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.
Many college grads can feel a bit lost after graduating, so they work part-time jobs and take a year (or more) to figure out where their passion lies. Not Alexis Garcia. She knew she wanted to be a business owner, and when she discovered the family business CREAM -- a sweets shop based in Berkeley, Calif.-- and the franchising opportunity they offered, she had to dig in. In less than a year, she’s opened two stores, and she has plans to expand! Here, she shares a sample of what she’s learned.
Name: Alexis Garcia
Franchise owned (location): CREAM in San Francisco and Elk Grove, Calif.
How long have you owned a franchise?
My first CREAM location opened on August 2, 2014 and my second one opened on November 15, 2014.
I wanted to be a business owner but I wanted to get into something that already had a stable base. What attracted me to the franchise model was the fact that there are already policies in place and franchisees receive guidance from the company. I definitely needed all the help I could get, and being part of a franchise like CREAM assured me that I would not be alone in the business.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I had just graduated from college a few months before signing with CREAM. I was also working for a marketing firm and part owner of my father’s auto body shop.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I chose CREAM because I wanted to be a part of something that I would love and look forward to doing every single day. I have an insane love for desserts and anyone that knows me will tell you that this was the best fit for me. I fell in love with their ice cream sandwiches the moment I tried them and their other menu items made me a regular customer. Everything on the menu is so affordable and anyone, whether they’re 2 or 92, could enjoy an amazing customized treat.
What made it even more appealing was the fact that CREAM started as a small family business. There’s such a great dynamic among all the staff. That, in addition to their growing cult following, showed just how much CREAM was positively impacting the community. I knew I wanted to be on board.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
The cost of my first CREAM store was about $315,000. This included build out, equipment, furniture and fixtures, grand opening marketing and working capital.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I received most of my advice from my father. He has been a business owner for as long as I can remember and I value his opinion more than anyone else. I did a lot of research myself. This included anything from tasting the ice cream sandwiches 100 times to watching the business for hours to get a better idea of how they handled day-to-day operations. I also met with the CEO of CREAM, Jimmy Shamieh, many times and he went into detail with any questions that I had until I felt comfortable.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Being so young (I am only 24) has definitely provided the most unexpected challenges. I didn’t realize how much I had to shuffle my priorities and change my daily routine. Even though I already had responsibilities prior to CREAM, any business owner knows that launching a business takes blood, sweat and tears. Since I had no previous experience in the restaurant industry, I had to figure a lot of things on my own and make sure that I understand all the ins and outs of the business. The first few weeks were a rude awakening, but I have definitely gotten the hang of things.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
My advice is to be very aware of the kind of business you are going to get yourself into. Take your time and gather as much research as you can so that there are no surprises. The last thing you want is finding yourself not happy with what you’re doing every day. Before I signed with CREAM, I knew without a trace of doubt in my mind that this is what I am passionate about and I was willing to give it 100 percent.
As far as money goes, you absolutely need to have a cushion in the first few months to help you get through if needed. Finally, you need to make sure that you like and understand the CEO’s plan for your business so that you are on the same page and want the same things.
What’s next for you and your business?
I currently have opened two stores in five months and I plan on having seven total stores. We are in the works for the third location. I love CREAM and I can’t imagine being part of any other business.