JMSB alumnus rolls into the food industry with crepes near campus
From salty and savoury to sweet and decadent, Montrealers like a good crepe.
You may have noticed a new crepe shop on campus this summer. Montreal-based Rolopan opened a new location on Guy St. at the end of May.
The restaurant offers Japanese-style crepes, with just about every filling you can imagine, from warm mushroom and cheese to the classic Nutella and fruit. They’re made in front of you on a swirling hotplate, and served wrapped up so you can eat them on the go.
It’s quite fitting that the new location is in the heart of the downtown campus, as the co-owner of Rolopan, Manal Tarhini, is a graduate of the John Molson School of Business (JMSB).
Tarhini was a fresh graduate when she started working as a financial analyst. The growing demands of her family, and need for flexibility, led her to seek out a different avenue of work.
“I had to be more creative,” she said. “The food industry was something that really excited me.”
Food and franchising was always a topic of conversation at the family dinner table. Tarhini’s husband is well-versed in the area, owning many franchises himself.
Rolopan caught Tarhini’s attention at LaRonde. This is where founder Paul Kohli opened up the first restaurant in 2005. She and her daughters always looked forward to visiting.
“We were always excited when we saw them making the crepes in front of us, dressing it up like a piece of art.”
Tarhini saw that the Japanese-style crepes were a hit at the amusement park, so she approached the owner, and suggested partnering up and opening more stores in Montreal neighbourhoods.
Kohli welcomed the idea, and in January 2014, Rolopan was revamped. There are currently three outlets outside LaRonde: one on Guy, one on St-Laurent and one on Ste-Catherine.
Tarhini used her business education, which includes a Bachelor of Commerce from JMSB in Finance, completed level II in the Chartered Financial Analyst Program, and a Masters of Business Administration from the American University of Beirut, to create a new model for the restaurant.
“Basically what we have done is created this franchise as a great investment opportunity,” she said.
The team is working on marketing and hopes to open up more locations in the future.
Tarhini wants to have the community involved in the project as well. She recently visited classes at Concordia to speak about the business and invited students to give their feedback. Tarhini is currently working with JMSB to be the subject of a live case study for the winter 2015 semester.
“The best way to learn and to teach business now is through live cases,” she said. “You get to think, you get to really experience it from a real life sense.
She is looking forward to hearing what students think the restaurant can improve on.
Tarhini hopes to see more students take an entrepreneurial path after their studies. Her advice to aspiring business owners: be financially solid when opening, set aside money for marketing, and maximize your dollar.
“Have enough money to buffer your expenses for the first year,” she said.
Tarhini also hopes to see more women enter the playing field. She is happy to see that her 16-year-old daughter is already enthusiastic about the idea of entrepreneurship.
“She’s excited also to have her own business, and listening to her saying this, it is fantastic.”
A lot has changed since Tarhini completed her first degree in 2005, including the way businesses use social media to interact with customers.
“Embrace it, take advantage of it, don’t limit your choices [in] life, there’s no reward without risk.”