Poul Mark, Founder & CEO of Edmonton-based TranscendCoffee.ca, is not just passionate about great coffee, he’s also talented at roasting it perfectly. Over the course of nine years, this former lawyer has forged his way into Canada’s specialty coffee industry with his determination to build a better understanding and appreciation of quality java.
“Coffee brings people together,” Mark says. “I had a desire to create community and quality coffee.”
Mark’s efforts have garnered him Q-graders certification, a prestigious international professional accreditation for evaluating green and roasted coffee beans, making him one of Canada’s leading coffee bean suppliers, roasters and educators.
Based in Edmonton, but reaching all of Canada
Transcend Coffee currently operates three bustling cafes in Edmonton. The success of Mark’s storefront locations led to the creation of his online store with a .CA domain.
“We were one of the first in Canada to be selling coffee online. We’ve been doing it since 2007.”
In addition to selling grinders, brewers, tea and gifts, TranscendCoffee.ca is where Edmonton coffee aficionados can sign up for local brewing and tasting courses, and buyers across Canada can purchase both green and roasted beans in bulk at wholesale prices.
“We just went through a rebrand in the past year, which included re-doing our website for the third time,” says Mark. “Brand recognition is important and we are developing that now. The key to that is exposure to our brand through our brick-and-mortar locations.”
As one of the most prominent and successful roasters in Canada, Mark now has his sights set on breaking into the US market through his e-commerce site.
Why did Mark take his brick-and-mortar online?
The road to e-commerce was not smooth for Mark, who started with a .com.
“We’ve gone through three iterations to our website,” he says. “When we switched to the second one, we paid for user testing. One of the things we discovered was the users assumed our .com was an American company.”
.CA shows that a business is Canadian at first glance
Canadians tend to support local businesses–according to CIRA’s 2015 Internet Factbook, 77% of Canadians support Canadian businesses whenever possible–and a .CA can be an immediate identifier to users that they are doing just that. Additionally, users immediately perceive that a .CA website will list prices in Canadian dollars and that there won’t be any unnecessary hassle with shipping the products across international borders.
After user testing, Mark decided to pivot his approach and switch his primary extension to .CA.
“We’ve definitely seen growth; our online sales have grown about 10% per year.”
He still owns the .com, but redirects users to his .CA for maximum exposure as a Canadian brand.
Mark’s advice for entrepreneurs taking their business online
“Entrepreneurs considering a digital home for their business should dedicate time to researching their options, especially when it comes to using digital marketing agencies,” says Mark.
“Be very cautious, in terms of the information you get,” he says. “What I have learned is that there are so many companies offering advice and services. The internet is enough of a black hole that there is no way of knowing what will work and what won’t.”
For example, trial and error helped him determine when and where to use Pay Per Click ads.
“We use Google Ads only for targeted products, because the ROI is very high. We have wasted tons of ads trying to sell coffee, because it’s too broad a category. We have a luxury product, which garners lots of clicks, but no conversions because of the high price point. For specific products, Pay Per Click works much better.”
Mark has learned plenty along his path to entrepreneurship and stresses the importance of collaboration. Founders need to recognize their own limitations and focus on their strengths.
“You can’t do it all,” he says. “A successful business requires a team approach. I focus on what I’m good at and find people to do what I am not good at.”
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