Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

One of the most attractive characteristics of franchising is that established systems give certain franchisees the flexibility to not have their business take over their lives. For Stephanie Hopkins, that meant starting her own business without quitting her job in the banking industry. After over a decade working to help finance other peoples' dream business, Hopkins wanted a chance to start her own company. BodyBrite allowed her to have the best of both world: starting a business while continuing her busy finance career. 

Name: Stephanie Hopkins

Franchise owned: BodyBrite in Baton Rouge

How long have you owned the franchise?

Purchased in March 2013 and opened in May 2013

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Why franchising?

I have worked in the commercial banking industry for 12 years. In that time I have financed many businesses, worked closely with those business owners and have seen their success and sense of pride and accomplishment. This experience added fire to my long-time goal to one day become a business owner myself. However, with a busy career and no prior experience of owning a business, franchising was a great option for me.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I have a degree in Finance from LSU and have worked in the banking industry since graduating in 2001. I am currently a Relationship Manager for a Texas-based commercial bank where I specialize in the finance industry. While it keeps me very busy, I am able to maintain both my career and the BodyBrite franchise. Achieving this balance has been greatly assisted by Rebecca Kurtz (my business partner) and our incredible employees. Our staff truly takes ownership of the store and makes sure our customers have a very positive experience.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

After researching BodyBrite, I knew this was the right fit for me. I have always had a passion for the industry and found it compelling that I would be a part of making these services available to such a broad market. I found the business model to be very attractive; the straightforward pricing structure, the types and quality of services offered and the quick and easy way in which they are offered fit a need in our area. I knew that if a BodyBrite had opened previously in my area I would have been an eager customer. Then finally, after meeting the owners and management team, we made the decision to move forward. They are extremely supportive but also respect and encourage ideas and input from their individual franchise owners. They recognize that we are the ones on the front lines and we work together to strengthen and grow the franchise as a whole.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

Approximately $120,000: $37,000 in franchise fees for area development agreement, $37,000 for equipment, $30,000 for the buildout of our location, and approximately $16,000 in miscellaneous expenses (insurance, promotional, travel/ training expenses, licenses, etc.)

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

We initially researched online, but because the franchise was relatively new, there was not a lot of information available at the time. We spoke to some of the existing owners, visited the corporate headquarters and location and researched the owners’ franchise experience prior to BodyBrite. I also received a lot of good advice from a family member who is the controller for a local company that is currently franchising. She was able to give me an idea of issues to consider and what to expect. We took a lot of comfort in the ownership/ management team with the understanding that we would be entering the franchise in its infancy. I understood that there were greater risks in doing so but also many benefits as well.

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

The biggest challenge was being patient to build up the volume of customers. We believe so strongly in the services we provide and how much of a value these services are that we wanted to spread our message as quickly as possible. But figuring out how to best use advertising dollars proved to be a difficult task. Ultimately we found our best results came from us personally going into the community and talking about BodyBrite. Slowly but surely word began to spread and now word-of-mouth is our best advertising.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

Research as much as you can and make sure you (1) believe in the product and business model, (2) respect and get along with the ownership/ management team as you will have a very close working relationship with them, and (3) seek as much advice and counsel as you can from existing franchise owners – there is nothing better than personal experience. I have learned so much through this process that I have many valuable tips for future owners as they work to open and operate their own BodyBrite location.

What’s next for you and your business?

More BodyBrite centers. We signed an Area Development Agreement that will include a total of three centers. We are excited to expand this model to surrounding areas and be a part of the growth and strengthening of the BodyBrite brand.

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