Though Subway has been one of the nation's fastest growing franchises, Todd Nation didn't have any preconceptions about the franchise when he joined three years ago. In fact, the only experience the 24-year-old entrepreneur had with the chain was eating at a location once when he was younger. "I didn't really care for it," he says, "I didn't really think too much about [Subway]."
What Nation did think about was owning a business. While studying business at Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, New York, Nation established a yellow pages for college students, and managed a nightclub as well as a storage company. Then he moved to New York City in 1998. "I didn't want to get a job, so I started looking for business opportunities," he says.
Franchising appealed more to Nation than any particular concept or industry. "There was a certain safety in owning a franchise as [my] first bigger business," he says.
Nation's finances led him to two investment options: a laundromat or a Subway. Unexcited by laundry, Nation decided to go into the sandwich business.
Because he wasn't familiar with the Subway concept, Nation based his expectations on himself instead of on the business. In 1999, he purchased an existing location on the verge of bankruptcy that he felt had a lot of promise and was determined to turn it around. "We were actually profitable by our third or fourth week. The sales immediately climbed when we took over," Nation says.
Before buying his Subway, Nation spoke with several franchisees to find out what running a franchise is really like. They told him being a franchisee requires long hours and hard work, something Nation learned firsthand when he opened his store. "Initially I was here open to close. I probably put in excess of 80 hours a week," he says.
Nation spends less time in the store now than he did three years ago-sometimes only 20 hours a week-but he still participates in day-to-day operations. "It's kind of like you're a doctor, because you're always on call," he says. "If there's ever an emergency or a problem, you have to be there or at least be accessible."
It takes more than an accessible storeowner for a franchise to be a success-the franchisor must be available as well. Subway has been there to listen to Nation's ideas for changing the way his locations are set up and his goal of reaching $1 million a year in sales, even though they might have thought he was crazy. "When I got the store, I thought it was going to do $20,000 a week, and the people at Subway thought I was so ridiculous that they actually made me a bet. They said they would kiss my butt in Times Square if I got the store to do $20,000 a week," Nation says. "We did $23,000 last week."
Nation hasn't said when, or if, he'd be collecting on that bet; right now, he's busier planning for his system's expansion. Nation hopes to open 10 stores within four years and have them take in between $10 million and $15 million a year.
Even though Nation didn't know much about Subway when he first looked at businesses to invest in, his faith in himself and franchising made it easier for him to take the plunge. "I did a lot of due diligence to see if the numbers were right, but I knew it would be a lot of work, and I was prepared to make that sacrifice," he says. "I'm young and na�ve, and I have a vision. I believe it can be done."