How I Bought a Franchise at Age 21
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.
Aubrey Janik began working for herself in high school. By that age of 21, the young entrepreneur had saved up $100,000 to launch her own business. While saving up the money, she took plenty of time to do her research as well -- unsatisfied with online resources, Janik began cold calling franchisees to figure out what system would work best for her. Here is what she learned.
Name: Aubrey Janik
Franchise owned: Erbert & Gerbert’s in Dallas
How long have you owned a franchise?
Opening in 2015.
I love franchising because it’s a proven concept. Starting a business from scratch is very, very hard and the chances of success can be slim. Going through that, starting a business from scratch, is something I am not interested in at this point in my life. Franchising was appealing to me because I can take an already successful business and grow it to make it my own. If you are a good franchisee and a good store operator, your opportunities as an owner are limitless -- you can create a multi-million dollar company out of franchising. That is my ultimate goal.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Before starting the process of owning my franchise, I worked for myself throughout high school and the two years I attended college. I owned/operated a pool and lawn care company, invested in the stock market, and did various other small jobs and side businesses in order to make money. More recently, I spent time living in Chicago, Ill. working with a franchisee in order to learn different aspects of owning and operating a successful franchise. I worked various different job positions at the difference concepts he owned, including crewmember, cook, back of the house worker, and shift-manager, as well as helping open restaurants while I was there.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and owning my own business has always been a goal of mine. Over the course of the last five years I was able to make and save about $100,000. I knew I wanted to use that money to start a business, but it was just a matter of finding out what type of business I wanted to start.
I viewed this money as my “one shot” to have the life I always wanted for myself: a life of working for myself and growing a successful company, so I needed to be smart on how I went about investing this money. When I was 19 years old, my dad started working for a franchised company. So, at the same time as I was trying to decide what to do with my life, my dad was beginning to introduce me to the world of franchising. He told me about the franchisees he got to work with and about how successful some of them where. I fell in love with the idea.
Ever since then, I knew franchising was what I wanted to do. I spent the next two years working and saving more money, while researching concepts, and eventually I found E&G and loved the concept. That brought me to where I am today.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Well, construction on my store has yet to start, so the numbers aren’t set in stone. But, as far as costs go, you have the franchise fee, which varies from concept to concept and can be different from franchisee to franchisee depending on what you negotiated under the franchise agreement. Franchise fees can be anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000-plus, depending on the concept.
I also hired an accountant and an attorney, which cost about $8,000 total. As of now, I have signed my franchise agreement, I am negotiating the lease for my first location and I have hired an attorney and an accountant. So far, I have spent about $60,000 on this venture, and I will probably spend at least another $200,000 before my store opens. So, when all things are said and done, I estimate I’ll have spent about $300,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Whenever I first started looking into franchising I did a lot of my research online and I was very disappointed with the results. In my opinion, information on franchising is very difficult to find online, and the information you do find tends to be unreliable. Because of this, I started cold calling franchisees to get their opinions on the industry and on the concepts they owned. I would look up the numbers for the franchisees of the concepts I was looking at, and would call them and ask them a list of various questions I had.
Some of the calls were very successful and the franchisees where happy to help me, other times the franchisees had no interest in talking. Over the course of a year or so, I called hundreds of franchisees and the experience was incredibly helpful -- more useful and informative then online research would have ever been.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Real estate and finding a location has without a doubt been the hardest part so far. I live in Plano, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas. I own the rights to a large chunk of the Dallas area and it’s been tough. Dallas just has so much food. To find a location where you aren’t drowned out by the competition but one where you can still make a large impact on the area -- it’s not an easy task.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
I don’t really feel like I am in a position to give advice at this point in my life, as I am still young and do not have a whole lot of experience compared to a lot of other entrepreneurs. As of this point in my life, I feel like my best piece of advice would be to just keep grinding. You’re going to run into bumps in the road, there are going to be days where you just want to cry, curl up in a ball, and lay in bed and binge-watch Netflix -- days where you want to do literally anything other than think about work. But you can’t let those bad days get to you.
I know of people who hit a bump in the road and they stay down for months, dwelling over their mistakes, and you just can’t do that. If you hit a rough patch, it’s okay to get frustrated, to cry, or to even take a day to just get away and not think about work. But, once that “free day” is over, once you’ve gotten all of your frustration out of your system, you have to just get back to it and keep grinding. Get laser focused at the task at hand, and work your ass off to get over the bump that you encountered. You, and your business will be better because of it -- that is the number one thing I’ve learned over the years.
What’s next for you and your business?
In five years I hope to be a successful multi-unit franchisee with five-plus locations. As of right now and my contract with E&G, I have to open three stores in the next three years. If all goes as planned in five years I will have at least three stores, but realistically I would like to have at least five. Being able to own and oversee multiple E&G franchises is my ultimate goal, so if I had five stores by this time five years from now, I would be more than happy.