Franchise Players

Giving Back as a Jersey Mike's Franchisee

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

When Cathy Brown entered the franchising business, she already knew quite a bit about the industry: her husband is a long-time Domino's Pizza franchisee. So, she knew it was important to her to find a franchise that was committed to community. Jersey Mike's vision of charity, including the annual Month of Giving, did just that. Here's what Brown has learned.

Name: Cathy Brown

Franchise owned: I own six Jersey Mike’s Subs restaurants in San Diego and two in Northern California. Additionally, I serve as an area director for San Diego County (33 locations) and Northern California (13), responsible for development, selling territories and overseeing the local Co-Op’s marketing/operations.

How long have you owned a franchise?

I opened my first Jersey Mike’s Subs restaurant in San Diego in 2009.

Related: A 'Smooth' Brand Extension Outside the Four Walls of His Franchise Restaurant

Why franchising?

Successful franchise systems can offer all the business components needed for their franchise owners to be successful. If we execute their plan correctly the business risk is reduced and our chances of being successful are very high.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was in the engineering field, working for a government contractor on defense systems. I also taught math at the high school and junior high school level and am an active community service volunteer.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

Everything about the Jersey Mike’s culture revolves around the commitment to the customer and to the community, which is very important to me. Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike’s founder, built the business on "giving back… making a difference in someone’s life,” and that’s what we try to do too. Jersey Mike’s annual Month of Giving is a perfect example. Throughout March the entire company raises money for local charities throughout the country. One the last Wednesday of the March, local owners donate 100 percent of sales to the charity. In 2015, our San Diego Jersey Mike’s locations raised $152,000 for our long-time partner Rady Children’s Hospital.

Product quality is also a really important part of the equation. From our very first bite of a Jersey Mike’s sub, we were sold. Everything is fresh sliced and fresh grilled. All the produce is super fresh. Bread is baked each day in the restaurant. Focusing on being "A Sub Above" drives the business. Our San Diego area is the No. 1 market in the country, based on average unit volume sales, and we have many stores on the national leaderboard each week.

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

An approximate breakdown is:

Legal/Permits/Deposits/Fees: $30,000

Equipment/Buildout: $275,000

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

Advice: From my husband Mike, who was a long-time multi-unit franchisee with Domino’s Pizza. I also received guidance from friends with similar businesses and specialist attorneys.

Research: trade journals, web searching and current franchise owners. 

Related: This Franchise 'Tested Positive' for a Couple Seeking to Start Their Own Business

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

When we opened the first locations in San Diego back in 2009 (we opened three in six months!), the economy was in terrible shape and everyone was watching their spending. We brought a brand new high-quality product to San Diego. We were blessed with a tremendous reception. Keeping up with the high volume seemed to be an issue for us. Now, we have it down pat!

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

Find a brand that you love as a consumer; it’s much more rewarding to make the investment and work hard if you love the brand. I LOVE our subs and how we contribute to our communities. Investigate their corporate culture by speaking with current franchisees. Try to understand both the good and the bad of the concept. Be prepared to get very involved and work really hard.

What’s next for you and your business?

Individually, I hope to open five to 10 more locations in the next few years. As an Area Director, we hope to open 100 more locations in the San Diego and Northern California markets. We’ll continue to serve our communities and hope to raise even more money next year for great causes like Rady Children’s Hospital.

I really enjoy all of the young adults that we have working in our locations. I look forward to developing more programs to ensure that they have better futures – we reward them for their hard work and reaching their goals. I enjoy watching them embrace our philosophy of ‘Giving Back,” and take it on as their own.

Related: Hardly a 'Patch' Job: This Franchisee Is Deep into at Least 4 Franchise-Industry Roles

Edition: October 2016

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