The Inside Scoop

What's it really like to buy a franchise? One entrepreneur dishes up all the details of her journey to open a Cold Stone Creamery.

So you want to buy a franchise. Coming to that decision takes more than moxie-it takes a plan and a list of questions you ask yourself to see if you're ready. What industry would you like to be in? What franchise should you buy? Which franchisor best fits your needs? What can you afford? Will consumers in your community buy the product? How do you train a crew?

There are serious issues to consider on the road to opening the doors to your franchise. Gina Frerich, a former fashion buyer, embarked on her franchising journey knowing only that she wanted to be in business for herself and that a franchise was a good way to do that. From choosing the right concept to opening the doors, here's her story. Watch, listen and learn-and if you're of a mind to, have a scoop of ice cream.

Spring and Summer 2002: Choosing Franchising

As a buyer in the fashion industry, Frerich, now 32, was a perfectionist. "I was putting in a lot of extra hours and weekends," she says. "[I realized] if I was going to work that hard, [I wanted] to benefit my own bottom line." The only hitch was that she wasn't sure how to start her own business from scratch. Frerich knew she'd have to bring a lot of experience to the table of any business she started-and since she didn't especially want to do something in the fashion industry, she sought another avenue.

Franchising entered her mind as a great way to be an entrepreneur and to have some helpful guidelines at the same time. "They already have the proven product, they do marketing, and, in some franchise situations, they provide a lot of training and support."

Frerich took about a year to research franchising concepts in her New Jersey area. "My husband and I always tossed around ideas when we walked into a particular concept we thought was interesting." Through both online and offline research, she narrowed it down to ice cream. Cold Stone Creamery stuck out to her, but since there were no Cold Stone franchises in her area, it wasn't until a trip to San Diego to visit family that she was able to see an actual store and taste the ice cream she'd read about. "Once I had the product, it kind of made the decision for us," says Frerich. "I called my husband and said, 'You know that Cold Stone [concept] we were looking at? I just had it, and it's amazing super-premium ice cream.' It was so good."

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This article was originally published in the January 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Inside Scoop.

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