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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juanita Tackett got in early -- the 1980s -- on the then-new wave of environmentally aware businesses: She sold solar-heating units. But at the time, solar wasn't gaining traction. So Tackett took other jobs -- many jobs -- from an account manager position for Liz Claiborne accessories, to a sales-manager job for washer/dryer rentals, to a marketer for her husband's real estate concern. But sustainability still interested her, so three years ago, she poured her retirement savings into a franchise with LED Source, which sells energy-efficient lighting to corporate clients. She subsequently became the Florida-based company's first female owner, and as a 50-something starting her first business, proudly proclaimed that her "second act" had arrived.
Name: Juanita Tackett
Franchise owned: LED Source, Charlotte, North Carolina
How long have you owned a franchise?
I opened in October of 2012.
I felt that franchising would give me a proven business model and a head start on growing a business, versus having to invent a new wheel.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I worked in residential property management, real estate and consultative selling.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I had worked with solar products briefly back in the '80’s and became interested in sustainability. I had read several articles about the evolution of LED lighting and knew it was an emerging industry. When I read about LED Source, I knew that I had found the perfect fit.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We spent approximate $125,000 to purchase our franchise and get our location set up and open for business.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Before I started, I did some online research and set up some meetings with people I knew professionally, to get their take on LED lighting. I wanted to see what others saw as its potential, and hopefully plant the seeds for them to be future customers. I try to learn from everyone I can -- from our engineers, our manufacturers and fellow franchisees who have been around longer than me.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The little things. Getting our phones installed, business cards, the things that easily get overlooked when you’re trying to get a business up and running. Also, the sales-cycle length was longer than I expected.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Understand your strengths and weaknesses and hire accordingly. Research the business concept thoroughly and understand that it might take some time for the initial successes to come. Make sure you have enough funding to carry you through the startup period.
What’s next for you and your business?
Growing our location and helping even more companies realize and understand both the financial and environmental benefits of LED lighting! I am learning how to maximize my potential as a woman-owned business, by pursuing certification to be eligible for government and large corporation contracts.