Businesswoman. Mentor. “Popcorn lady.” All three of these titles apply to Charmaine Franken who, as the owner of OLiV Tasting Room Moose Jaw, combines her marketing and people skills with a passion for healthy living.
Opened in 2011, OLiV Moose Jaw was the first store in what has grown to be an international corporation. The unique tasting room features 31 flavours of extra virgin olive oil, all of them produced on an award-winning farm in South Africa. Charmaine helped founders Awie and Isabeau Du Toit develop the company’s brand, and in 2015 she bought the flagship franchise.
“My motivation is my love of people,” says Charmaine. “I’m giving people a healthy option, and it’s making a difference in their lives.”
Most days Charmaine can be found at the Tasting Room, working alongside her team to give tasting tours, cooking inspiration and an opportunity to sample the products. Along with high-quality olive oils, OLiV features more than 50 balsamic vinegars. The quality and health benefits of OLiV products inspire Charmaine to educate others, giving them flavourful options (from sweet to savoury to spicy) they won’t find elsewhere.
“We control the quality of our olive oil from farm to table,” says Charmaine. “It’s a great anti- inflammatory and good for heart disease and high cholesterol. You don’t have to give up flavour to live a healthy lifestyle.”
Prior to OLiV, Charmaine worked in marketing and sales at Johnson & Johnson for 17 years. She considers the company a mentor, and has applied aspects of its culture to her own business. “I like to inspire my team to come up with ideas, creating a culture that’s innovative,” she says. “I don’t micromanage — I want people to grow into their potential. Some of my staff members have big dreams, and if I can help them get closer to their dream, I feel I’ve done something right.”
Charmaine inspires kids to eat healthier by visiting local schools, where she is known as “the popcorn lady.” She educates students on the difference between good and bad fats and shows them how they can change the taste of popcorn with different-flavoured olive oils. “Kids have cravings, and this allows them to have healthier options for those cravings,” says Charmaine. “I would like to expand our school program and continue to inspire the younger generation.”
OLiV also sponsors the Moose Jaw Atom AA Warriors. Charmaine hopes to get the message across to the young players that they can enjoy great flavours and still be healthy. “Together we make a great team,” she says.
Charmaine credits her husband, Jan, and 10-year-old daughter, Jodi, for being a big part of her business journey. Jan is an OLiV board member and can also be spotted helping out at the tasting room. Jodi has grown up in the business and these days, she enjoys giving out popcorn to OLiV customers. “You go into business with your family behind you,” says Charmaine. “If my family didn’t share and support my passion, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
With new people discovering OLiV Tasting Room each day, Charmaine says she’s always learning new things. She encourages her customers to share flavour and recipe ideas, and is dedicated to keeping the business an inspiring place to visit. “My biggest reward,” she says, “is seeing the delight on our customer’s faces.”
OLiV Tasting Room
401 Main St. N.
By Courtney Tait