Northwest Private Sector
Lori Martineau - Marathon
As a young high school girl in Sault Ste. Marie, Lori Martineau never dreamt that working as a car hop at the local A&W might foreshadow her eventual career as an entrepreneur.
Roller skating around the parking lot carrying trays of food, Martineau was content with just making a little money at a job she enjoyed.
She always knew she had business savvy. Her and her sisters always had money-making projects to keep change in their pockets.
Today, the northwest private sector award winner has a full plate. Martineau splits her time between the ownership duties of two successful A&W franchises along with managing the
Marathon Centre Mall and Bushwhacked Clothing Company.
She is responsible for 64 employees at her Marathon and Sault Ste. Marie restaurants.
Igniting the entrepreneurial flame in her young employees, who she affectionately refers to as “my kids,” is one of her main goals. She tells them, “I started just like you guys, I started at an A&W.”
“Owning a business is something anyone can challenge themselves to do, if they have the entrepreneurship skills,” she said.
Martineau’s journey started in 1989, when at 22, she went to Marathon, Ont. with her husband during the Hemlo Gold Mine boom.
She was soon given the opportunity to operate and manage Mark’s Work Wearhouse that was later renamed Bushwhacked Clothing Company as well as the Marathon Centre Mall on behalf of the Tonecraft Corporation.
At Mark’s Work Wearhouse, she gained training and experience through their franchise development program. This along with the help and guidance of her sister, a veteran manager of Mark’s Work Wearhouse in the Sault, allowed her to accumulate valuable management and marketing experience that would later become useful in her life.
The turning point in her career came in 2003, she said, when Tonecraft approached her about purchasing a bankrupt A&W on mall property. She agreed and purchased the franchise rights.
The gamble proved successful.
“I exceeded the sales by almost 18 per cent from the (previous) owner, in the first year.”
She attributed her success to her management style, believing fast food chains should be staff orientated. The first and most important task was to make sure she provided the proper working environment for her, mostly young, workforce.
She maintains an open-door policy with her staff, holding regular meetings to ensure the climate, is user friendly. A happy work environment, she believes, promotes good customer service.
Martineau still employs some of the people she hired back in 2003. “About half of my staff is still there.”
Managing a staff in the fast-food industry, with the majority of them still a year or two away from their high school graduation comes with some challenges.
“This is their first job for a lot of the students, who work for me at the A&W,” Martineau says. “I’ve got to make sure they have good skills going into their second job.”
She also promotes charity and community involvement.
“Once you give, you want to give more, and help more,” she said. “Then people want to help you. It’s just such a chain reaction.”
Success, comes from building good relationships, and hard work.
“I have good work habits, I have good skills and I have good people surrounding me,” she said.
“I’m being honest with you, I’m not educated, I have no master’s degree. I just worked hard all my life.”
Last year, in February, she was presented with the opportunity to purchase her second A&W in Sault Ste. Marie, the same location where she car hopped years ago.
This one was so far away, she needed a business partner in the area. Loe-and-behold, her sister Theresa, quickly volunteered, giving-up her successful career managing the Sault Mark’s Work Wearhouse.
Life has come full circle once again.
“When I got into Mark’s Work Warehouse, Theresa had 10 years experience and I needed her (to show me how to manage a business). Now she needs me… we’ve flip-flopped.”
The store has already shown steady growth, with up 16 per cent from the previous owner.
Looking to the future, Martineau mentions she has just put her Marathon A&W up for sale, even though it is still profitable.
“I want to expand on my entrepreneurship. Sometimes you have to give certain businesses up to free yourself for other opportunities.”
“I want to always be learning,” she said. “I think I’ll be an entrepreneur till… until old age.”