Leader of the Pack

A single mother from Belgium finds that good things come in packages of all sizes.

By Jeri Yoshida

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In February 2000, Urmila Patel, 46, knew nothing of postal, packaging and shipping services, and spoke very little English. But by that October, she was the owner of a PostalAnnex+ franchise in Fremont, California.

The single mother owned a clothing store in Belgium for more than 20 years before she decided to relocate to the United States to give her two children more opportunities. She was researching franchises while on vacation in northern California when she first heard of PostalAnnex+. "We don't have these kinds of stores in Europe," she says.

Patel began visiting locations and stumbled on the Fremont store while shopping with her sister-in-law just two days before her return to Europe. Unbeknownst to Patel, her sister-in-law left Patel's contact information with the owner-the next day, he called to ask if she was interested in buying his business. Patel immediately knew she could make the location work and rushed over to give him a $2,000 deposit.

The fact that she didn't know the industry and barely spoke the language didn't bother her. "I wasn't that nervous," she insists.

Patel initially selected PostalAnnex+ because of the flexible hours. While most food franchises required her to be open from early morning to late evening, Patel says she "can work [those] longer hours . . . or [just] from 9 to 6."

The road from Belgium boutique owner to U.S. franchisee was a short but challenging one for Patel. Unable to get an SBA loan because of her citizenship and residency status, Patel sold her house and store in Belgium to come up with the initial six-figure investment. She then moved with her children, bought the Fremont location and went to work.

"I didn't have anything left over. I had to make it work," Patel says. During the first few weeks, she was not only learning the business, but also had to deal with an employee who didn't show up for work during the busy holiday season. Patel credits the previous owner's two-week on-site assistance as well as franchisor support for pulling her through.

Less than four years later, the business is thriving. Patel employs a staff of three and expects 2004 sales to reach $500,000. "Most important is that you're friendly," she says. "Have confidence, and the customers will believe in you. And try to give the best service." Now that's great advice that translates into any language.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Have More Responsibilities at Work, But No Pay Bump? Use This Script to Get the Raise You Deserve.
Black and Asian Founders Face Opposition at All Levels — Here's Why That Has to Change

The Greasy, Glamorous Rise of Mascara

You won't believe the grimy gunk people used to smear on their eyelashes -- and still do.

Business News

'Our Kids Aren't Even Safe To Order Food': Mother Outraged After DoorDash Employee Uses App to Flirt With Teen Daughter

One mom is going viral on TikTok after catching a DoorDash employee attempting to flirt with her 15-year-old daughter through the messaging service provided through the platform.

Business News

An NFL Rookie Scores a $514,000 Jackpot in Las Vegas

Los Angeles Rams running back Ronnie Rivers sat down to play 3-card poker and left a half million dollars richer.

Business News

Police: 82-Year-Old Woman Found Alive at New York Funeral Home After Being Pronounced Dead

The woman was found breathing almost three hours after she was pronounced dead.

Business Ideas

How to Make Thousands of Dollars on the Side As a Virtual Assistant

Apply your skills and experience to create a lucrative virtual assistant side hustle or full-time business.