Franchise Players

Coffee Runs Deep in This Franchisee's Veins. No, Really, It Does.

Coffee Runs Deep in This Franchisee's Veins. No, Really, It Does.
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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 franchiseplayers@entrepreneur.com.

Ross Dever is a chip off the old block or, since the subject is coffee, and the franchise system is Gloria Jean's Coffees, a bean off the old bush. In fact, Ross' father Don was the world's first Gloria Jean's franchisee, having opened the chain's first location at Fox Valley Mall, in Aurora, Ill., as long ago as 1986. Ross and his sister Suzanne Hagg followed in their father's footsteps, working at the store part-time during school; Ross took over the franchise in the early 1990s; Suzanne stayed involved.

Over time, Ross became expert at everything coffee, from botany to brewing. Today, he's got a shop at Yorktown Mall in Lombard, Ill., and is expanding from a cart to a store at the Louis Joliet Mall in Joliet. He's also mulling more expansion and perhaps some store-front locations in order, as Ross puts it, "to be conveniently located in our guests’ daily lives, too."

Name: Ross Drever

Franchise owned: Gloria Jean’s Coffees, West and South Suburban Chicago

How long have you owned a franchise?

My parents started with the franchise in August, 1986. During this time, I was working in the business part-time. I started full time after graduating from college in 1993 and bought my first franchise in 2004.

Related: A Coffee Shop Franchise Where the Baristas Wear Almost Nothing Is Actually a Thing

Why franchising?

Franchising jumpstarts you with a proven brand that appeals to customers. [Gloria Jean's has] a support team and training program to get you started. They help you set up daily, weekly and monthly operating procedures that work. Finally, they deliver proprietary products that appeal to your customer.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was working in the business part-time while going to school. 

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

Gloria Jean’s has a great product. Our guests really appreciate the quality and selection of coffees available. [The company also supplies] marketing campaigns to entice guests. Because they concentrate on sourcing, roasting, distributing and marketing the products, we can concentrate on executing operations and delivering a great guest experience. We also appreciate collaborating with a system of franchisees. We share information about trends and new products and what is/isn’t working in different markets.

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

The initial base franchise fee for a Gloria Jeans coffee house is $29,500, and $17,500 for a Gloria Jeans kiosk. For multi-unit operators, a discount is placed on their initial franchise fee.

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

Since I managed a store before I became a franchisee, I was keenly aware of the challenges ahead, but I knew I could also be successful. My recommendation is to speak with franchisees in the system. Understand the system’s strengths and weaknesses. Learn the keys to success from current franchise partners; and learn the circumstances when a location was not successful.

Related: How I Bought My First Franchise With a Tax Refund 

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Retail means you are working long hours, including nights, weekends and holidays. Our business is such a "people" business, and it requires working side by side, training and developing your team -- putting them in positions to succeed. You just don’t get to do that Monday through Friday from 9-to-5. It is very rewarding and one of my favorite parts of the job -- but it also has its challenges. Our brand has also undergone ownership changes over the years. Change is always inevitable and constant, but we have found a way to continue moving forward and progressing in our business.

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

Look for a business you love. Study the investment and ROI: Understand what made franchisees successful and the circumstances behind less-favorable results. Get to know the people involved: other franchisees and franchisor support staff. Understand the motivations of all involved and the opportunities for success and the inherent risks involved. Be smart about your location and be diligent about investment. Surround yourself with talented people, and train them how to make terrific products and using terrific processes. Finally, work your business!

Related: Franchise Takes the Cafe Concept on the Road

What’s next for you and your business?

We need to develop our growing food segment without losing the focus on our specialty: premium coffee drinks and beans We are also considering new locations. Currently, my stores are exclusively in malls, while competitors have saturated street-front markets. We are clearly the preferred choice of guests inside the mall -- however we need to be conveniently located in our guests’ daily lives, too