You're the Boss

There are some things beyond your control, such as a poor job market. But that doesn't mean you can't control your future. Follow the lead of these entrepreneurs, who bought their own franchises.

Unless you're planning to go the route of Office Space's Peter Gibbons and opt for a life of doing nothing, complete with no income and unpaid bills, the greatest security you may have is what you create for yourself. When the job market sucks, and your own job is shaky at best, what are your options? Perhaps franchising is the answer that will enable you to enjoy the benefits of all your hard work and ease your worries about plant relocations, layoffs and management reshuffling. Here are the stories of three franchisees who chucked their time cards, put down the want ads and made the leap:

School's Out, Franchise Is In
Jason and Jeff Jokerst, both 24, didn't need to invest years in the corporate life to learn it was the wrong one for them. In fact, they never bothered finding out.

"I started thinking about graduation and what I was going to do after. I didn't want to go straight into a 9-to-5 job, because everyone I know just hated it," says Jason. "I didn't want to jump into something really complicated right away, like trying to start my own clothing company. [Franchising] seemed like a good way to start out. So I starting looking at franchises."

Through a franchise referral network, Jason and his brother, Jeff, discovered the Maui Wowi smoothie franchise. The brothers started Jokerst Twin Enterprises Inc. and purchased their Maui Wowi smoothie kiosk franchise in March 2002, just as they were finishing college in San Diego. Despite pursuing degrees in economics, Jason and Jeff didn't see much of their college education applying to their business. "It's all about going out there and just doing it--learning when you get there," Jason says. "There's a difference between theory and applying that theory. School was pretty much all about theory, especially with economics. [Running this business is about] so much more than what a textbook can tell you."

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While the brothers mastered most of the business operations by doing, they did need help with financing. "That's been really difficult. In fact, if it wasn't for our parents, there's no way it would have happened," Jason says. "I had to have my parents cosign because I had no credit history. I have a couple of credit cards, but I haven't been around to buy houses and boats and things like that and prove I can pay that kind of stuff off."

It took a few months for the franchise to come together, so the Jokersts didn't actually start operating their franchise until the summer of 2002. Slowly but surely, Jason and Jeff are building their financial reputation as well as business experience, spending their days managing employees, inventory and accounting. They're already operating Maui Wowi carts at the San Diego Sports Arena and opening another one at the Cal Expo in Sacramento, California, a location their franchisor helped the twins secure. They're also expanding into other stadium cart franchises in the San Diego and Sacramento areas.

Though the future holds no guarantees, the Jokersts believe opting out of the job market was the best move for them. "Overall, I don't think I could ever [work for someone else] because I feel more motivated now," says Jason. "I feel I work harder because there are so many benefits to reap when you do it all for yourself."

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This article was originally published in the September 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: You're the Boss.

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