Franchise Players: Exploring Unique Markets as a Multi-Unit Franchisee

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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

If you had to sum up John Russell's style of franchising, it would be zero to 60 acceleration. In 18 months, he grew from three Wireless Zone locations to 21. And he's not slowing down – soon, he hopes to have up to 50 stores. Here's what he's learned about franchising by having locations across the U.S.

Name: John Russell

Franchise owned (location): 21 Wireless Zone locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

How long have you owned the franchise?

Four and a half years.

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Why franchising?

Being part of the Wireless Zone Franchise provides us with many benefits. WZ Franchise owners benefit from a national relationship with Verizon. We have Wireless Zone franchise field support who provide us with support to help our businesses grow and be successful. Wireless Zone offers training opportunities to support our sales force. We can also take advantage of credit lines to support growth. By being a Wireless Zone franchise we are able to have greater purchasing power with vendors which allows for larger profit margins. Overall, it is beneficial to be associated with a nationally successful brand name.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

After graduating high school I moved to Pittsburgh, Penn. with the plan of going to college. I started working selling phones in a kiosk in a mall. After a few months I was promoted to manager. I worked in the mall for a little over 2 years before leaving to go work for a Wireless Zone franchisee that operated 13 locations in Pittsburgh. I was a successful district manager overseeing two locations before moving home to central Pennsylvania to start my own wireless company.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

The company I worked for in Pittsburgh was a Verizon Wireless Zone Franchise. The franchisee had 13 locations. As a manager and district manager for the company I saw firsthand the strong support that Wireless Zone provided to their franchisees. They provided support for advertising, training as well as strong field support.

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

$125,000 -$175,000, depending on the location and the cost of build out

-- $50,000 for build out

-- $50,000 initial inventory order

-- $30,000 operating expenses

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

Currently there are hundreds of Wireless Zone franchise owners. I often reach out to successful owners to learn from their experiences. Wireless Zone offers weekly "Business Building" calls featuring strategies that successful franchisees have put into place.

I also gained a wealth of knowledge and experience through working in the wireless industry for four years prior to starting my own company.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Every market is unique. Many factors can affect your success. Even though each store has the same brand name and franchise connection doesn't mean it is going to be the same experience. We have had to adjust to different markets developing different strategies based on each location.

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

The most important advice would be to research the franchisee model you are considering. Make sure you talk to multiple current franchisees to understand profitability and potential of each business.

What’s next for you and your business?

In the last 18 months we have grown from three locations to 21. We hope to continue to grow in existing and new markets. Our goal is to grow to 30-50 stores. With our strong infrastructure and committed employees we are on target for that growth. We believe in successful providing career opportunities for the employees that work with us. We also base our company growth on providing the best customer experience possible for our clientele. With strong employees and great customer service we will continue to be successful as we grow.

Related: Franchise Players: Enjoying the Freedom of Franchising Later in Life

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