Franchise Players: 'Cupcake Wars' Champ Takes on Franchising

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Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email

It's a sweet success story: culinary school grad turned cupcake franchisee. Toren Halseth started at Sweet Arleen's as a part-time baker when the brand was one small shop run by Arleen Scavone. Halseth went on to become Sweet Arleen's front-of- house manager and helped Scavone carry the cupcake shop to its third victory on the Food Network show Cupcake Wars. When Sweet Arleen's began franchising in May 2013, Halseth was quick to sign a franchise agreement of his own. Here's what he's learned.

Name: Toren Halseth

Franchise owned: Sweet Arleen’s in Yorba Linda, Calif.

How long have you owned the franchise?

It's been one year since I have signed the franchise agreement.

Why franchising?

Franchising is a great way of becoming an entrepreneur without the ramp-up time and expense of creating a product and business model from scratch. The corporate team at a franchise company also provides significant training, support and guidance. 

Related: Franchise Players: Turning to Franchising For Meaning, Not Validation

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?  

After graduating culinary school in 2007, I bounced around doing everything from line cooking and catering to being a private chef.  I responded to a Craigslist advertisement in regards to a part-time baker position. At the time, it was for a small shop named Sweet Arleen's. After joining the team, I learned very quickly how the business was run and was able to reach the position of front-of-the-house manager.

Why did you choose this particular franchise? 

The choice was easy for me. The company and product was something I grew with. The quality of the product and the made-from-scratch recipes deliver an outstanding customer experience.  When I represented the company and won on the third Cupcake Wars as the assistant to Julia, the executive pastry chef, it proved the strength of the product. Hearing that one of our cupcakes was rated as one of the Top Ten best cupcakes on Cupcake Wars by Florian Bellanger, a judge on the show, was just unbelievable. 

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

Construction, equipment, opening supplies is estimated to come in around the high $200,000s.

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research? 

I have reached out not only to family, but also Arleen herself.  She has been an amazing mentor, helping me grow and enhance both my business and culinary skills since the day I started at Sweet Arleen's. 

Related: Franchise Players: After Opening 130 Dunkin' Donuts, They Added on Wings

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise? 

As a young man with no collateral, I found the loan process to be extremely difficult and tedious. Having a strong team of family, friends and Sweet Arleen's owners surrounding me with great advice and strategy is the key to my success. 

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise? 

 If you decide to open a franchise, I suggest choosing something you are passionate about. Opening a business is something that should extend your spirit and not become a burden when things are not going perfectly. Find a business that excites and drives you and the little things won't stand in your way. 

What’s next for you and your business?  

The current goal is to get our first location stable and running, then push forward and open more locations including a mobile unit in the Orange County area.

Related: Franchise Players: How This Mom Joined an Industry Dominated by Men

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