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.

Chad Piepenburg knows all about competition. Piepenburg purchased his first franchise fresh out of college. But when he took on his third and current business, he was surprised by who his competitors were: other franchisees. Piepenburg has worked to turn fellow franchisees' competitive nature into a collaborative effort that allows everyone to win. Here's how he's done it.

Name:  Chad Piepenburg

Franchise owned:  Cedar Hill, Texas

How long have you owned a franchise? 

I purchased my very first franchise right out of college. And the franchise I own today, The Smoothie Factory, I’ve owned for three years.

Why franchising? 

It’s pretty much all I’ve ever known. I actually started working at a smoothie franchise that was part of another chain when I was in college. I ended up becoming a franchise owner of that very same location. I sold it and invested in another frozen treat business by campus. And then, when the opportunity arose for me to invest in The Smoothie Factory, I jumped on it. I knew from years of experience that this chain had the best product line and used the healthiest ingredients in the industry. Having a stake in a brand with that reputation was incredibly appealing.

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What were you doing before you became a franchise owner? 

I went straight from college to owning my own business. I’ve always owned my own business and been my own boss, several times over. 

Hughes Marino New Orange County Office

Hughes Marino
Hughes Marino New Orange County Office

Why did you choose this particular franchise? 

The Smoothie Factory affords me a certain lifestyle that I enjoy. I like to exercise, eat healthy and be around people who enjoy the same things. Not to mention, I personally have at least two smoothies a day. It fits who I am. But the operational side of the business also lets me deliver that kind of experience to countless customers. And that’s rewarding beyond belief. My franchise and my great team of employees get to promote quality ingredients and nutritional supplements to customers who walk out the door feeling good about their visit.

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

$195,000

  • Leasehold Improvements & Equipment - $130,000
  • Inventory - $25,000
  • Franchise Fee - $25,000
  • Professional Fees - $5,000
  • Lease Deposit and First Month’s Rent - $7,000
  • Operating Supplies - $3,000

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

My previous smoothie experience and business partners prepared me most for what I wanted out of my current investment decision. I knew first-hand what the competition offered. And, I knew what I wanted to deliver moving forward.

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise? 

It was competitive, and that meant within our own chain. But I’m competitive by nature too. Today, I run one of the top 10 stores in The Smoothie Factory chain, and I’m working every day to rise in the ranks. But I’m also working to change this competitive nature into a positive across our chain.

I most recently joined the corporate office as a franchise support manager. So now I split my time between running my own store and helping other franchisees with operations and training for their stores as well. That’s introduced a sense of camaraderie I didn’t have when I first started.

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

Never expect the same thing each day. There will always be new hiccups every day. And, be disciplined with your time management. Wake up early every day to prepare yourself for the unexpected.

What’s next for you and your business?  

I will be one of the first franchise locations in The Smoothie Factory network to add a juice bar to my franchise. I am remodeling my store to update the menu offerings, including fresh, cold-squeezed juices, and evolve my location to fit the concept’s future direction.

It’s exciting to take this leadership role with my store, both as a franchisee and as a franchise support manager who will likely show others how I did it. Juicing has grown into a $5 billion industry, and I look forward to adding this revenue stream and delivering another great product line that fits The Smoothie Factory customer.  Not to mention, it fits my business goal to rise to one of the top five stores in the chain.

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