Jean Brodnax-Martin was running the second-largest cosmetic surgery center in the country when she decided she needed a change. She shifted from improving people’s exteriors to helping them improve their interiors, via high quality food, by opening a Vom Fass with her husband Michael.
The German franchise, which only recently expanded to the states, sells gourmet cooking oils, vinegars, wine, spirits and liqueurs. Brodnax-Martin, who loves to cook, was drawn to the company because its food and beverage products are sustainable, fair trade and come from small farms.
Read more below her franchise journey below.
Name: Jean Brodnax-Martin
Franchise owned: Vom Fass in Greenville, South Carolina
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
Nine years. In addition to opening Vom Fass in 2014, my husband and I have also operated an organic-based lawn care company since 2007.
Q: Why franchising?
We chose franchising because of the head start it gives you in opening a new business including large purchasing power, a proven system, unique or proprietary products, brand awareness and the existing marketing pool. As small business owners, this allows us to focus more on day-to-day operations.
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was in the healthcare field and opened the second-largest dermatologic/cosmetic surgery center in the US, located in south Florida.
Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
It’s a natural fit for me because I love what this company is all about. They source only the highest-quality, fair trade and sustainable products directly from small farms. You only purchase products in the size you need and bottles are reused, so there’s no waste. I love to cook and it’s so easy to prepare a healthy meal with great flavor using our oils and vinegars. The other half of our store contains exclusive single malt scotch, Irish whiskey, brandy, cognac and other spirits.
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Including all construction, fixtures and product, around $300,000. My annual budget consists of: Rent ($48,000) utilities, phone and internet ($4,800), salaries, including part time and seasonal ($30,000), insurance, liability and premise ($4,000), accounting and legal ($3,000), licenses and taxes ($3,000), public relations and advertising ($30,000) and general office software, support and supplies ($2,500).
Q: Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I initially discovered Vom Fass in Europe years ago and fell in love. When I found out they were expanding to the U.S. market, I signed up.
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Finding a good location as well as dealing with the federal and state liquor laws proved to be a real challenge. In South Carolina, you must have a split store, oil and vinegar on one side and spirits on the other. The spirits side can only be open Monday through Saturday and must close by 7 p.m.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Talk to owners with experience in different states and really do your research. Visit existing franchises that have been in business for a while to see what works.
Q: What’s next for you and your business?
The next step for us is opening a store in Charleston, followed by location in Hilton Head. We have purchased the rights to South Carolina and plan to open a total of three stores over the next few years.