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From Childhood Friends to Franchised Business Partners

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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 ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

Seth McKennon and JoBen Barkey
Seth McKennon and JoBen Barkey

Seth McKennon and JoBen Barkey met each other as children in Peru, living in a town called Pucallpa as their parents worked as missionaries. They've stayed friends over the years and, about a decade ago, decided to go into business together. Today, they are franchisees of seven Soccer Shots territories and six Bar-B-Clean territories. Here's what they've learned.

Name: Seth McKennon and JoBen Barkey

Franchise(s) owned (location): Bar-B-Clean (Three territories in South Orange County, Calif. and three territories in South Florida) and Soccer Shots (Four territories in Miami-Dade County, Fla. and three territories in Orange County, Calif.).

How long have you owned a franchise?

Our first foray into franchising began in 2005 when we purchased our Soccer Shots territories in Florida. In 2009, we purchased three of the four Soccer Shots territories in Orange County (Bar-B-Clean founder Bryan Weinstein actually owns the fourth). We added our six Bar-B-Clean territories to our portfolio in September 2014.

Related: From Wall Street to Main Street: This Franchisee Is Generating Profits in a Whole New Way

Why franchising?

Hmm… That’s a great question. Both JoBen and I have played soccer since we were very young and have always had a passion for the game and working with youth. The franchise system gave structure to our knowledge and skills. For the Bar-B-Clean franchise, the franchise support was essential. We both love to grill out, but the process and other opportunities Bar-B-Clean offered was what made it an easy decision to join the franchise rather than try to go it alone.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

JoBen and I first met each other as children in Peru. We were MKs (Missionary Kids) living in a jungle town called Pucallpa. We have been like brothers for the better part of the last three decades.

Prior to starting our adventures in entrepreneurship, I (Seth) worked for American Airlines as a ticket and gate agent. Working in the travel industry allowed me to travel to more than 75 countries and expand my world view considerably. JoBen worked as a tree planter, as well as a Level 3 industrial radiologist. Both these jobs were in Canada.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

After finding a rodent living in JoBen's frequently used grill in Costa Mesa, we started wondering if our love for outdoor cooking was actually an unhealthy passion, especially considering JoBen and his wife have four young children. As we looked into the process of properly cleaning a grill, we realized that the task was quite labor intensive which created a problem that most people wouldn't or simply couldn't take on themselves. As big believers in the benefits of being a part of a franchise system, we got really excited when we learned about the opportunities that Bar-B-Clean provided.

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

The franchise fee when we purchased our Bar-B-Clean franchise was $14,500 per territory. We spent about $1,000 on training. We also spent an additional $2,000 on cleaning equipment and $3,000 on advertising. Our other expenses have included paying technicians, as well as replacing certain components of the cleaning process (e.g. cleaning heads, towels, cleaning solution, etc.).

Related: What Being a Police Officer Taught Me About Being a Franchisee

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

Since we have been franchise owners for the better part of a decade now, we had a good idea on what to be aware of as we looked into purchasing the Bar-B-Clean franchise. Some key things we made sure to check into was what our competition was like in both locations, as well as how much demand there was for something as unique as this.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Since the idea of having someone come in and professionally clean your grill is so unique, we have to pioneer this idea in the areas we’re in. We had to do a lot more advertising than expected in our South Florida market.

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

I would tell them to definitely do their research on the franchise they are looking to join. Make sure your service offering is worth your dollars. Is there energetic support from the franchisor? How has the growth been for the franchisor in their own area? Is this something that would work well in your region? Lastly, be prepared with a plan in place on how you want this business to grow so you can expand to other markets.

What’s next for you and your business?

We are currently working on growth development in both our California and Florida territories. We are excited to see how Bar-B-Clean does during the busy upcoming summer season. We are also looking into adding on some extra revenue generating streams like stone rejuvenation for those customers that have outdoor kitchens and want their stone polished. 2015 should be a hard, but exciting year for us.

Related: Want to Be a Successful Franchisee? Learn How to Rebound From Failure.

Kate Taylor

Written By

Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor.