Easy Does It

Working It Out

The success of convenience-related franchises proves the demand is solid; however, actually getting the businesses off the ground takes hard work and serious thought. It took three years of trial-and-error testing, for example, for Yvette Gooch to get E Z Pantry started. The service, which allows customers to order groceries and have them delivered to their homes, recently sold its first franchise. "We had to work out the snags and develop a system that works," says Gooch, who runs E Z Pantry in Berlin, New Jersey, with her mother, Maria Solorzano. "That's why we waited a long time before franchising the concept."

Now virtually snag-free, E Z Pantry runs like clockwork: Customers choose their groceries from a printed catalog; employees enter orders into a computer; an employee assembles the orders; and, within 24 hours, drivers deliver the orders to customers (Tuesday through Friday) for a modest $5 fee.

Another problem was marketing the service and building clientele--Solorzano worked the phones religiously day and night. Again, the hard work paid off: The service now brings in $1 million-plus annually, and Gooch estimates that 70 percent of their customers (75 percent busy employees and 25 percent senior citizens) are repeat users. "Our business expands every day by word-of-mouth," says Gooch.

The 133 franchisees of Sudbury, Massachusetts-based Pressed4Time charm their customers by offering free alterations, shoe repair, and pickup and delivery of dry cleaning. "We've negotiated wholesale prices with local dry cleaners so our customers pay retail prices for the service," says CEO Kent Issenberg, who projects next year's systemwide revenues at $11.5 million, an increase over the current $10 million. "The vast majority of cleaners are working under capacity and had no objections to taking wholesale prices to increase their business." And Pressed4Time customers aren't complaining. "It's hard to beat this kind of deal," Issenberg adds.

Similarly, Oil Butler International Corp. franchisees lure customers with the unbeatable combination of convenience and savings. The mobile service offers customers quick oil changes and lube jobs; franchisees also rotate tires, change windshield wipers and check tire pressure at no extra cost. The Union, New Jersey-based franchisor has 137 franchisees nationwide, plus one company-owned location, and expects to sell between 100 and 400 franchises next year. According to founder Sam Casternovia, the company's grateful clientele includes not only busy professionals who gush over the convenience of having their oil changed in their company parking lots, but also owners of rental agencies and car and truck fleets.

Rich Dennis, 36, is a prime example of an Oil Butler success story. It took Dennis a full year to build a loyal clientele after purchasing his Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Oil Butler franchise six years ago. Three years ago, he averaged about 30 oil changes a day; now he averages 40 to 50 a day with a full-time assistant and earns $25 per car.

Dennis, who expects sales of $180,000 by year-end and $220,000 next year, says a love of hard work and willingness to hustle are more important than your abilities as an auto mechanic. "Anyone can learn these basic skills," says Dennis, who previously ran a grocery/convenience store with his father.

Industry experience was also a nonissue for Bill Bailey, a former sales executive turned Pressed4Time franchisee. To jump on the convenience trend, you just have to be willing to put in the hours and labor to build a clientele, says Bailey, 43, who bought his Richmond, Virginia, franchise in January. Bailey, who expects to bring in $100,000 this year and nearly double that in 2000, is justifiably proud of the fact that he was profitable just three months after starting. "I believed in the concept," he says, "so it was a surprisingly easy sell because I'm persistent and passionate about selling."

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Easy Does It.

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