractive to me – especially since I had no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up declaring a Major in Accounting, for very similar reasons.
Gavin: I started my studies at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Science and for first couple years my schedule was full of biology, chemistry and physics classes. In the summer following my second year I worked in a financial services office and for the first time was introduced to the world of finance, accounting and business in general. I was immediately drawn to the business world and decided to make the switch over to the School of Business and pursue my BCom. I ended up with an Accounting Major and went on to complete the CA program following graduation.
If you got one university do-over, what would it be?
Scott: You really only get out of your degree what you put into it. If you want to stick to the notes, only do what’s expected of you, you’ll probably pass but you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. The Business school has events, committees, competitions, teachers with awesome experiences, a ton of great resources to pull from. If I had a do-over I’d make an effort to take better advantage of these resources.
Gavin: My time at the U of A was amazing, to be able to pursue my education and be part of one of the best university athletics programs in the country for five years was quite a privilege, there is not a whole lot that I would change about that experience. If I was to do one thing over I would take better advantage of all the groups and clubs that are available to students in the Alberta BCom program. There are so many opportunities to meet great people and learn new things outside of the classroom during this time in your life.
You've started a very successful business in the food industry and have a unique place in the Edmonton market. What did you take away from the Alberta BCom that helped you succeed with Press'd The Sandwich Company? How has your accounting background helped launch and maintain your business?
Scott: Our business degrees played a vital role right from the beginning. Before making our first sandwich we had to put together a business plan, evaluate the sandwich market, vet the product, prepare financial projections and figure out how we were going to raise start-up capital. Business school and our Accounting backgrounds provided us with the necessary experience in each area. We were confident that we were asking the right questions, but also that we were equipped with the skills needed to answer them. I think that's the major carry forward for me. Beyond just the planning phase I've always felt like business school has provided me with a solid foundation and understanding of the business framework. It hasn't always given me the answers, often I have to research and find those out on my own, but it's provided me with a broad understanding that allows me to ask the right questions. I've often found that's the most important, and difficult, part of the problem.
Gavin: The accounting background and Alberta BCom were instrumental in launching Press’d as they provided us with the skills that we needed to analyze a market, recognize an opportunity, put together a viable business plan and then put the plan into action. The BCom program provides exposure to a wide range of general business topics which all helped contribute to our ability to create and execute a comprehensive plan. The accounting background was hugely beneficial when it came time to raise investment capital and obtain financing from the bank. When you know your numbers and can clearly and concisely communicate the financial side of the business it goes a long ways with investors and lenders.
From the very beginning your company's plan was geared toward aggressive, but strategic growth. How many Press'd locations are there in Edmonton and surrounding areas? Are there opportunities for franchising and employment?
Scott: We currently have nine locations in and around the Edmonton area and we’re continuing to grow. We see three or four more units in Edmonton alone, and we’re currently working on locations in Calgary, Red Deer, Saskatoon, Grand Prairie.
Gavin: You are correct, our goal from the start was not to build a single sandwich shop, our goal was, and still is to build one of the top three sandwich chains in Western Canada through aggressive, calculated growth. We see the Edmonton and area market as one that can support about 15 locations in total and we will continue to develop in this market in coming years as the right opportunities present themselves. We are currently working on expanding the Press’d brand throughout Alberta into cities such as Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and also east into Saskatchewan with a focus on Saskatoon and Regina. We are pursuing a franchise growth model and are actively looking for franchise partners to join the Press’d team in all markets.
Can you tell me a little about your involvement with KidSport Canada and the importance of giving back?
Scott: When we started this business my partners and I were excited about one day having the opportunity to give back to the community. One of my partners, Gavin, played basketball with me on the Golden Bears. We were fortunate enough to have received a ton of support from the local community. A lot of what we did wouldn't have been possible without it, including the basketball trip which we took to Phoenix that introduced us to a sandwich product that sparked the Press'd idea in the first place. We decided to partner with KidSport Edmonton because it's an organization with close ties to the University of Alberta and it invests in the very important first step towards giving kids the opportunity to play sport - getting them enrolled.
Gavin: Sport has played a huge role in the lives of all three of the founding partners of Press’d, all of us competed in sport at the university level and have realized countless benefits and opportunities as a result of our involvement in sport. Giving back to the community that supports our business has been a goal of ours from day one. Throughout our lives we all receive a great deal of support from the community that surrounds us, and on a daily basis it is the support of the communities around our restaurants that drive our business forward. We are all very grateful for the way that the community has responded to and supported our business since day one and believe it is important that we do our part to give back and continue building a great city. So, when we heard about the KidSport organization and the great work that they are doing to make sport accessible to all kids, teaming up with them just made sense. This past May we hosted our first annual KidSport Day where we donated the profits from all sandwich sales at Press’d restaurants to KidSport. It was a great first event and something we are looking forward to doing again and again.
Do you have any advice for young people who are thinking of starting their own business? Any advice for students working towards a BCom degree?
Scott: Get involved in something for the right reasons. It's important to love what you do, but don't let your emotions over the product or service blind you from making good business decisions. Vet your product. Research your market. Is there opportunity? What's your advantage? You can never do too much due diligence. Talk to other people in the same industry to get new ways of thinking and different perspectives. Ensure you're asking yourself and answering the tough questions. For BCom students, again I'd say you only get out of your education what you put into it. There are plenty of resources at your School (e.g. teachers, committees, other students with ideas) - take advantage of these. Ask questions. Invest yourself in the process. Meet new people and maintain connections. It all helps you down the road.
Gavin: For young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business, be ready to give it everything you've got. Commit 100% to what you are doing. Devote yourself to the idea and go make it happen. Nothing is going to happen unless you make it happen. For those working towards a BCom degree I would recommend that you really try and make the most of your time at the U of A. There are countless opportunities to get involved in activities, groups, and clubs outside the basic curriculum. Seek out these unique opportunities to engage with people and learn new things.