Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. This week, we’re profiling young entrepreneurs: franchisees under 30. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mit Patel’s mentor is his father. Before striking out on his own, the young entrepreneur worked with his “loving, crazy family” at a small investments company. From there, he gained the advice and insight he needed to open his own Forever Yogurt franchise. From family business to a franchisee at a young and fresh frozen yogurt chain, Patel has found a new community of entrepreneurs.
Name: Mit Patel
Franchise Owned: Baltimore
How long have you owned franchise?
Since March of 2013.
For a change in pace, I decided I wanted to invest in an already proven successful model and structured business as my next investment. Fortunately enough, I had a family friend (Roma) put me in touch with VP of Franchise Development of Forever Yogurt’s corporate offices. He told me about their brand, numbers and system. From that point, I was interested and the hunt began.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I have had the privilege of working with my loving, crazy family, who cooperatively owns and manages a small investments company which includes retail and real estate investments. Of course, considering this awesome opportunity with Forever Yogurt, I’ve had to put on the brakes with those responsibilities to ensure a smooth build-out process and a strong opening for our Forever Yogurt (Baltimore) location.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
As a first-time franchisee, I wanted to be able to connect and relate to those who make up their corporate offices. It is always advantageous to join a team, albeit a partner or franchise, that you can relate to rather than solely considering profitability. I got that feeling during my two visits chatting with CEO (Mandy), VP of Franchise Development (Kinjal), and Creative Director (Ahmad). Some of us had very similar career backgrounds and was certainly a big factor.
For me, what separates Forever Yogurt from the rest of the industry’s top players was that they are a youthful, energetic group of people who really strive for brand recognition. They understand how to connect to their consumers and they have the best looking stores in the market, including custom designs pertaining to that specific location/neighborhood.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Franchise fee of $30,000, construction and equipment can vary from $150,000-250,000 depending on your store size, grand opening advertising $5,000, etc.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Of course, my dad. He's been a mentor and sound board for me all my life. The fact that he's business savvy is an added bonus. Additionally, my research has a lot to do with our current retail ventures. They serve as a great reference point which makes comparing factors such as margins and operational labor that much easier.
Other than that I’m pretty old school; I spend time at yogurt stores, talk to customers, ask why they like the product, why they think it’s the best, and try to get in touch with the store’s owners. Gaining a better understanding of why owners invest in the brand and/or industry, and why customers love the product goes a very long way for the decision making process.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Estimated time of soft/grand openings. As in many build-outs from scratch, it is very difficult to predict when you will actually open. There are many factors that attribute to delays.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Ask a million questions! Spend most of your time doing your research. Make sure you love the location. Make sure the brand you are investing in understands how important it is to evolve with the market. Some industries have a lot more competition than othersso it is important to be aware of that. Getting support on the backend is a crucial comparison point when deciding which franchise to select.
What’s next for you and your business?
Right now, I want to focus on this location and make the Federal Hill (Baltimore) neighborhood well acquainted with us this Spring and Summer of 2014. I want to establish an exciting and inviting atmosphere for all of our customers. If all goes well, it’d be great to consider additional locations.