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.

Every franchisee has heard that you need to wait at least six months before deciding to buy a franchise. Pam Estabrooke took eight years of evaluation before becoming a ProTect Painters franchisee. But the wait was worth it – Estabrook was able to be 100 percent confident in the business when she opened her own franchise. Plus, when others doubted her abilities as a woman in a male-dominated business, she had more than enough experience to confidently prove them wrong.

Name: Pam Estabrooke

Franchise owned (location):

ProTect Painters of Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Ga.

How long have you owned a franchise?

One year.

Why franchising?

The structure of the business is already in place. There is a lot less to figure out on your own when you step into the framework of a franchise. There is, of course, training and learning the system, but with the support of the franchisor and other units near you there is always help. It is invaluable to have the marketing plan in place as soon as you start. Naturally, there are things to figure out specific to your area or territory, but to have it in place from the day you start is huge. There is accountability within the system which helps me operate my business in a timely and efficient way.

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What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

My corporate career was in administration and IT project management. I owned my own interior painting and faux finishing business for about three years, and then I worked for the previous owner of the franchise I now own. I’d always heard that if you wanted to buy a business, you should work in that business for at least six months. Well, I gave it eight years, so I knew I was making the right decision.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

I believe in ProTect Painters’ mission to provide local businesses and homeowners with fully insured and licensed painting professionals. I understand and trust the brand, its model and the tried and true system. I had been a part of it for eight years. I also knew the startup costs were reasonable. I love that there is no brick-and-mortar structure to maintain, no firm business hours and no employees. It’s definitely a low barrier to entry business.

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

I spent about $50,000 in acquiring the territory. As I said, without a building, equipment and employees the startup is reasonable. I set aside another $40,000 for startup costs: insurance, business licensing and other marketing costs.

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

I am blessed to have the founder of the franchise near me. Wayne Scherger founded ProTect Painters in 1994 and originally trained me in this business about 10 years ago. I also sought out other female business owners I know and talked to them about ownership. My father also owned a construction business for most of my life. I went into this with a fairly good idea of how projects ebb and flow, the highs and lows, rewards and frustrations that are all a part of it.

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Being a female in a male dominated industry can be a challenge. People are surprised when I show up for the estimate and begin to talk to them about their home and repairs. I’ve had people assume I was the one doing the painting. Another challenge is figuring out the marketing strategies that work best and setting appropriate budgets for them.

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

Do plenty of research. If you can take the time and work in the business as an employee or apprentice do it. Learn every job in the business. Plan to pay yourself for at least two years out of savings and put enough aside for marketing.

What’s next for you and your business?

Naturally I want to increase sales and production. I am probably at a point where I need to hire someone but I’m struggling with direction because both commercial and residential projects are lucrative. Right now, I am intentionally growing the commercial side of the business. I plan to wait a bit to see how much I can do that in the first half of the year then decide whether or not to bring on someone to handle commercial projects or provide extra support on the residential side of the business.

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