Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. This week, we’re kicking off with three franchisees who got their lucky break through reality television. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleazar Puente began working at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels more than a decade ago, when he was fresh out of high school. Rising through the ranks in his suburban store, Puente had aspirations of owning his own Auntie Anne’s. That dream was kick started when, as one of the top employees, he was selected for the reality show Be The Boss, and won the keys to his own franchise.
Responses have been edited for content and clarity.
Name: Eleazar Puente
Franchise Owned (location): Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Lloyd Center Mall in Portland, Ore.
How long have you owned the franchise?
I began in early December of 2013. I am going on two months of owning my own franchise and I’m loving every minute of it!
I had the privilege to appear on the reality TV show, Be The Boss. The show pits two company employees against each other to compete and have the opportunity of a lifetime to win their own franchise. Fortunately for me, the opportunity became a reality. However, if not giving the opportunity to appear on the show, I would still have a strong interest in being a franchise partner with Auntie Anne’s Inc., due to the experience and knowledge I’ve gained in my 10 years with the company. There are many benefits in owning a franchise.
Throughout my time with Auntie Anne’s, I’ve appreciated the fact that with any questions we may have, there is always someone to help you, whether in person or over the phone, they are there to help you achieve a result that will only help you succeed. So whether you decide to franchise with Auntie Anne’s, or any other company, these services are always helpful to get you up off your feet.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Previously to becoming a franchise owner, I was a store manager of an Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in my hometown mall. This was my first job out of high school. I was hired in July of 2003 and worked my way up while attending Portland State University full time. I was promoted to store manager in September of 2006. Auntie Anne’s was all I have ever known.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I really couldn’t turn down an opportunity like the one I was presented with of owning my own franchise. I’ve had the privilege to meet some amazing people within the company and when attending trainings or meetings. They really make you feel like you’re part of a family.
What was the process from being on a reality show to opening your own franchise? What was your own economic investment, if any? (Please give us a cost breakdown)
I would be lying if I said the process was easy, but of course, anytime you began something new, and you want it to be successful, there will be long days and sleepless nights. You will need a lot of faith, ambition and perseverance. When I received the phone call from the producer that they selected me to be in a “documentary,” little did I know what I had coming. However, I was excited and proud to represent the company. I knew that one day I wanted to move up in the company in hopes of owning my own business.
When I found out that I was receiving the keys to my very own franchise, I began to look at business in a different perspective. I went from thinking about what specials would bring customers through our doors, to thinking about things like how I want my business to be perceived as, and what I need to do to set a high standard.
Timing was an essential part in getting things done accordingly and making sure that we were open for the holidays. Finding a location was difficult. There were certain locations I thought would be great, but after researching and visiting those locations things didn’t seem to pan out. I invested a lot of time throughout this process, sometimes sacrificing family time in doing so. Thankfully I have a wife who has been nothing but a huge support as I was continuing to research and focus a lot of my time to this franchise.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I received a lot of advice from my boss Jerry and Barb Iervolino who are also franchise owners. From the moment they found out that I was awarded my own franchise, they were always discussing with me things to think about and consider when constructing and attaining permits, equipment and personnel.
I have also received a lot of support from the Auntie Anne’s corporate employees. They were always making sure that I had all the information I needed and paperwork completed to keep the process flowing smoothly. My easiest form of research was talking with many business owners about what they’re experiences have been like, some of the struggles they face, and what makes them successful.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I felt like the biggest challenge I faced was dealing with my inexperience during the construction process. I really had to rely on my construction team to make the right decisions for me and trust that they knew what they were doing, and I must say… they did a heck of a job, and my store looks fantastic!
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own business?
All I know is that hard work does pay off, as cliché as that may sound. I knew that I had to be smart financially and gain knowledge from people who have been in my shoes. Although I achieved my dream through a great opportunity, it still does not take away the fact that I had to work hard to get to where I did. The most important thing about goals, is having one, and doing what it takes to get you there is something that stuck in my mind and I never gave up on it.
One other piece of advice I would give, would be to meet and introduce yourself to people who may have a hand in starting your business. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and at the same time be friendly and respectful. That can play a part in making connections and putting in a good word for you. I always say, “To get respect, you must give respect.”
What’s next for you and your business?
For me, this is just the beginning. I want continue to invest in more Auntie Anne’s franchises and hopefully expand from there. But before that, my main goal is to really invest in my employees and train them to be successful not only in their job, but in life as well. Of course without them, success is an after thought. No matter the tough times we may experience when dealing with business, I will continue to move forward, because for me, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!