Douglas College grad from Croatia finds success in the fries business

If asked to come up with a bold and innovative new business idea, few entrepreneurs would probably say, “I’m going to sell French fries!”

After all, there’s nothing interesting about fries, right? They’re just a sidekick for hamburgers.

Well, not to Andrija Čolak.

While many might see limited marketing potential in fries, Andrija sees a sizzling-hot opportunity. In fact, the former Douglas College marketing student is co-founder and CEO of Surf’n’Fries, a company with dozens of fries stands across Europe and beyond.

By taking a creative approach to the packaging and product, Andrija’s company is transforming fries from boring side dish into exciting feature food.

“People were laughing at me when I told them about the concept. They thought I went crazy,” Andrija says. “They would say, ‘Why would you sell fries? Everyone sells fries. It’s nothing new.’ However, it turned out they were very wrong.”

Since the first Surf’n’Fries shop opened in 2009, the franchise-based company has grown to include 40 locations in 11 countries. This year, the company even won the International Franchise Association NextGen award.

What’s so unique about the Surf’n’Fries concept?

For one, health-conscious consumers might like the fact the fries aren’t deep fried in oil. Instead, they’re cooked to crispy perfection using steam and hot air.

Also, instead of shoving the fries into a greasy bag or clunky cardboard box, they’re served in a unique cone-shaped container. The idea behind the functional, easy-to-hold design is to enable customers to conveniently snack while on the go.

And to top it all off (literally) there are 15 dipping sauces to choose from.

While Andrija grew up in Croatia and lives there now, he came to Canada over a decade ago when his girlfriend moved here to study.

As an international student, Andrija enrolled at Douglas College and says he enjoyed his experience as a student, particularly the courses he took in the marketing program.

“Everything was straightforward and there were lots of case studies, which I liked a lot,” he says. “The professors were open and wanted to help.”

And now, with his Surf’n’Fries business taking off, Andrija might be about to make a return of sorts.

“I hope we will launch in Vancouver one day soon.”

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