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Small Business Week Spotlight: 5 Exceptional Franchisees Don't forget to support your local franchisees during National Small Business Week. Here's how these five franchisees thrive as small business owners and inspire their communities.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A lesser known fact about franchises is that franchisees function as small business owners, and often thrive independently by bringing their own passions and ideas to the business. In honor of National Small Business Week, we're highlighting outstanding franchisees who have gone above and beyond for their businesses, customers and communities.

Salem Najjar, Tropical Smoothie Cafe

At 32 years old, Salem Najjar is the founder and CEO of SERVE Hospitality Group, along with owning and operating 14 Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in the Midwest. Najjar embodies Tropical Smoothie's mission to "inspire better," and takes it to the next level. He puts a positive work environment at the forefront of his values, and regularly mentors employees to encourage growth amongst his staff. As an experienced business owner, Najjar understands the franchising difference, and the value and responsibility in being a franchisee. "We are privileged to have the brand equity and strategic guidance from Tropical Smoothie Cafe as a franchisor, but also to have the flexibility to make business decisions," says Najjar. "Tropical Smoothie Cafe has a great support center to help guide and advise franchisees, but at the end of the day we are all in charge of our own cafes, responsible for our own employees and ultimately responsible for giving our guests the best possible experiences." While Najjar is proud of both his businesses' growth and success, he says the most rewarding aspect of his job is making an impact on his community, and aiding his employees to grow and achieve their goals.

Related: This Family of Tropical Smoothie Cafe Franchisees Is Using Their Business to Build Community

Lisa Chapin, SailTime

A lifelong admirer of sailing herself, Lisa Chapin began her journey with SailTime more than 15 years ago as a SailTime member in Austin, Texas. "That membership gave me the resources and knowledge to sail around the world for three years," Chapin says. "What I love about sailing is you're never done learning. It's a lifelong adventure." After using the knowledge and skills gained at SailTime, Chapin sailed the world before settling in the Bay Area. When news came that SailTime was looking for a franchisee in San Francisco, she left her job in business development to pursue the position and bring her own passion and experience to the SailTime franchise. More than a decade later, she oversees a fleet of six boats shared by dozens of members, manages an American Sailing Association Sailing School and has a 50 Ton Masters license from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Related: Why This Couple Bought a Franchise After Traveling Around the World

Shane Fay, QC Kinetix

Shane Fay's journey to business ownership came with determination and hard work, building his life from the ground up and taking small steps to building his empire. Born and raised in southern California, Fay grew up in a struggling working class family, and got his start in franchising firsthand by working at local fast food restaurants to support himself. The first in his family to go to college, Fay put himself through a degree at Baylor, then spent 10 years saving and eventually got his MBA at the University of Georgia — where he paid all cash. At 45, Fay left the energy industry and used his savings to become a franchisee for QC Kinetix, a regenerative medicine franchise, where he ultimately developed its largest market to date. He operates 17 clinics throughout North Texas, three of which he opened within his first four months as a franchisee. Fay's story shines light on the power of small business ownership as a franchisee, and has built an empire that impacts lives in a way he'd always dreamed of. "This hit every desire I had," says Fay, "it was in the health and wellness field which I am passionate about, it was truly helping others and making a positive impact in their lives, it was innovative, yet they already had a proven track record of success with the treatments. And I get to build something from the ground up that will be a legacy for me and my family."

Related: Why People are Rethinking Retirement and Franchising Instead

Jenni Smith, Kolache Factory

Jenni Smith, a 13 year franchisee with the Kolache Factory in St. Louis, is a model of how small businesses can partner with their customers to help care for the community, and as well as autonomy franchisees have to make an impact on the larger system. About three years ago, Smith met with a St. Louis college student who had started a program called Gift-A-Meal, which works with local restaurants to provide meals to food banks. Store customers take a picture of their purchased meal, post it on the app and the restaurant donates a meal on their behalf. In less than three years, Smith's store has donated 3,974 meals and 4,769 pounds of food to those struggling in her community. After witnessing the success and impact of incorporating Gift-A-Meal, Smith presented the program to her larger community at Kolache Factory corporate, and has now expanded the initiative to 10 franchisees within the system. "I'm very grateful for the work that Gift-A-Meal and the local food bank does, which gives our store the opportunity to partner with our customers and give back to our community," says Smith. "That's what we are about, serving our community. And I am beyond thrilled that I have been able to share this program with other franchisees in our system."

Related: Win-Win: This Founder Is Using Extra Restaurant Food to Feed the Needy -- and Save Businesses Money

Kim Johnson, AAMCO

As a female business owner in a male dominated industry, Kim Johnson is a role model in her Santa Cruz beach community as the owner of the local AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care store. Johnson's story also demonstrates how one can utilize the opportunity of being a franchisee to bring important and needed businesses to the community, regardless of experience. As a former Jazzercise instructor, Johnson had no automotive experience but knew that the community needed it and trusted the support and business model at AAMCO.

Johnson is passionate about serving her community and providing a car repair experience that's a positive one. As a woman, she wanted to create an approachable and fun experience to car repairs for other women or those who might find the encounter daunting. She often educates customers, and will take them into the shop to show and demonstrate what happened to the vehicle. "Men used to come in and bypass me as if I was just a secretary and didn't have any knowledge of anything," Johnson says. "They would ask to speak to a mechanic and I would tell them, "Well, I'm the owner. Why don't you start by asking me the question, and if I don't know the answer 'll let you talk to one of my mechanics.' Now, men don't challenge me as much. Instead they say, "Wow, I'm impressed!'"

As a small business owner, she is a role model in her community, and serves on the board at a local high school that runs an automotive program to prepare young adults for a future in the auto industry.

Related: After Buying Into AAMCO, This Franchisee Couple Found That Success Drove Itself

Madeline Garfinkle

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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