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From Zero to Hero

Even the best franchisor has to start somewhere. Subway king Fred DeLuca reflects on 25 years of franchise success.

This story appears in the January 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

This is the 12th year Subway has claimed the top spot on Entrepreneur's Franchise 500®, and company founder Fred DeLuca is taking the time to reflect on how both his company and franchising as a whole have changed over the past 25 years. Ranked No. 219 on our first Franchise 500® listing, with 134 franchises in operation, Subway has grown and by press time expects to have 20,000 franchises in more than 70 countries. It's truly a testament to the power of franchising. "When I look back at it, it was the only way we could've grown to become a national chain," says DeLuca. "And so I have very excellent thoughts about franchising and working with franchisees from around the country. A lot of really talented people all over want to own their own businesses, and the franchise concept really helps them bring a recognized name to their town."

When Entrepreneur published the first Franchise 500® in March 1980, DeLuca's company was still very new to franchising. Though he founded his company in 1965, he'd only been franchising since 1974. "We didn't really know the franchising business, and it's [a very] different business from the store operations business," he says. "Just because we knew how to run stores didn't mean we knew how to run a franchising company-at that point, we were in the beginning stages of learning how to be a franchisor."

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