Outsider Coffee Franchise
Entrepreneurs C.J. and Lindsay McPhail grew their small coffee business into a multi-unit franchise in five years. Here’s how they did it.
Five years ago, C.J. and Lindsay McPhail found themselves in a position neither had hoped for: dissatisfied with their career choices, the couple craved a sense of purpose they each felt was lacking in their daily work experiences.
“I always had businesses and side hustles going on, and (C.J.) was always at work in an office. Neither of us loved life. And it kind of just got to this point where we were like, ‘There's got to be something more,’” Lindsay recalls.
As the parents of four boys, two of whom were on the autism spectrum, the McPhails knew they needed to make a change to ensure a happier future for themselves and their family. To make that dream a reality, the McPhails landed on entrepreneurship – and fulfilling a dream that was nearly two decades in the making.
Risking it all
“(Owning a coffee shop) was something we had thought about as newlyweds 20 years before. … But with four kids and mortgages and stuff, it was never the right time. So we finally got to this point in our unhappiness where we were pushed to risk everything,” Lindsay says.
Despite the couple’s fears of failing as small business owners – and potentially having to move back in with family after risking the financial comforts they’d grown accustomed to – the McPhails decided the potential rewards of going into business for themselves were worth the risks.
“We just got ourselves to a point – and I'm really proud this is part of our story – that we just said, ‘Yeah, what if? Maybe that happens, but what if it goes really well? What if we do what we love to do – which is pour ourselves into people?’” C.J. says.
Infused with a Sense of Purpose and Community
As the couple brainstormed ideas about what their new venture would look like, the model for what would become Outsider Coffee – a drive-thru coffee concept uniquely rooted in meaningful interactions and inspiring small, positive changes in the world – began to materialize.
Despite the McPhails’ confidence in their new business, though, the couple knew achieving success in Jackson County, Oregon – one of the most saturated areas for coffee drive-thrus in the nation – would be a challenge all its own.
To differentiate their business from competitors, the McPhails adopted a people-first approach to business. By encouraging “small, daily, consistent steps forward” with every customer interaction, Outsider Coffee aimed to inspire people to create “significant and lasting change” in their lives and the world around them while embracing the status of an “outsider” in a world where insecurities often dictate behavior.
“I think it's safe to say that at some point in our lives, we've all felt like an outsider. There have been times that our insecurities take over and we feel like we need to pretend to be someone else to fit in those nothing's when we lay our head on the pillow. … An outsider is someone who shows up strongly, boldly, confidently – knowing that what makes them different is actually what they can use to change the world,” Lindsay explains.
Scaling their Success and Purpose
For the McPhails, taking a gamble on small business ownership paid off. Within a few years of opening, Outsider Coffee proved to be wildly successful – even in the intimidating and oversaturated coffee market of Southern Oregon.
Despite dreaming of opening hundreds of locations across the U.S. and wanting to take their business to new heights, the McPhails were uncertain as to how they wanted to continue to grow their business. Reluctant to pursue franchising as a means for growing their brand, the couple didn’t want to risk watering down their mission as a result of adopting a more corporate approach to business.
But after opening two more locations on the East Coast and managing them from Oregon, the McPhails realized the systems they’d built to stay profitable and support their East Coast team from across the country were sustainable and replicable – qualities that are critical for successfully franchising a brand. Franchising, it seemed, was the natural next step for the small-but-mighty coffee company.
“We just thought, if our goal is to make an impact on as many communities as possible, why wouldn't we be very strategic about who we partner with? Why wouldn't we partner with other people who have a heart like we do – who love coffee and want to make an impact?” Lindsay recalls.
In 2022, the McPhails finally decided to explore franchising as a means of scaling their brand – and its mission – nationally. To achieve those goals, the couple turned to The Internicola Law Firm for support in getting their new franchise off the ground while working with the firm’s founder, franchise attorney Charles N. Internicola, to ensure their people-first mission was built into the system from the start.
“(The Internicola Law Firm) has been such a huge gift to us – walking us through things we didn't even know we needed to walk through, but also helping us think through all of the systems and all of the things that are going to ensure that our brand stays mission- and people-focused,” Lindsay says.
Changing the World One Coffee at a Time
For the McPhails, the franchise sales process offered a chance to reconnect with their purpose – and connect with like-minded franchisees whose goals, vision and dedication to coffee and people align with their own.
“If you can connect emotionally to what you do and why you do it – why did you start this to begin with? Go back to those days and feel that again. That will come through in what you share and I believe that will connect you with the right (franchisees). … I'm proud to say this is exactly what has happened so far with the franchisees that we've signed,” C.J. says.
As the founders of an emerging franchise system, the McPhails also viewed franchising as a way to deliver their inspirational approach to coffee and customers to new communities across the country – while changing lives with every cup of coffee served.
“Even moving to a different part of the country where there's no coffee culture there yet, there is nothing like what we do. And we don't do anything very complicated. It's just that we choose to see and know people,” Lindsay says.
Outsider Coffee Franchising
Despite the success of Outsider Coffee, the McPhails acknowledge that entrepreneurship – and building a thriving franchise system from the ground up – hasn’t been easy.
Still, as successful multi-unit franchisors with additional locations planned for the near future, the McPhails have no regrets about risking everything to pursue their dreams.
“I think people that talk about entrepreneurship as if it's easy. Those aren’t our people. I don't relate to that. I don't know who those people are. It has not been easy – but it has been such a joy. It has been so worth it,” C.J. says.
To learn about franchising opportunities with Outsider Coffee, click here.