Franchise Buying Guide

Cash Course

George McLaughlin, 28
Presented by Guidant Financial
Guidant Financial specializes in helping entrepreneurs purchase new franchises using their retirement funds.

McAlister's Deli

Anyone who thinks Gen Xers lack ambition hasn't met franchisee George McLaughlin. In a little more than five years, McLaughlin has gone from serving sandwiches at a McAlister's Deli location while attending the University of Mississippi to heading a company that operates six McAlister's franchises throughout South Carolina.

Check out more information on McAlister's Deli and hundreds of other franchises in Entrepreneur's Franchise 500.

"My major challenge was to find people to believe in me at the age of 23," McLaughlin recalls. Even though he had worked at the deli for more than a year and had trained McAlister's franchisees before moving from Mississippi to South Carolina to become one himself, McLaughlin had a hard time proving he was a good bet.

"Every time I'd walk into a developer's office, the first thing they'd ask me was how old I was and if I was crazy to go into a state 600 miles away and say, 'I want to build a McAlister's Deli, and I'm going to sell a lot of sandwiches in order to pay the rent,'" says McLaughlin. "It's very hard for a lot of people to believe that at first."


"My major challenge was to find people to believe in me at the age of 23."

Believe it or not, it happened. A company familiar with the franchise and McLaughlin's track record as a general manager was interested. McLaughlin's first location opened in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1997. With the help of the vice presidents, managers and employees at MAC Restaurant Corp., the business McLaughlin founded to operate his franchises, he has opened five other stores in Columbia, Greenville and Rock Hill, and has one more location opening soon.

McLaughlin plans to expand his company beyond McAlister's by taking on another franchise concept in the near future, and he hopes to eventually develop a brand-new concept of his own.

Bolstered by the $6 million MAC made in 2000 and the $10 million it's projecting for 2001, the chances anyone will be questioning McLaughlin's pitches again are slim to none.

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This article was originally published in the August 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Cash Course.

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