SWEET SMELL OF SUC­CESS

P.E.I. ex­pan­sions into Hal­i­fax help­ing grow new gen­er­a­tion of en­trepreneurs

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MAC­DON­ALD mitchell.mac­don­ald@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/Mitch_PEI

A warm and wel­com­ing smell of cof­fee be­ing roasted mixed with freshly baked gourmet dough­nuts greets the thou­sands who walk through the His­toric Prop­er­ties ev­ery­day.

While the com­fort­ing at­mos­phere at the Grounded Cof­fee Bar may be as­so­ci­ated with a wellde­served caf­feine break for many, it also shows the po­ten­tial for P.E.I. en­trepreneurs in the busy city.

The Mur­phy Hos­pi­tal­ity Group’s (MHG) cof­fee bar opened in June to pos­i­tive feed­back and has only seen its cus­tomer base grow af­ter the com­ple­tion of a float­ing board­walk in the area ear­lier this month, says op­er­at­ing part­ner Mike Roberts.

“Peo­ple are lov­ing the dough­nuts,” said Roberts. “We have tal­ented bak­ers… and ev­ery­one loves cof­fee so it just kind of made sense.”

The op­por­tu­nity came when the pre­vi­ous ten­ants va­cated ear­lier this spring.

The lo­ca­tion was seem­ingly per­fect, be­ing next to the Ga­han House on the Hal­i­fax water­front, which Roberts man­ages.

The P.E.I.-based craft brew­ery has staked its claim in an ex­plod­ing in­dus­try.

“We’re one of the few (brew­eries) to have the restau­rant side of it, too,” said Roberts, not­ing that the area’s brew­eries have grown from two 15 years ago to now about 40.

How­ever, the brew­ery has an­other spe­cial qual­ity.

“It’s got one of the best views in (Hal­i­fax),” said reg­u­lar pa­tron Derek Si­mon, while chat­ting with friends on the water­front pa­tio. “Good view, good peo­ple and good beer.”

MHG’s ex­pan­sion into Hal­i­fax in the past few years has not only grown the com­pany but also pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for young en­trepreneurs like Roberts.

It’s MHG pres­i­dent Kevin Mur­phy’s way of hand­ing the torch to a new gen­er­a­tion af­ter en­ter­ing the busi­ness world him­self when he was only 23 years old.

“Nowa­days, it’s tough for a per­son to get in busi­ness when you’re 23,” said Mur­phy. “We’ve al­ready built our busi­nesses and have all the sup­port; we can say ‘OK guys, lets have some fun here.”

A com­bi­na­tion of growth, en­trepreneur­ship and men­tor­ship forms the ba­sis of MHG’s part­ner­ship pro­gram, which en­ables man­agers in the com­pany to be­come an op­er­at­ing part­ner with an own­er­ship stake.

By of­fer­ing MHG’s al­ready ex­ist­ing re­sources for things like ac­count­ing and pay­roll, Mur­phy said it al­lows the op­er­at­ing part­ners to fo­cus on the guest ex­pe­ri­ence and front line mat­ters.

“It re­ally means a lot,” said Roberts, who noted that start­ing his own busi­ness with­out Mur­phy’s sup­port would be dif­fi­cult.

Mur­phy said he views en­trepreneur­ship as an op­por­tu­nity to grow and sees the model as key to the com­pany’s fu­ture.

“We wouldn’t be grow­ing if we didn’t have this pro­gram and I don’t re­ally need it. I look at it now as you can help young peo­ple get into busi­ness and give back a lit­tle bit,” said Mur­phy. “They’re still aw­fully young… their best years are still ahead of them.”

In to­tal, MHG has six op­er­at­ing part­ners, with Roberts and Ja­son Mo­rais be­ing the two new­est. Mo­rais left his pre­vi­ous ca­reer as a lawyer in P.E.I. to join the com­pany.

He hit the ground run­ning when he opened the Two Men and a Truck mov­ing fran­chise in Hal­i­fax this June, the busiest month for the in­dus­try.

“It’s a new ad­ven­ture and a new path, but I’m re­ally ex­cited with the op­por­tu­nity and I’m hop­ing to grow it from here,” said Mo­rais. “(Hal­i­fax) is a hap­pen­ing city right now, too, which is ex­cit­ing… ev­ery­where you go, the streets are packed.”

The ex­pan­sions are also of­fer­ing a num­ber of Is­lan­ders an op­por­tu­nity to work in a more bustling city close to home.

MHG’s Hal­i­fax lo­ca­tions col­lec­tively em­ploy about 175 peo­ple in the sum­mer sea­son, with many hav­ing pre­vi­ously worked for MHG in P.E.I.

The com­pany also is look­ing to ex­pand into New Brunswick, with Ga­han brew­eries planned for Saint John and Monc­ton.

Penny Walsh McGuire, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Greater Char­lot­te­town Area Cham­ber of Com­merce, praised P.E.I. busi­ness own­ers who are able to ex­pand into Hal­i­fax, not­ing that it’s a sig­nal they’re al­ready do­ing well in the cur­rent mar­ket.

“It’s cer­tainly en­cour­ag­ing, both that the op­por­tu­nity is there but also that the next gen­er­a­tion of en­trepreneurs want to take on the chal­lenge,” said Walsh McGuire, adding that the ex­pan­sions also help boost aware­ness and cre­ate a new dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nel for other Is­land prod­ucts.

“We’re sup­port­ive of these types of ex­pan­sions, it’s great for the Is­land and for our part­ners.”

The po­ten­tial for ex­pan­sion in Hal­i­fax seems only to be grow­ing, with Roberts ex­pect­ing that all the area’s shops and restau­rants will re­ceive a boost with a new con­ven­tion cen­tre opens later this year.

He also has high hopes for him­self.

“I hope to have more op­por­tu­ni­ties with Kevin down the road. Hav­ing him back me up is in­cred­i­ble. I’ve worked for him for eight years and have a tremen­dous amount of re­spect for him,” said Roberts. “(Right now) we’re fo­cused on Grounded and the Ga­han, but it’s ex­tremely ex­cit­ing to see where we’re go­ing.”

MITCH MAC­DON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

Op­er­at­ing part­ner Mike Roberts show­cases some of the gourmet flavoured dough­nuts of­fered at Mur­phy Hos­pi­tal­ity Group’s new Grounded Cof­fee Bar in Hal­i­fax, which gets its beans from Char­lot­te­town’s Re­ceiver Cof­fee Co. Roberts is also gen­eral man­ager of the neigh­bour­ing Ga­han House brew­ery and restau­rant on the Hal­i­fax water­front.

MITCH MAC­DON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

Hal­i­fax friends, from left, Cory Withrow, Derek Si­mon and Brennan Mac­Don­ald, en­joy a cool beer at the Ga­han House lo­cated on the city’s water­front. Hav­ing op­er­ated suc­cess­fully in Hal­i­fax for the past three years, the Mur­phy Hos­pi­tal­ity Group also has plans of ex­pand­ing the brew­ery into Saint John and Monc­ton, N.B.

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