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These young, successful business owners featured in our August 2008 "Early to Rise" article have more wisdom to share. Jerry Heath, 38, of Hungry Howie's Pizza and Gina Schaefer, 37, of Ace Hardware answer a few questions:
Entrepreneur: The article gave a lot of your history, where do you plan to go from here? What's your next move?
Jerry Heath: About 2 years ago I decided to diversify my company by franchising with Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches. I am in the process of opening my 4th store, with plans on doing at least 2 more. After that I am thinking about possibly opening some more Hungry Howie's south of Michigan.
Gina Schaefer: We opened our fifth location in June and we plan to continue pursuing urban locations as opportunities arise. We are also aggressively working on our e-commerce and commercial sales. There is still a tremendous amount of construction in Washington, DC and we would like to be a primary supplier for many of the products used in new construction and renovation.
Entrepreneur: What would you say (i.e. advice, warnings) to someone who wants to franchise at a young age?
Jerry Heath: I was just out of college when I opened my first Hungry Howie's, so I went from not having too many responsibilities to running my own business. I did not have time to do anything but work, with my first day off for coming one year after opening. But the more I worked the more successful my business became, so it was well worth it. Don't be afraid the ask questions or ask for help. One great advantage of being involved with a franchise is that you have a bunch of people who have been doing what you want to do for a very long time. They have already experienced the ups and downs of owning their own business and can be a great asset.
Gina Schaefer: My advice would be to do as much research about the franchise and yourself as possible. You can do more due diligence about the business than anyone, but if you don't really consider your own work traits, you could be in for a rocky road. How do you organize, how do you manage, have you managed different types of people before, how do you deal with stressful situations, how would you handle being "too successful" (early growth, etc)? These are serious things to consider.
Entrepreneur: What were some of the greatest sacrifices you had to make being a franchise owner?
Jerry Heath: Besides working a lot, I did not have to make too many sacrifices being a franchise owner. Besides opening my store on the west side of Michigan, which is 2 hours from all of my friends and family.
Gina Schaefer: I didn't make any sacrifices except for working harder than I've ever worked in my life. I have loved every minute of owning and growing my own business.
Entrepreneur: What were some of the greatest rewards you have experienced in being a franchise owner?
Jerry Heath: I've meet a lot of great people by being involved with 2 great franchise systems. I am my own boss, besides having the Franchises teach me how to succeed with their concepts. After many years of working non stop, I finally can take some time off to travel and spend with my family. I've been able to accomplish a dream of mine of becoming a pilot and owning my own airplane. I can eat all the Hungry Howie's pizza and Jimmy John's subs that I want; it doesn't get much better than that!
Gina Schaefer: Most of my "greatest rewards" thoughts revolve around employees who have risen to an occasion or have grown in our business and either moved onto other jobs or have been promoted from within. Our five store managers all started out as sales associates with our company and have not only helped us grow the business, but they have grown themselves. Our first 14 year old intern is a rising college senior and it's been great to watch him mature as an employee and learn from our team.
I have also tremendously enjoyed becoming a stronger part of the Ace co-op family and having mentors around the country I can call with questions or for advice. Marc and I are part of the new generation of hardware store owners and I'm really proud of that.
To hear the rest of our young franchisees' stories, click here.