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.

After nearly 15 years as a fire fighter and professional salsa dancer, Alex Lee took on another profession: franchisee. With two young children, Lee wanted additional income to support his growing family. He also wanted to continue to dance competitively and fight fires. Opening his own Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning location provided the perfect solution. Here's what Lee has learned while juggling salsa, firefighting and franchising.  

Name: Alex Lee

Franchise owned: Oxi Fresh East Bay located in the San Francisco Bay Area

How long have you owned a franchise?

One year

Why franchising?  

Franchising offers involvement in an established brand that operates with a formula for success and strong support via a motivated corporate office.

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What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was, and still am, a firefighter for the city of San Jose. I started as a firefighter, became a licensed paramedic after seven years and was promoted to captain after 14 years. My eighteenth anniversary will be this year.

In addition to the fire department, I’ve been an active, professional salsa dancer for nearly 16 years. Through dancing, I‘ve had the opportunity to perform and compete in 17 countries including Australia, Japan, Abu Dhabi, India, and New Zealand. 

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

I was looking for a franchise that I could maintain around my commitment to the fire department. Oxi Fresh allows for flexibility. I have the ability to set my own hours and the call center schedules all jobs according to my availability. 

Additionally, I wanted a system that was cost efficient when it came to hiring support. With a truck mounted system, which is used by traditional carpet cleaners, you need to buy a truck and the system for that employee to use. The cost for this can be upwards of $40-60 thousand. With Oxi Fresh, all you need is our machine, some spray bottles, a few odds and ends and you are ready to go. The total cost is drastically reduced to hire a new employee. 

The most important reason that I chose to invest in Oxi Fresh was that the system is second to none. It works amazingly well on floors. And the bottom line is, if it works and you believe in it, it will sell. 

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

Besides the one-time franchise fee of $32,900, I spent an additional 3-5 thousand dollars to get started. Most of the money went towards marketing; the other parts went to buying everything that I needed to properly set up the business such as order forms, shirts, LLC licensing, insurance, storage space, business cards, and crates to organize the equipment into, flyers and brochures.

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

The majority of help and advice was given to me from Kris Antolak, Oxi Fresh director of franchise development. Kris was my liaison and best source of information when it came to questions and concerns. I must say, he made no false promises and was to the point about the good and the bad of franchising, honest and overall a great help. 

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

The most difficult challenge has been marketing. Not knowing what will and will not work. Spending money on marketing campaigns that yield no return is discouraging, but it’s also a learning experience. You learn very quickly not to make the same mistake twice. 

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

Trust the system. The franchise is where it is for a reason. Trust that they have your best interest in mind and let the system work for you. That being said, I would also state that this is not a get rich quick industry. If that’s what you’re looking for, play the lottery, learn to throw a baseball 100 mph, or go to Vegas.

Last bit of advice? Work hard and you will succeed. 

What’s next for you and your business?

I would like to expand my business to two more territories over the next few years and grow to the point that I have a staff of five to six technicians.

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