Category: Food and Drink

Biggby co-founder offers no-nonsense advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

Mike McFall, Biggby Co-founder

Mike McFall has a lot to say about being an entrepreneur.

Most of the advice and strategies are not what you’d expect to hear from the co-founder and co-chief executive of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, a 25-year-old, $100 million franchise with more than 250 locations in the Midwest.

McFall shares his thoughts, ideas and much more in his recently released book “Grind: A No Bullshit Approach to Take Your Business from Concept to Cash Flow.” The anecdotes, information and calls to action do exactly what the book title infers, McFall says, by providing real-world experiences in building a start-up.

Here’s a sampling of outtakes about the book from a recent conversation with McFall:

  • “People will talk about market research, price points, competition, the commodity, but you never hear anyone talk about the mentality and mindset that you have to have to do the work. Being an entrepreneur is not a get-rich-quick idea. If you’re not willing to invest 7 to 10 years of your life and be the most dependable part of the business, you’re going to fail.”
  • “Are you comfortable being a salesperson because 83 percent of CEOs on the Inc. 500 list were the only or primary salesperson in their business. If you’re scared of sales, if it’s not your thing, you really have to think about if this is a good idea.”
  • “Being an entrepreneur is no super power. The real key is you have to understand your strategic abilities and be clear about what you don’t know, can’t do or who you need to bring in to get the job done. You can’t have an ego that you know everything.”
  • “Partnerships have all the complexities of a marriage without the benefit of the hanky panky. Just like committing your life to someone, you have to make sure you’re right for each other.”

front cover of Mike McFall's book 'Grind'The book project has been a decade in the making for McFall as he evaluated how Biggby’s growth mirrored – or more importantly didn’t reflect – what he had read in other books about entrepreneurship. The others, McFall said, were either written from the perspective of jet-setting, ultra-successful billionaires who were looking back through rose-colored glasses or written by academics who were presenting their theories and case-studies.

“I didn’t see any who were in the middle of it,” McFall said. “I wanted to bring the practical side of starting a business with the voice of somebody who lives it day in and day out. It’s not a textbook.”

Discover Biggby: What the coffee franchise stands for and why coffee brings people together.

Grind tracks different situations that McFall and his co-founder/co-CEO Bob Fish encountered while building their business from a single location in Lansing. He writes about a loyal customer’s willingness to buy them outdoor furniture so that others could sit and relax, and how that gesture left an impression that helped form the company culture.

The book also tracks successes and pitfalls from both the Biggby perspective and franchisees who achieved beyond initial projections, as well as those that weren’t able to make it and why they came up short.

McFall shares how he and Fish made Biggby work by defining clear expectations and roles, and the importance of holding each other accountable while also not meddling.

Throughout Grind, McFall shares the necessity of entrepreneurs to be themselves while being aware of others. Leaders need to be brave but balance it with humility and display a willingness to understand differing perspectives.

“In 25 years, we’ve not had one knockdown, drag out battle, and that’s because we approach each other with a high degree of respect,” McFall says when talking about being a leader and a partner. “We can call each other out and do it while listening to why we feel so strongly and so passionate about something.

“If you can’t do that, maybe you shouldn’t be in business together.”

Praise for the book has come from business leaders, educators and investors, including:

  • Tasha Eurich, New York Times bestselling author (Bankable Leadership & Insight): “If you have ever wondered what it might be like to open your own business, read this book. Even if you have no interest in starting a business, the insights in this book are valuable for life in general.”
  • Michael Williams, Director of Entrepreneurship Activity & Director of the Business and Entrepreneurship Clinic, University of Wisconsin, Madison: “This is a must read for every new start up. Every entrepreneur needs to learn how to sell and discern good advice from bad. Mike does a great job breaking all of this down through real life examples.”
  • Michael Soenen, Partner, Valor Equity Partners: “If more entrepreneurs considered this message it would be great for my business, as I would have more late stage companies to invest in.”

McFall said readers have offered great feedback and engagement since Grind’s debut in August.

“It’s been fun to listen to what others took away from it or how they got through some of their start-up positions,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur is satisfying, but it takes commitment and desire. You can’t walk in talking about an exit strategy or accumulating wealth. It has to be about being the best at what you do and giving everything you have. If you don’t do that, it probably won’t work.”

Find Grind today at independent bookstores, online at Amazon or in Barnes and Noble locations.

How sugarbeets helped Michigan bounce back after the lumber industry vanished

sugar beets in front of a Michigan Sugar Company processing plant

The death of the lumbering industry in the late 1800s helped bring about the birth of the sugarbeet industry to the Saginaw Valley’s farming and food-processing economies.

After loggers had cleared the pine forests in the area, the land was virtually unusable due to the massive expanse of tree stumps left behind. State and local leaders were searching for a substitute for the jobs and money generated by now-departed lumber barons. A solution was needed that could be replenished each year, bringing a stabilizing influence to the economic base of the region.

Enter the sugarbeet.

piles of sugarbeets at a Michigan Sugar Company processing plantIn 1884, during a trip to Germany, Joseph Seemann, a Saginaw printer, observed how well the sugarbeet was doing in that country. He sent a sample of seeds to his partner, who forwarded them to Robert C. Kedzie, professor of chemistry at Michigan State Agricultural College. Kedzie’s enthusiasm for the beet’s potential earned him the title “Father of the Michigan Beet Sugar Industry.”

He imported 1,500 pounds of seeds from France and distributed them to farmers across Michigan. The success of the planting helped encourage people to clear the stumps and better utilize the once-again valuable acreage.

Michigan Sugar Company was founded in 1906 when six smaller sugar companies merged their operations. In 2002, Michigan Sugar Company became a grower-owned cooperative and in 2004, it merged with Monitor Sugar Company to form the company that exists today.

Headquartered in Bay City, Michigan Sugar Compay has sugarbeet processing facilities in Bay City, Caro, Croswell and Sebewaing. Its nearly 900 grower-owners plant and harvest about 160,000 acres of sugarbeets each year in 20 Michigan counties, as well as Ontario, Canada. Those beets are sliced at the factories and turned into about 1.1 billion pounds of sugar annually. That sugar is sold to industrial, commercial, and retail customers, primarily under the Pioneer Sugar brand.

bags of Pioneer SugarIn 2020, the company launched its new line of red retail bags for its white granulated, Golden Light Brown, Dark Brown and Confectioners Powdered sugars. The company sells white granulated sugar in retail sizes of 2 pounds, 4 pounds, 10 pounds and 25 pounds. The brown and powdered sugars are sold in retail sizes of 2 pounds and 7 pounds.

Michigan Sugar has 930 year-round employees and an additional 1,100 seasonal workers. The company’s annual payroll is more than $65 million and its annual local economic impact is about $500 million.

Michigan Sugar Company runs robust Young Farmer and Youth Project programs, offers internships, and provides a variety of scholarships, including the annual Michigan Sugar Queen Scholarship. The company annually donates upward of 100,000 pounds of sugar to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across the state and supports countless community events and festivals throughout its growing region.

Of the nine sugarbeet processing companies in the United States, Michigan Sugar is the third largest and Michigan is one of 11 states where sugarbeets are grown in the country.



Historic Michigan burger chain embraces past to move forward

Halo burger meal

The Halo Burger legend was built on three things: Fresh ingredients, treating people with respect and having a community-centered spirit that was created under the decades-long ownership by Bill Thomas and his family members.

Those founding principles have returned to the seven drive-through and dine-in restaurants since the leaders of Halo Country LLC took ownership of Halo Burger restaurants in 2016.

“It’s obvious to me that they’ve tried to go back to the similar stuff that we had,” said Terry Thomas, who took over from his dad and now serves as an ambassador for Halo Country.

Terry Thomas sat down with MLive’s John Gonzales recently to talk about traditions and the importance of being a leader in the community.

Watch as Terry talks about how he started working for his father at the age of 13 and what his first responsibilities were at the restaurant that has been a Flint area icon for 97 years.