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.
George Sagadencky was suspicious of franchising when he began looking at his options in the industry. Sagadencky began to look into franchising not by choice, but out of necessity – after 25 years in the promotional products industry, he had been unceremoniously fired at age 50. An independent thinker, Sagadencky doubted the credibility of many smaller franchises and lacked the funds to open any of the big names in the business. Just as he had given up on franchising, he found the perfect match with Minuteman Press. Here's how it happened.
Name: George Sagadencky
Franchise owned: Minuteman Press in Burbank, Calif.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have owned the Minuteman Press franchise in Burbank, Calif. for four months now.
To be frank I never wanted to own a franchise. I am a very independent person and the thought of owning a business and having someone else guide you as to how you would have to make a sandwich or make a burger just didn’t appeal to me. In addition, paying royalties to someone else didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I had been in the promotional products industry for 25 years. I owned a small boutique shop called Under the Sun Promotions. After 15 years in the business we opened in the summer of 2003. The business grew every year. At the height of Under the Sun, I had 23 employees and was doing close to $5,000,000 in sales. As the recession hit in 2008, I was approached by a billion dollar packaging company that wanted to add promotional products to their product line. I had been a small business person my entire life. I love small business and the thought of working in a corporate environment didn’t appeal to me in any way. But, the recession killed my credit lines and financing to get my company to the next level was becoming impossible. After months of negotiation and promises that our group would be kept intact and we would be part of the “family” I felt this would be a good move for me and my staff would be protected so I sold in the summer of 2008 with the agreement I would stay on for five years.
At the end of the five years we were an unprofitable division and all of my fears about working for a corporation came true. We were in the process of dissolving the division. While I was assured there was a place for me in the company I was terminated.
I was in shock. There I was, 50 years old and putting together a resume for the first time in my life. I was one of the lucky ones: I had enough in saving and don’t live beyond my means so my plan was to take a year off and find something that I could be passionate about. I looked for a job. After 30 days, I realized I had to find a new path.
So I started to look for a business to buy, private companies as well as franchisees. After looking at franchisees, I became disillusion pretty quickly. The big names, McDonald’s, Subway etc. were beyond my financial capabilities and the ones that I could afford (an investment of around $50,000) all seemed like Ponzi schemes.
In March I purchased a private company called Candle Luminary. They manufacture real wax flameless candles. Just as I was about to close escrow, I was contacted by Minuteman Press. I must have filled something out somewhere but had no recollection. Because I was in escrow with Candle Luminary, and had fallen out of escrow with three previous companies, I took the meeting with great skepticism. However, I know you have kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince or princess.
Dan Byers, Minuteman's regional vice president, and I meet for coffee. Dan laid out the company's history, mission statement and culture. I was very impressed. My promotions background was a big plus because Minuteman Press has added promotional product in the last few years and we both thought this would be a good fit. I had also looked at a few printing companies and thought that printing would be a natural fit based on my background.
I looked at a location close to my home. After careful consideration, mostly due to the demands on the new company I purchased, I passed. We shook hands, and I never thought I would hear from Minuteman again.
About three months later I get a call from Dan, asking how things are. He said he had a struggling franchise and wanted to know if I was interested in looking at it. I knew it was a long shot but I also have the attitude, “you never know." I went to look at and I immediately loved the location and thought I could make this work. Since I had already looked at a couple of private print shops to buy, I had an idea of what would be a good fit for me. I put an offer on the business that week and it was accepted a week later.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Original investment: $18,000 down, and I owe $38,000.
Lease deposit and final month's rents: $2,600.
Equipment upgrade: $3,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I did not get a lot of advice. I don’t know anyone that owns a franchise and most of my research was on my own. I looked at over 300 companies on paper in a 12 month period. I walked through about 50 of them and put offers on six. I had also been a business owner for most of my professional career so I knew what would be a good fit for my personality and where I was at this stage in my life.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The unexpected challenge is having a franchise that wants you to adhere to their logos, colors and style of business. It’s not a big deal but I find myself wanting to do things and then stopping and saying to myself I can’t do that. If I owned a Subway and thought selling burgers is a good idea, I just couldn't do that.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
The advice I would give is make sure the industry you buy in is a good fit for you. For me, I never wanted to be in the food service industry so those franchisees were never a real consideration. The other advice I would give is, as an owner of any type of business, it is a 24 hours, seven days a week job, especially in the beginning. It rarely leaves your thoughts. Make sure the support system around you can handle it, especially in the beginning. Your clients will put more intense demands on you than your worst boss ever.
What’s next for you and your business?
In the first month we doubled the sales of the previous owner’s best month and have continued to grow. I have an exclusive partnership with a social media company and web site developer, allowing for our continued growth. The goal is to become the fastest Minuteman franchisee to reach $1,000,000 in sales.