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These Next-Generation Franchise Leaders Are Ready to Take the Business World by Storm

The Yum! Center for Global Franchise Excellence is on a mission to 'provide education and research to drive entrepreneurial opportunity, particularly for people of color and women.'

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This story appears in the January 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Kathy Gosser retired from Yum! Brands after 35 years, she was grateful for all the franchise industry had given her. But she was also aware of how unattainable that opportunity can be for others. “There are a lot of different barriers to entry,” she says. “One is awareness of the industry, one is , one is capital.”

Jason Frank

That’s why instead of simply retiring, she started a second career focused on empowering a new, diverse generation of entrepreneurs: She became the director of a first-of-its-kind franchise education center at the University of Louisville called the Yum! Center for Global Franchise Excellence.

The university created a graduate certificate program in 2019, added a six-week boot camp in 2020, and developed an undergraduate curriculum in 2021. It’s funded by the university and Yum!, the owner of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and The Habit Burger Grill, out of a $100 million pledge it has made to increase diversity and opportunity at its brands, and in more generally. Gosser spent the bulk of her career at Yum!, where her last role was as KFC’s director of learning and organizational development.

Related: 5 Great Ways to Research Franchise Businesses

“Our mission is to really provide education and research to drive entrepreneurial opportunity, particularly for people of color and women,” says Gosser, who teaches at the center, and whose students affectionately call her Dr. G. (She has a Ph.D. in educational leadership and organizational development, which, along with her MBA, she got at the University of Louisville.)

Gosser’s students come to class with a range of ideas about how franchising fits into the future. So what is the next generation of franchise leaders thinking? Here’s what they say.

1. Zach Mofield, senior

“I was always fascinated by the idea that you don’t have to think of anything new to be a franchisee. The franchisee gets a proven concept and has the freedom to choose their passion without worrying about formulating the idea. I chose to study it because I am interested in buying a franchise location one day. I am not one that really has the entrepreneurial mindset, but I am very business minded and that is what franchising is for me. This is a field that prides itself on relationships. I am a people person, and that could bring me success in franchising. My only regret is not taking my course sooner.”

2Denise Jones, senior

“My very first job was at a Steak ’n Shake in my local community. I enjoyed my brief period of employment there, but I was always curious about the flexibility in my manager’s schedule. I asked him about it one day, and he said he was a franchisee. He explained what that was and told me about the initial startup fee. After I got off my shift, I went home and did my own research on franchising. Although I was younger during this encounter, I now knew what it took to have your own business
and operate it. That moment has impacted my interest in franchising today.”

Related: 3 Simple Lessons to Maximize Your Education and Achieve Your Dreams

3. Reba O. Hamlin, alumni of the graduate program

“My most valuable lesson has been how to create a business plan. There is so much research you must do before taking the plunge into being a franchisee. This program will teach you everything from evaluating your net worth to deep diving into a [franchise disclosure document], and then using that information in the culminating event of creating a real-life business plan used to obtain the funding to become a franchisee.”

4. Kerrigan Miller, senior

“Many of our guest speakers discussed how their careers progressed because they weren’t afraid to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities. The business world is very large, and you could end up missing out on something that’s a great fit for you because you initially dismissed it. Don’t be afraid to take on new projects and encourage others to continue learning as well.”

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Solve the Higher Education Problem

5. John Mays, boot camp graduate

“I know that for most people, they only think about restaurants when they think about franchises. That’s not even a fraction of the different areas and industries that can utilize the franchising model. It’s a powerful tool, to be able to increase the likelihood of success for people who have a desire to be entrepreneurs.”

6Christian A. Landin, senior

“Watching people build generational wealth in marginalized communities makes franchising fulfilling to me. Growing up, my family lived in squalor and never owned much. I am part Hispanic and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Knowing that I could own and manage my career, solely due to the work I put in, is what is motivating me to pursue a franchise. I would love to be the representation that franchising can be for anyone.”

Related: Entrepreneurship Programs Are Preparing Students to Become Pioneers

7. Lauren Pedley, alumni of the graduate program

“One real-world lesson I’ve learned from the program is to pay off your debt! During most of the exercises in the certificate program, we were asked to supply our current financial information to better understand what it would take realistically for us to start our own franchise. We used real-world tactics to figure out what we need financially and what our options are.”

8. Chace Recktenwald, senior

“Dr. G brings a great attitude and really cares about her students. She not only wants to see her students succeed, but she’ll do whatever she can to help them succeed. Whether that be referring us to people she knows, enlightening us with her experiences, or simply teaching us the course materials. She’s taught us that franchising is really about the relationship that you have with your franchisor, if you’re the franchisee. That not only goes for franchising but life in general — the relationships we have are really everything."

Related: How Can We Improve Through Financial Education

9. Libby Shockley, graduate of the boot camp and undergrad program

“The franchisor-franchisee relationship is crucial. As franchisees invest in the brand, it is vital the brand is investing in their franchisees too. Though each franchisee is unique, the relationship is rooted in common goals of growth and a vision of success.”

10Elizabeth Dixon, senior

“Franchising is not all about restaurants. That’s mainly what everybody says, but it’s really not. There’s so much that goes into it. Just like any other career, you have to work extremely hard because franchising is a very expensive business. You can’t just go into it thinking, OK, you put all this money in so you’re going to be successful like everybody else. That’s not how it works.”

Related: Focus on Education and Training to Retain Your Workforce

11. Carmyn Greenwood,  grad student

“Starting a business from the ground up, you don’t know if you’re going to be successful. You don’t know the time you’re going to be wasting. You come up with your methods and standards instead of them being given to you. As you go along, you’ll notice things you’re going to have to buy and add because you didn’t see that from the start — but if you own a franchise from a franchisor, you already know everything you’re going to need.”

12Santiago Aguilera, senior

“I’ve always wanted to own my business, but at the same time it is hard to start from scratch, build an entire working system
and sustain it. A way to mitigate all these high risks is by acquiring a blueprint of a working business and sticking to it, and
that is why I like franchising: It’s an option for financial freedom.”

Related: Why Continuous Learning Is Critical for Entrepreneurs and Their Teams

13. Alanna Parham, senior

“My overall idea is to use my master’s in art therapy and arts admin to build an on-site museum where adults and children who are patients in a hospital can go and view artwork. Becoming a business owner, and then hopefully in the future becoming a franchisor, is one of my personal goals because I do want the help. I’m going to be reaching out further than just the little area that I’m starting in.”

14. Grace Abeln, senior

“We’ve heard multiple stories from franchisees over the semester about how they’ve gone above and beyond their title
of franchisee. They’ve put in long hours and done multiple jobs in the franchise. For example, if there’s not a line cook at a fast-food restaurant, a franchisee would have to step in and take on that role, because they need that to make their business successful. They have to put in that effort and that work, because at the end of the day, the franchisee is only successful if their business is successful.”

Related: The 4 Key Learning Styles and How You Can Use Them to Learn, Teach and Grow Your Business

15. Bradley Sample, junior

“Originally, I took the class just to take a class, but I very quickly decided that I am interested in becoming a franchisee. The people in the franchise industry come from all sorts of backgrounds. There is not one set path you have to take, and that is something that really attracts me to the idea of becoming a franchisee.”

Image Credit: All Photographs by Jason Frank

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