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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cecil Tyrell Whisenton got his start in franchising at the lowest rung of the ladder: waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse. Over the years, he moved up in the business, ultimately buying the same Outback where he waited tables. Eventually, he decided he wanted to look into a different vein of franchising: the healthy vending business. HUMAN Healthy Vending set itself apart in Whisenton's eyes with its commitment to charity and appealing vending machines.
Here's what he has learned as he worked his way up from waiter to franchisee.
Name: Cecil Tyrell Whisenton
Franchise owned: HUMAN Healthy Vending in San Antonio
How long have you owned a franchise?
Since April of 2013, so 1-1/2 years.
I chose the franchising route for a few reasons. First, I feel it is a lot less risky to become part of a franchise than to start a business from scratch because a business model is already in place. Second, the startup cost to franchise is much lower compared to starting a brand new company. Lastly, being a part of a franchise that already has an infrastructure in place gives me more flexibility with my time, which gives me more time with my family. That’s priceless!
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
After attending St. Mary’s University, where I was in the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2012, I started waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse in San Antonio. After working very hard, I was able to advance up the management chain and, in 2005, was able to purchase the exact Outback where I had started as a waiter. I owned and operated that Outback for a number of years and was fortunate enough to learn a lot of my entrepreneurial skills from the OSI family.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I initially chose the HUMAN Healthy Vending franchise after comparing it to a few other healthy vending franchises. I felt HUMAN’s machines were more appealing.
I was also very impressed with HUMAN’s philanthropic efforts compared to the other companies who only seemed concerned with revenue and profits. HUMAN recently introduced their own healthy snack delivery service, SnackNation, and every snack pack delivered corresponds with a month’s worth of multi-nutrient-packs being sent to a child in need through the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and 1,000 Days. That’s the kind of franchise that I want to be a part of. No other vending company comes close to HUMAN in that regard.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Franchise fee: $25,000
Initial Machine order: $25,000
Balance of initial machine order: $15,000
Product for machines: $2,000
Marketing and Location Discovery & Acquisition: $1,000
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Initially, the internet was my main source of information as I was able to compare different franchises side-by-side. Later, I talked with representatives of each potential franchise business. When narrowing my options down, I began talking to franchisees in the field, including a HUMAN operator here in San Antonio. This operator has been instrumental in helping me develop my business.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I didn’t really encounter any unexpected challenges. My business partner really prepped me for any and all situations. All of the situations that could have been stressful were really just learning experiences that I really appreciated.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
My advice for individuals who want to own their own franchise is to be sure to do their research. There are a lot of very good franchise opportunities out there, but they’re not necessarily a good fit for everyone. Try to find a few different franchises in the same field to compare side by side. Lastly, just do it; you’ll be glad you did.
What’s next for you and your business?
We definitely have a lot of things in the works here in San Antonio. We have contacted just about every school district in and around San Antonio and are preparing to grow our business significantly in the next six to nine months. We’ve put an early focus on public schools because of the new snack guidelines handed down from the USDA called “Smart Snacks In School.” We also plan to contact most of the private schools in San Antonio, along with businesses and workout facilities, to see if they are interested in installing healthy vending machines.