One Christmas as Johnathan and his brother Craig were sitting and talking about careers and whether they felt fully fulfilled, the two realized they had some start-up energy bubbling up inside. Thanks to an entrepreneurial father, the young men had it in their blood, and decided to go for it. With the on-demand economy blowing up, they knew they wanted to launch a home delivery service of sorts. In a world where you can have underwear delivered monthly, Johnathan knew that people want the convenience of having anything being deliverable anywhere.
Room Service, Halifax's online convenience store. “It’s not in the nature of the business. It’s more about when it’s 9:30 p.m. and raining, and you don’t want to leave your house—that’s when you know exactly who to call to bring you what you need.” The company, which delivers everything from candy and chips to personal care and baby items, was designed to make the average person’s day easier with the slogan: “Your time’s important, let us help you make the most of it.”
After thoroughly researching their idea, the Cannon brothers knew they had a winner. But the business hit an early road bump when it came to financing.
Johnathan had worked at one of Canada's big banks, once upon a time, so he naturally gravitated towards it when first financing the business. “I didn’t ask for a lot, so I was pretty confident that we’d get the loan," he says. But because Room Service was an original idea, there was no easy business model to compare it to, so in the bank's eyes it was too much of a financial risk. The bank refused to take that risk, and turned its former employee down. “I was bummed,” Johnathan says.
“Banks say they care about small businesses—and I’m sure they do—but CUA actually has the ability to invest in small business’ big ideas.” —Room Service co-founder Johnathan Cannon
Luckily he heard about CUA, a Halifax-based banking institution, and the brothers met with Small Business Officer Donny Thomson—who was there to help them right from the get-go. “Donny was totally on board and loved our idea. He was knowledgeable and even had a background in start-ups and small business,” Johnathan says. “He was the perfect guy for us to work with.”
Thomson and the team at CUA did everything in their power to help make Room Service possible by connecting them with the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program. The program, supported by the Government of Nova Scotia, provides a guarantee to CUA on its financing in the form of term loans, working capital and lines of credit to small businesses. Thomson knew exactly what it would take to make this business happen, allowing the Cannon brothers to realize their dream of opening a small business.
“Banks say they care about small businesses—and I’m sure they do—but CUA actually has the ability to invest in small business’ big ideas with the support of the program,” says Johnathan. “With a business like us, one that is new to Halifax with no precedent to take after, it’s a risk, and honestly, Room Service wouldn’t have happened without CUA.”
CUA provided the business with the financing so they could boost posts and generate the buzz that they needed to end up at their current average of 125 orders per week. Since launching in late August, Room Service has grown from 115 products to 500, and is constantly looking for more ways to serve the area.
Behind the scenes, the brothers are busy working full-time day jobs as well. Some days Johnathan does the delivering until 3 a.m. after working his 9-to-5 tax management job. They have also brought their father and younger brother into the business, making it a family affair, and they see their clients as extended family. They get to spend more quality time together and stop to chat with almost each delivery. “The best part of all of it is it being a family business,” says Johnathan. “We made a promise to each other and ourselves that even if we had arguments and disagreements—and we would—that we would always love each other more than we love money.”
The team has seen tremendous growth so far and have their eyes set on further expanding within the next few months. They’ve put in another proposal with CUA to make it happen. With CUA’s help, Room Service will be able to expand and deliver even more goodies and essentials across HRM.
This content has been developed and paid for by CUA, without involvement from The Coast’s editorial department.