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Family business The Jolly Group starts funding for ambitious expansion



Simon and Rimon, The Jolly Group

Featured | Small Business

By Loren Webb

The Jolly Group is becoming the first café group to raise funds on online investment platform ​Birchal​.

The Victoria-based, family-owned business comprises of The Jolly Miller Café & Patisserie, with 12 company-owned non-franchised outlets in Victoria (and a further 6 opening in 2020) and its wholesale kitchen Fig Food Co, which services hundreds of cafés and restaurants, with a whole variety of sweets and savouries.

The decision not to franchise thus far and in future comes from a deep affinity to the company’s brand and values. CEO Simon Barbar said, “For us, our brand means everything – quality, consistency and integrity of our brand is paramount, and we feel that we can only give it justice if it is in our hands – we can spend what we need to spend, change menus, equipment, fit-out, be innovative, move with the times and be on trend with what’s happening in the hospitality scene.”

“More importantly, we can be nimble in adjusting to anything if need be and make much quicker decisions that are beneficial to the brand.”

The aim is to raise between $1 million and $3 million which will facilitate an expansion into Australian cities beyond Victoria, as well as overseas.

The current future plan is to open 60 cafes in the next five years. The capital will also support growth on the product front.

Launched in the early 1990s as a single bakery in Gisborne, a country town 53 km north-west of Melbourne, The Jolly Group has morphed into an iconic brand among its loyal customers within Melbourne’s Northern and Western regions.

Dynamic Business asked The Jolly Group CEO Simon Barbar whether he always had anticipated this amount of growth for the company. His answer was a definite no; “we started as just one small country town bakery in Gisborne, and over the years we have slowly morphed into everyone’s favourite local cafe patisserie.”

In terms of where Simon sees the future of the brand, he said “The future after funding is to be the best local community cafe in Australia, grow Fig Food Co to service many more nationwide customers, acquire a coffee roasting company so we roast our own coffee and develop a new vegan food brand with its own identity.”

“We are massive on the vegan way of eating and how it is becoming the norm for so many people – in our cafes we now have a dedicated vegan menu. For wholesaling, we are creating a separate vegan brand with its own identity that will encompass a whole range of vegan sweet and savoury items for the end consumer.”

The Jolly Group has six new cafés in its pipeline for the current financial year, with the first expected to open in mid-November in Altona North and a further 10 cafés, in the following financial year.

Clearly working as a family is a success… Dynamic Business wanted to learn more about how the business operates as a family unit, and the pros and cons. Simon enlightened us with both sides, saying “the pros are – we care how and where every dollar gets spent, with every decision backed by a rigorous investment analysis because it’s our hard-earned money on the line.

“When we get shareholders coming on board, this won’t change. Another pro is that we can make decisions quickly and adapt to changing times – there are no bureaucratic processes we need to follow. The buck stops with us and every decision we make is in the interests of not only the company but also our families because our family’s wealth is tied up in the future of the company.”

“The cons… we have healthy arguments from time to time – everyone argues, but being a family business we are very passionate and possibly have more arguments than a typical corporate business.  Without healthy discussions and debates the right decisions won’t be made, and listening to each opinion is crucial because everyone sees things from a different perspective.”

In FY18/19, The Jolly Miller Group’s revenue surpassed $16.9 million and is on track to hit its forecast turnover of $25.9 million for the current financial year.

The funding will assist them in their ambitious plans from here.

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