Inspired by the Grand Cafés of Paris, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters was brought to life by a burning ambition to bring that culture to the Great White North i.e. Canada. The company was founded in Stratford, Ontario in 1996, led by the entrepreneurial and artistic vision of one woman – Diana Olsen. As President and Founder, she continues to drive the company’s success with sharp business acumen, creativity, and a finger on the pulse of contemporary culture. Proudly Canadian, Balzac’s has 14 distinct and beloved locations across Ontario.
What distinguishes Balzac’s from the rest, aside from unrivalled roasts and formidable female leadership, is that every café is specifically designed to embody the cultural nuances and historical significance of the location it’s in. In doing so, each café has carved out a unique personality as a central gathering place for the locals to converse, share, ruminate and create. And the fact that all Balzac’s cafés have garnered quite the loyal following proves that providing a place for people to drink excellent coffee in the authentic French tradition has an appeal that can only be described as everlasting.
In the words of novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac - “the café is the people’s parliament,”
PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
While earning a university degree in French literature, Diana Olsen, President and Founder of Balzac’s, discovered a kindred spirit in Monsieur Balzac and his genuine passion for coffee. Upon graduating, she immersed herself in authentic French culture, spending a year and a half in France. Passing many enchanting afternoons in the Grand cafés of Paris, Ms. Olsen was inspired to bring this sophisticated celebration of coffee and social tradition home to Canada.
San Francisco was her next stop in 1993, to learn the craft of coffee roasting and bean selection at the West Coast Specialty Coffee Training Institute. In 1996, the first Balzac’s café was opened in Stratford, Ontario. Today, Diana oversees all aspects of café operations and coffee roasting from the Balzac’s Roastery in Ancaster, Ontario.
Originally from Calgary, Steve Janzen spent 20 years in the Hospitality Industry before his love of coffee brought him to Balzac’s. His experience working in larger companies, including Intrawest and the Jim Pattison Group, along with Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification, was a good fit to bring to the growing company. Steve joined the team in 2013 (7 cafés) and has played a key leadership role in guiding the company and its infrastructure from its small company roots into its current growth phase.
DIRECTOR OF COFFEE
Our Director of Coffee Will Thorburn comes to Balzac’s with over 10 years of experience in the Canadian coffee industry. Starting out as a Barista, Will began his career in a local community coffee shop before moving on to the premier Calgary-based company Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. As one of their first hires, Will trained and worked directly with Phil Robertson and Sebastian Sztabzyb as they made their splash on the Calgary coffee scene in early 2007. Eventually moving to Ontario, Will took up residency as a Barista with Detour Coffee Roasters in Dundas before becoming their full-time Production Roaster, logging a few thousand hours roasting on their Loring S35 Kestrel. After leaving Detour, Will began consulting for local coffee companies before eventually signing on with Balzac’s as Director of Coffee, responsible for all quality control and production in our new, state-of-the-art roasting facility in Ancaster, ON.
Director of WHOLESALE
Director of Technology
Accounting & Payroll Supervisor
Liz Van Hoffen
Accounting & Administration
Maintenance & Tech Support
REGIONAL MANAGER, TORONTO
STRATFORD & REGIONAL MANAGER, WEST
NIAGARA-ON-The-Lake & Port dalhousie
RYERSON IMAGE ARTS
GUELPH & Waterloo
In 2011, Ms. Olsen appeared on CBC Television’s popular show Dragon’s Den to seek strategic investors to generate capital for the Reference Library and Ryerson café locations as well as to help generate future growth. The successful pitch resulted in both Arlene Dickinson and Bruce Croxon investing in the company. Today, they offer strategic coaching and counselling to every level of operations as well as sitting on the Board of Directors.
District Ventures Capital
Arlene Dickinson is one of Canada’s most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs. As CEO of Venture Communications, her creative and strategic approach has turned the company into a powerhouse with a blue chip client list. She is also the CEO of YouInc.com, a company she founded in 2012 that is dedicated to serving and investing in entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial lifestyle.