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Making The Grade

Franchise and business opportunities at a glance
March 1, 1997
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/14026

Franchise and business opportunities at a glance

Making The Grade

Students of all ages nationwide are reaping the benefits of educational programs supported by two restaurant franchisors.

For six years Taco John's International Inc. Has played an active role in the Adopt-a-School youth program, which partners business with local schools. Different schools have different needs, says Monica Miller at the Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Mexican-fast-food franchisor. "We ask our restaurant managers to sit down with the school principal and decide what the school's top priority is for the year," she says. Targeted areas of improvement range from low math scores to outdated playground equipment.

Twenty-one of Cheyenne's 31 elementary, junior high and high schools have been adopted by Taco John's locations; one in particular, an alternate school for teenage mothers and other kids with special needs, has dramatically increased its overall attendance, thanks to an incentive program called "Attendance Bucks." Those students with perfect attendance and no tardies for a week receive a $3 Taco John's gift certificate, "It's been phenomenally successful," says Miller.

School attendance was also the focus of last year's Reach for the Stars program, co-sponsored by Dr. Pepper and Sonic Industries, franchisor of Sonic Drive-in restaurants. Seventy-five schools across New Mexico, Arizona and Texas worked for three months to increase their attendance over the previous year; nine winners received a free concert by an up-and-coming country-music star. "In the end, it increased their attendance and their morale, which was a boost for the teachers," says Kathryn Vega of Oklahoma City based Sonic.

Sonic expects many more schools to participate in this year's program and hopes that by 1998, schools in each of Sonic's 26 states will be able to participate.

Join The Club

Membership has it's privileges for franchisees and franchisors who join The Franchise Center at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

According to the center director Carolyn Gough, members get access to employee training programs available from UTEP's College of Business. They also receive a quarterly newsletter on franchising and a directory of other members.

Perhaps most important, members get to help shape the future of franchising by participating as instructors or panelists in the center's franchise management certificate program. Finally, members get to work with the College of Business to set the cirriculum, hold conferences and establish training programs.

Open to any franchisee or franchisor, membership costs $1,000 per year. Plans are underway to establish new Franchise Centers in Mexico, Peru, and Brazil. -Lourdes Aguila

Growing Up

After several changes of ownership in recent years, Children's Orchard Inc. shows new signs of growth under the green thumb of Walter Hamilton Jr., who leads the management team that took control of the company in 1993.

Hamilton credits the steady growth of the franchised stores, which sell used children's clothing and toys, to the remedying of several company weaknesses, including inadequate promotions.

"We're popping up in a lot more locations now," says Hamilton, "and we're following up with marketing. We decided to make that a high priority."

A lack of business know-how among some Children's Orchard franchises prompted Hamilton to offer business training to franchisees, and area that has also been addressed via Management Seminar by Mail, a publication that teaches franchisees business basics.

The lessons are paying off. Children's Orchard now has 70 franchises and four company-owned locations in the Detroit, Chicago, New England and Southern California Markets, with systemwide sales of about $11 million in 1995. Says Hamilton, "The company has become very solid." -Holly Celeste Fisk

Bit O' The Green

If you've ever dreamed about opening an Irish pub, now could be the perfect time, thanks to Dublin, Ireland-based Irish Pub Co. The company, which has helped entrepreneurs establish more than 200 authentic Irish pubs worldwide since 1992, is now bringing it's concept to America and offering it as a business opportunity.

"There's an enormous market for this concept in the United States," says Brendan Buckley of the Irish Pub Co.

For prices starting at $400,000 owners get assistance opening a pub that is Irish in every design and decor detail. They also receive promotion and marketing help and advice on operating the business.

Bull's Eye!

Entrepreneur Glenn Remick turned a hobby into a source of income when he started the American Darters Association, a franchised national dart league, six years ago. Today, his 80 franchises organize dart competitions in 30 states as part of his Anheuser-Busch-sponsored Bud Light Dart League.

When Remick first approached the beer giant with the idea, the seasoned dart player says it wasn't difficult to arrange the sponsorship agreement. "Selling the ideas that a dart league is going to promote beer sales is not that tough of a job." Remick explains, "Dart players have a tendency to drink a beer every now and then, and it's one of the few sports you can play and consume alcohol at the same time."

Anheuser-Busch helped Remick take his small New England dart league nationwide; today, he provides his franchisees with a protected area and a copyrighted management program. Everything else they need to know is taught at an intensive three-day training seminar conducted at Remick's St. Louis headquarters.

National championships take place every August, and winners receive $60,000 in prize money; at the regional championships, prizes exceed $40,000. It's no doubt the future of Remick's dart league is right on target; He's working with the Department of Defense to create a national military dart league, and he's also developing an innovative, high-tech dart game that would allow players in different cities to compete in a league match via modem. -C.M.

Capital Idea

What happens when you find the perfect franchise...with a perfectly unaffordable franchise fee? If that franchise is executive search firm Sanford Rose Associates International (SRA), you dive right in with the help of their Flexible Plan Purchase program. Akron, Ohio-based SRA International's Flexible Purchase program allows qualified individuals to defer up to 70 percent of the $35,000 franchise fee; franchisees later make payments using business revenues.

"I'm convinced I would not have my own business today if I'd had to write a check for the entire franchise fee." says Jeff Jenkins, owner of an SRA in Dalas and the first franchisee to sign on to the purchase program when it began in 1995.

Franchise owners must begin payments once the business starts generating revenue. The franchise fee must be paid in full within 18 months.

"Applicants must prepare a business plan, investigate by contacting a number of our franchisees, and demonstrate a keen understanding of how the industry works," syas SRA vice president Douglas Eilertson.

So far, only two franchisees have purchased units under the program, but Eilertson predicts there will be other candidates soon since SRA plans to add 15 units to its network of 50 offices this year. -L.A.

Contact Sources

American Darters Association Inc., 1000 Lake St. Louis Blvd., #310, Lake St. Louis, MO 63367, (314) 625-8621;

Children's Orchard Inc., (800) 999-KIDS, (313) 994-9199, (http://www.childorch.com);

The Franchise Center, The University of Texas at El Paso, College of Business Administration, El Paso, TX 79968-0545, (800) 687-4512, (915) 747-7730;

Irish Pub Co., 339 Buckhead Ave., Atlanta, GA 30305, (404) 848-0998;

Sanford Rose Associates, 6116 N. Central Expwy., #301, Dallas, TX 75206, (214) 739-8962;

Sanford Rose Associates International (headquarters), P.O. Box 80596, Akron, OH 44308, (800) 731-7724;

Sonic Industries, General Office, 101 Park Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73102, (800) 517-6642;

Taco John's International Inc., P.O. Box 1589, Cheyenne, WY 82003, (307) 635-0101, ext. 9301.