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Franchise Players: A Military Veteran and Leukemia Survivor Embraces Life as a Franchisee After 10 years in the Marines and a bout with leukemia, this franchisee decided she wanted to be an entrepreneur.

By Kate Taylor

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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 ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

As Cynthia Williams was recovering from leukemia in 2011, she realized she didn't want to return to working in operations management. Instead, she wanted to open her own business. Franchising offered the former Marine the chance to hit the ground running while still independently managing her own business. Here's what she's learned as a Molly Maid house cleaning franchisee.

Name: Cynthia Williams

Franchise owned: Molly Maid of Winder and Athens, Ga.

How long have you owned a franchise?

I've owned a Molly Maid franchise since December 2013.

Why franchising?

Franchising presented a safe way to start a business because I could hit the ground running with a recognized company that had proven systems and processes already in place. I felt more confident going with a franchise because business plans are already developed and I could see success stories of others.

Related: Franchise Players: After the Military, a Couple Finds a Career in Franchising

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

Before becoming a franchise owner, I spent 10 years in the United States Marine Corps and had achieved the rank of major. For the previous 10 years, I was working in supply chain and operations in managerial roles. My main responsibilities were to ensure the product shipped and arrived to customers on time and that key metrics were achieved, in addition to managing personnel.

In March 2011, I had a stem cell transplant for leukemia and after my treatment and recovery, decided that I wanted to start a business.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

I liked the business model of recurring customers, the relatively low startup costs and the support that franchisees received from the corporate office. When I was doing research and talking to existing franchise owners, everybody was so forthcoming and accommodating that I knew it would be a supportive community to grow my own business.

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

I spent a total of $69,000 before my Molly Maid location was officially open for business. A cost breakdown includes:

Franchise Fees: $59,000

Attorney Fees: $2,400

Rent/Lease Deposits: $1,400

Automobiles Lease: $4,000

Deposits for Utilities and Phone: $1,200

Office Furniture & Supplies: $1,000

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

I received a lot of advice from my family and read books and magazine articles on franchises. I received good insight on what to look for such as startup costs, time that the average franchise owner makes a profit, and longevity of franchises. I was able to recognize that those things were important to me.

Related: Franchise Players: Learning to Manage Entry-Level Employees

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

The most unexpected challenge for me has been managing a successful work/life balance. When you have your own business you are working hard to attract new customers and find good employees, so sometimes it is hard to let yourself find time to unwind and relax. I have to remind myself to take "me" time.

Also, it has been hard to find employees who accept and share the vision that I have for my franchise. My vision is to provide exceptional service to every customer each time. I want to be the first name that comes to mind when someone is looking to have their home cleaned. That only happens with effort and dedication to doing your job to the best of your ability.

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

To individuals who want to own their own franchise, I would advise them to do research, get a mentor to help along the way and once a franchise is chosen, talk to as many of the existing franchisees as possible. I would also recommend talking to family and friends because becoming a business owner affects everyone in your life.

What's next for you and your business?

I am still learning and excited about the potential for my business. I am looking forward to expanding my market share in the area. I want to have a business that helps my community in any capacity.

Related: Franchise Players: An Advertising 'Mad Man' Takes On In-Home Care Franchising

Kate Taylor


Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor. 

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