Franchise Players: I Used All My Money to Buy a Franchise

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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

When Alison Patton's cousin, a Papa John's driver, convinced her to look into franchising, Patton went all in. With only $91 left in the bank, she moved to South Bend, Ind. to open her first Papa John's restaurant in 1991. Today, she operates six stores in the area. Here's what she's learned over the last 23 years.

Name: Alison T. Patton  

Franchise owned: South Bend, Ind.  

How long have you owned the franchise?

I opened my first store 23 years ago. I currently have six locations.

Why franchising?

Papa John's was a local company that we loved and decided to look into it as they were just starting to franchise.

Related: Franchise Players: 'Marketing Is Still My Biggest Challenge'

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was a director of marketing for four local shopping centers. My husband was an inventory control manager for a local golf club manufacturing company.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

We were investing all our savings and Papa John's suggested South Bank, where Notre Dame is located, because we would make our money back sooner and it would be easier to open our second and third locations.

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

$90,000 in 1991.

My estimated breakdown is:

·         Equipment: $70,000

·         Store modifications: $12,000

·         Working cash: $5,000

·         Marketing: $3,000

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

We met with the Better Business Bureau and got some basic info. We talked to family with business experience and the best information and support was from Papa John's.

Related: Franchise Players: I Turned My Small Biz Into a Franchised Location

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Opening our franchise and running Papa John's was easy… Employee issues were and have been the biggest challenge. We started with no "rules" and quickly developed a rule book.

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

Know and love the product you sell. Believe in what you're selling. Be ready and willing to work long hours! Talk to other franchisees about pros and cons. Be willing to admit mistakes but learn from them.

What’s next for you and your business?

Keep selling quality products and provide exceptional service. Continue to provide a fun and supportive work environment for our teams and maybe expand into another market close by. 

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