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.
The first step to Jason Mann buying a Planet Smoothie franchise was a trashcan filled with straw wrappers. The trashcan was spotted by Mann's father, who, while visiting a Planet Smoothie, also noted the chain's enthusiastic employee and the simple process of creating a smoothie behind the counter. He reasoned that labor costs must be low and, because of the abundance of straw wrappers, demand must be high. Just a few weeks later, Mann and his father were visiting the Planet Smoothie corporate office so Mann could look into buying his own location. Here's what he's learned in the last 15 years as a franchisee.
Name: Jason Mann
Franchise owned: Two Planet Smoothie stores located in Altamonte Springs, Fla. and one Planet Smoothie store located in Orlando, Fla.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I've been a franchisee since 1999 (15 years), and the area representative for 28 units in Central Florida since 2004.
I grew up in a family of second generation business owners. So, it was always my goal to own my own business. However, starting your own business from scratch takes expertise in not only running a business but also in the specific industry you choose to enter. Franchising provides a proven business model you can plug into, combined with brand name recognition and volume cost savings. Franchising allowed me to pick an industry and a concept I wanted to represent as a business owner with the guidance of entering a market without experience.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was a sales manager for an advertising company focused on the hotel and motel industry.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
My father was in a convenience store and noticed a Planet Smoothie kiosk in the back of the store. He immediately recognized it had all of the ingredients for a business that fit my criteria. I was looking for a simple business model that I could run as a first time entrepreneur. Start-up costs had to be reasonable and it had to be a business that could be run with a minimal number of employees with low inventory and strong profit margins. I was also looking for a business that fit me as an energetic people person.
My father noticed there was an enthusiastic employee behind the counter running the kiosk which equated to low labor and a simple process that could quickly deliver a product (indicating low inventory requirements). And he couldn’t help but notice a trash can overflowing with straw wrappers which signified to him that people must really like these smoothies! Just weeks later, my father and I went to meet with the Planet Smoothie franchisor and I was instantly sold after tasting their product. Their smoothies certainly had the “wow” factor I was looking for, along with premium price points which allow for higher profit margins.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Our total project cost, including licenses and fees, was around $225,000. Project cost would be an all-inclusive number including contractor, furniture, fixtures and equipment, inventory, marketing and all hiring and training of team members, as well as working capital for 90 days.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
In the early days, I relied heavily on my father’s advice because of his near 30 years of experience owning and operating businesses. I also received tremendous advice from the Planet Smoothie franchise team. They were there to guide me through many first-time business decisions. But I’ve learned that you shouldn’t stop doing your research after you buy a franchise. I think it’s important to continue to study your successes, your failures and the market trends, even after your doors are open. Read up on competitors, attend trade shows and do the footwork by speaking with owners and executives of other growing concepts.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The greatest challenge for growing my business is duplication. You cannot grow your stores or the Planet Smoothie brand without re-creating your successes through building a great team around you. Planet Smoothie provides customers a premium product and we expect our team to provide premium customer service. This is done through hiring the right people and continuous training of the franchise systems.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Find your passion and look for a franchise that shares those same passions. It may be in the product or the people that drive the brand’s success. Planet Smoothie was a great fit for me because I’m passionate about helping people live a healthy lifestyle through our premium product. And, I’m a high energy person. The second you walk into a Planet Smoothie store, you can feel the positive energy from the team members to the bright colors on the walls.
I believe the drive for money alone won't carry you through the tough times of owning your own business. You must live and breathe what you do to be successful in franchising. So the first question to ask yourself is: “Am I in a position in life to give 100 percent to my franchise venture?”
What’s next for you and your business?
All franchises are looking to grow more locations and Planet Smoothie is no exception. New external growth is certainly a strong focus of ours. However, we are just as focused on refining and providing stronger training systems that develop our franchisees and team members to provide an amazing guest experience. We are also focused on the continuous development of great tasting, good for you smoothies. After all, it is what we do best!