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Cash Course The millionaire club grows every year--just think of a franchise as the secret handshake that gets you in.

By Devlin Smith

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The next time you hit the drive-thru or hire a service franchise, think about this: One of those people on the other side of the counter or phone may just be a millionaire.

Franchising is the source for thousands of quiet success stories. To illustrate the beauty of buying into a proven system, we found three franchisees who, with old-fashioned hard work and dedication, have joined our economy's million-dollar club. And while their lives are rarely flashy, these millionaire franchisees have progressed by doing what really matters: realizing dreams.

*George McLaughlin, 28:McAlister's Deli
*Suzie and Dave McGuire, 36 and 34:Servpro
*Eileen Rogers, 41:Allegra Print & Imaging

George McLaughlin, 28

McAlister's Deli

Anyone who thinks Gen Xers lack ambition hasn't metfranchisee George McLaughlin. In a little more than five years,McLaughlin has gone from serving sandwiches at a McAlister'sDeli location while attending the University of Mississippi toheading a company that operates six McAlister's franchisesthroughout South Carolina.

Check out more information on McAlister'sDeli and hundreds of other franchises in Entrepreneur's Franchise500.

"My major challenge was to find people to believe in me atthe age of 23," McLaughlin recalls. Even though he had workedat the deli for more than a year and had trained McAlister'sfranchisees before moving from Mississippi to South Carolina tobecome one himself, McLaughlin had a hard time proving he was agood bet.

"Every time I'd walk into a developer's office, thefirst thing they'd ask me was how old I was and if I was crazyto go into a state 600 miles away and say, 'I want to build aMcAlister's Deli, and I'm going to sell a lot of sandwichesin order to pay the rent,'" says McLaughlin."It's very hard for a lot of people to believe that atfirst."

"My majorchallenge was to find people to believe in me at the age of23."

Believe it or not, it happened. A company familiar with thefranchise and McLaughlin's track record as a general managerwas interested. McLaughlin's first location opened in Columbia,South Carolina, in 1997. With the help of the vice presidents,managers and employees at MAC Restaurant Corp., the businessMcLaughlin founded to operate his franchises, he has opened fiveother stores in Columbia, Greenville and Rock Hill, and has onemore location opening soon.

McLaughlin plans to expand his company beyond McAlister's bytaking on another franchise concept in the near future, and hehopes to eventually develop a brand-new concept of his own.

Bolstered by the $6 million MAC made in 2000 and the $10 millionit's projecting for 2001, the chances anyone will bequestioning McLaughlin's pitches again are slim to none.

Suzie and Dave McGuire, 36 and 34


Franchising might be a fairly sure thing, as opposed to other ways of starting a business, but if you think its path to millions comes without risk, meet Suzie and Dave McGuire. In 1989, Dave left the security of a corporate job to work for a franchisee of Servpro, a restoration and cleaning system franchise. His change in jobs involved relocation, and he had to move Suzie and their baby boy from Bloomington, Illinois, to Springfield, Illinois. "My parents thought we were absolutely crazy," says Dave. "We left the company car, the vacations, the health insurance. We burned our bridges. We couldn't afford to fail-our family's well-being depended on [our success]."

In 1990, the family moved once again, this time to Champaign, Illinois. The couple set up a Servpro franchise in their home, and their second son was born a few weeks later. The spare bedroom served as an office, and their home number doubled as a business line. Even though they were struggling, the McGuires took great joy in early successes. Dave recalls the steps to their first million: "The very first time our phone rang and we got a job, that was great. I remember the first time we got a paycheck and could afford to eat more than macaroni and cheese."

"We couldn't afford to fail-our family's well-being depended on [our success]."

The days of living on macaroni and cheese are now a distant memory for the McGuires, whose family now includes twins, born in 1997. This year, sales for their franchise are on track to reach $2 million.

Money isn't the only measure of their success. When a devastating fire struck their warehouse last year, members of the Champaign community as well as other Servpro franchisees helped the McGuires rebuild their warehouse. Looking toward the future, the McGuires are rich in more ways than one.

Eileen Rogers, 41

Allegra Print &Imaging

When Eileen Rogers first entered the Allegra Print & Imagingcenter in Scottsdale, Arizona, her only intention was to makecopies of her resume. A recent graduate of the University ofWisconsin, Rogers had just moved to Arizona and was looking foremployment.

Read the latest franchise news, search forfranchise opportunities, and learn how to investigate a franchisein our FranchiseZone.

The then-owner of the center was looking for a salesperson andpartner to help grow the company, and Rogers fit the bill. Shebegan working at the center and, within a short time, set up asweat equity agreement to earn a percentage of the business."If I got sales up to a certain level in a certain amount oftime, I could buy 10 percent, and then I had an option on the next10 percent," Rogers explains. She continued accruingpercentages of the business until 1996, when she bought out theremainder of her aging partner's shares.

When Rogers began working at the center, there were a few thingsshe needed to learn. "I didn't know the difference betweenprinting and copying, or anything about the technical or productionaspect of the company," she explains. "What I did knowwas I enjoyed helping people, and sales are very natural forme."

Rogers did learn how to operate the technical side of thebusiness, and though she now focuses on her sales and customerrelations strengths, "understanding the production processturns out to be an advantage at this point," she says. "Ino longer have to do it, but I'm able to relate with the staffthat does."

"What I'vebuilt is not so much a graphic design and printing company. WhatI've built is a vehicle for my life."

Rogers is also pleased to relate to the people and organizationswithin her community. Each year, her Allegra center makes donationsof supplies and printing services to local charities and nonprofitorganizations. In 1999, the store created the Baby Drive, a holidayevent that collects diapers and other baby products for homelessfamilies and domestic violence victims. Last year, $14,000 worth ofitems, including 20,000 diapers, were collected. This year, thestore is hoping to collect 50,000 diapers.

Rogers was given the Athena Award last year by the GreaterPhoenix Chamber of Commerce. "That was probably the moment inmy career when I felt the most successful," she says."Being recognized by peers and others in the community for notonly being a good businessperson, but mentoring women and servingthe community, that's such a big part of my life in thiscompany."

And Rogers is grateful for the lifestyle this$1.65-million-grossing franchise has awarded her, including arecent trip to Chile and two dogs, three cats and a fish."What I've built is not so much a graphic design andprinting company," she says. "What I've built is avehicle for my life."

Contact Sources

  • Servpro of Champaign-Urbana
    3813 N. Cunningham, Urbana, IL 61802

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