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From the Air Force to a Tea Franchise Karen Laban's career path is one that few people could possibly replicate.

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 franchiseplayers@entrepreneur.com.

After leaving the Air Force, Karen Laban has pursued a mix of careers that, at first glance, seem hardly related. Laban served as a certified public accountant for 13 years, as well as partnering with her husband to run a continuing education home study business. Five years ago, she switched gears and opened a Spice & Tea Exchange in West Monroe, La. Here is what she has learned.

Karen Laban
Image Credit: Karen Laban

Name: Karen Laban

Franchise owned: The Spice & Tea Exchange in West Monroe, La.

Related: These 'Angels' Are 'Investing' in a Franchise That Assists Seniors at Home

How long have you owned a franchise?

Since September 2010.

Why franchising?

I always wanted to open a spice store but was at a loss as where to start. Buying into a franchise gave me the opportunity to run my own business without the hassle of having to develop the structure or vendors.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years. I was a certified public accountant for a land development/residential construction company for 13 years in Central Pennsylvania. I also continue to partner with my husband in a continuing education home study business founded in 1996 called Laban's Addiction Specific Trainings.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

I was introduced to the products by a friend when I resided in another state. Upon returning to my hometown, I decided to open a store.

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

Around $200,000.

Franchise Fees - $30,000

Site development/Buildout - $100,000

Start-up Inventory - $25,000

Furnishings/Computers - $15,000

Legal/Administrative $5,000

Cash Reserves - $20,000

Related: Finding Joy in the Flooring Business

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

From the franchise coordinator as well as doing a site visit to a franchise that had been open for over a year.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Understanding retail trends and managing inventory!

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

Research and understand your market. You can follow your passion by setting realistic goals.

What's next for you and your business?

We just relocated to a more visible location for our area and within a month we are already seeing an increase in our customer base.

Related: Why Knowing What Was 'Under the Hood' at This Franchise Convinced Me to Become a Franchisee

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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