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 email@example.com.
Jennifer Burnett has fond memories of eating sandwiches at Capriotti's Sandwich Shop as a child while on family vacations to Delaware, where both of her parents grew up. There was no way she could have known then that she would someday have a Capriotti's Sandwich Shop of her own in Sugar Land, Texas. Her previous work experience certainly didn't point toward franchising – prior to opening up shop, Burnett worked as a wealth management advisor and an elementary school teacher. Today, she's been serving up sandwiches for over a year. Here's what she has learned.
Name: Jennifer Burnett
Franchise owned: Capriotti's Sandwich Shop in Sugar Land, Texas.
How long have you owned a franchise?
One and a half years.
Franchising was a good first step for me because it allowed me the opportunity to open my own business while also affording me the ability to rely on a team of professionals within the Capriotti's corporate office for guidance and support. It was the best of both worlds.
Capriotti's holds a special place in the hearts of my parents. They grew up eating these subs and have wanted to introduce this part of their childhood to Texas for some time. After many years, Capriotti's decided to franchise the concept. I was honored to be able to open the first Capriotti's in Houston. My parents have given me so much and I am grateful to be able to give back to them.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in business economics, I took a position with Wells Fargo in their securities department. I was responsible for bridging their banking customers to the securities side of their organization. I soon developed an interest in securities and less with banking. I chose to pursue these interests with Merrill Lynch as a wealth management advisor. I developed my own portfolio of clients and helped guide them on their path to what financial need they had at that time. Certain clients were more interested in day trading while others were more concerned with securing a financial future for themselves and their family.
After a few years I had a change of heart and decided to leave the industry. I wanted to do something that would allow me the chance to give back to my community. I became an elementary school teacher in Sugar Land, Texas. I taught kindergarten and first grade at Settlers Way elementary for five years before choosing to open a franchise.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
It has close ties to my family. This concept originated on the East Coast, where my parents were born and raised. They grew up with Capriotti's and have long lasting memories of the food.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
$400,000. This includes the franchise fee ($40,000), area development fee ($40,000), advertising ($20,000) and build out costs ($300,000).
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
My parents have given me tremendous amounts of support and advice. They are both entrepreneurs so they have handled similar situations I faced in my new endeavor. Issues with employees is always an area that is stressful. My mother in particular has been an asset and has been able to answer questions in regards to certain hiring and firing procedures, proper documentation policies etc. My father has always reminded me to trust my instincts and to believe in myself -- this industry can be male dominated at times and having his support is invaluable. He also reminds me to stay focused on the big picture and to not get bogged down with the small things.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Anyone who manages people will tell you that managing people is the hardest part of any job. You have no idea how difficult it is until you own your own business. In a retail environment your employees can make or break you. It is a constant struggle to employ individuals that want to work and that ultimately fit in the environment you are trying to create.
You also learn very quickly that the internet can be an asset as well as a liability. Now anyone with a computer has the ability to critique your business and product. They can put their opinion on the internet for all to see whether or not they are qualified to give the review. Again, this reverts back quickly to your employees having the ability to "make or break" you.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Be diligent in your research. Also, be thoughtful about the choices that you make. Have confidence in your decisions -- this is not time to second guess yourself.
What’s next for you and your business?
I have been looking at various parts of Houston: the medical center, downtown, mid-town, the galleria area, the Memorial area, Katy etc. When the right spot is available, I will seize that opportunity.
I have not set a limit on the number of stores I would open in this area. I am more concerned at this point in time with maintaining the quality and integrity of Capriotti's as opposed to the quantity of stores that I open.