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.

Maria Emma's decision to open her own business in 2008 was a risky one: the economy had just tanked, she was leaving a stable job and she was only 21. However, what Maria lacked in age and experience, she gained in support as an EmbroidMe franchisee. Here's what she has learned as a twenty-something franchisee in New York City.

Name: Maria Emma              

Franchise owned: EmbroidMe in New York City

How long have you owned the franchise?

Since 2008.

Why franchising?  

Being only 21 when I opened my business, I knew it would be difficult to accomplish on my own, so I went looking for a franchise. That’s how I found EmbroidMe. Their team has been my business partner from the get-go, and their support system has been crucial to helping me get where I am today.

I was looking for a system with an abundance of knowledge, heart and passion. While starting out, I didn’t have many years of experience under my belt, but EmbroidMe helped me create a strong foundation from everything to the machinery, advice on square footage, invoice software and simply helping me to be as successful as possible.

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What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I managed two skating rinks at 16 and graduated high school a year early to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan. At FIT, I was picked to go abroad to work in fashion forecasting, in which industry insiders work to predict upcoming American trends based on international fashion. Then, I was chosen by Walmart to become their assistant to the vice president when I was 18.

I always knew I wanted to open an embroidery business of my own. When I decided to start looking for franchise options, I found that EmbroidMe had the exact system that I was looking for and also happened to include my initials “M.E.” in the title. I knew it was meant to be!

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

I’ve always known that I wanted to open an embroidery business of my own. I was going to open an independent store, but in my research I came across EmbroidMe and was attracted to its strong sense of franchisee support. EmbroidMe pushed me to change my ways and learn something new. With their system put in place, I am constantly pushing myself to keep up with new technologies and business strategies so that I don’t get to comfortable in my own ways. In following this method, I am always at the top of my game.

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

$300,000 overall.  

$100,000 for equipment

$100,000 start up capital

Franchise fee

Store payment/rent

Back up capital just in case, etc.

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

I did most of my research while studying as a student at FIT. I took a four month course on how to start a small business. I studied vigorously about my market, slogan, the demographic I would be serving, you name it. Every entrepreneur must do their research, read books and have a detailed business plan in order to know what he/she is getting in to and how to be prepared for anything that might come his or her way. It’s also important to know how to interact with an array of people and know when to take the next step in your career. 

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

When I opened in 2008, the economy certainly had taken its hardest hit. At the time I had a great job working for Walmart, and I decided to leave it and risk it all to open a business. In the beginning I went door to door looking for business in any way that I could; I would even barter! For instance, I would embroider restaurant’s aprons in return for a meal, etc. In doing this, I learned to figure it out for myself and it built character. I was willing to do whatever it took to accommodate people and I was able to overcome obstacles because I believed in what I was doing.  

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

Choose your plan of action from a young age. Attend a school that will benefit your career path and surround yourself with the right people that will put you on the right path of where you want to be in life. Start making choices that will benefit your end goal and choose decisions that will help you get to where you want to be. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your vision.

What’s next for you and your business?

Next up, our team will be doing on-site screen printing for our clients. Right now, we are the go-to embroider for brands such as YSL, Marc Jacobs, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Donna Karen and we do on-site embroidery during events, to monogram items like bags, shirts and underwear.  I plan to continue to focus on on-site embroidery as much as possible because that gives us an edge in New York; we come to you, and the client is present for the whole process.

If you find peoples’ needs and find your niche, you will be successful. I found mine through EmbroidMe by participating in these on-site events because immediate embroidery and printing on-site gives customers that “now” factor that they love. On-site embellishment is how I made my business work. I never gave up because I believed in what I was doing.

 I also plan to give back to support other entrepreneurs by mentoring them and giving advice for next steps to take in their career. I want to help others as much as they’ve help me throughout this whole process.

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