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.
For years, Tim Campbell and his wife Sandi have shared a dream of one day owning their own business. After nearly 30 years of working in corporate America, filled with frequent traveling and moves, the Campbells were ready for jobs that allowed for the flexibility to spend time with friends and family. So, after returning to their home state of Georgia, the couple decided to open a Big Frog Customer T-Shirts & More franchise. Here's what they have learned.
Name: Tim and Sandi Campbell
Franchise owned: Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More of Cumming, Ga.
How long have you owned a franchise?
My wife, Sandi, and I bought our store from an existing franchisee in 2013, but the store was first opened in 2009. Now we are in the process of opening a second location in the area.
After 27 years in the corporate world, I was ready for a change of pace. My wife and I have both always wanted to own our own business, and we really liked that franchising offers a footprint in the industry, with the infrastructure and brand recognition already in place without us having to grow it from the ground up. Not only is Big Frog a fast-growing and award-winning franchise, it offers full support for its franchisees through a variety of mediums like peer groups, mentoring, forums, coaching and e-learning.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I spent my first 11 years with Rollins, Inc., where I had the opportunity to grow from an entry level manager to the positions of VP of Human Resources, Group VP and VP of Administration and Service Operations for a subsidiary. I then moved to Sodexo, where I was a Senior VP of Sales and Business Development for four years. After that, I spent 12 years with Aramark as a Region VP, Executive VP of Healthcare, President of Correctional Services and lastly, President of ARAMARK Healthcare Services.
My family and I had relocated to four different cities within 15 years for my work, and when our oldest child was about to start high school we wanted to return to our home state of Georgia, put down roots, and follow our dream of owning a business. After moving back to Georgia, 50 years old and not sure what to do next, I took an interim position as a chief executive officer of a smaller company in Atlanta for 14 months. When my time there was up, I was certain that owning my own business was the path I wanted to take.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
We looked at a lot of different franchise concepts, from coffee shops, yogurt shops and fast-food restaurants, to a flip-flop shop and a sign store. After spending so many years in the corrections, healthcare and security fields (where your customers aren’t exactly having fun), I was ready to do something more lighthearted. I have always been artistic and I’ve always been involved with sports, so Big Frog allows me to combine those two passions perfectly.
Whether it’s designing the perfect birthday party T-shirt or producing high school sports uniforms, we have so much fun helping customers create unique designs with our graphic artists for their garments, and we love that our no minimum quantities or design charges make it a great option for everyone, not just teams or groups with large orders.
Big Frog is also not a remote ownership opportunity – in order to be successful, franchisees must be willing and able to be active in their communities. I went from not even recognizing the names of the streets of my own neighborhoods (because I traveled so much) to now being able to devote 10 to 15 hours of community volunteer work a week. It feels great to not only have returned to my home state, but to really connect with my community. Because Big Frog is a newer franchise without the massive footprint of bigger chains, it felt more intimate and we realized there is enormous opportunity for growth in the garment decorating business.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
While we didn’t build out our first store, we are in the process of starting our second franchise from the ground up. It’s a total investment of about $200,000 - $250,000. The franchise fee is $39,500 and build-out costs are about $30-80,000. Other costs break down to: equipment: $60,000, inventory: $10,000, marketing: $15,000, miscellaneous (working capital, utilities, insurance, fees, employee training, etc.): $45,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We did a lot of research on the internet and purchased books on franchising and business ownership to absorb as much information as we could. We were also introduced to a mutual friend who works for FranNet, a leader in franchise consulting services. She talked us through the advantages of owning a franchise and helped us understand what to expect. FranNet also gave us a lot of information, and in addition, we talked to people who owned franchises already, to get their first-hand perspective.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
First, after you spend your entire life getting a check from someone else, the thought of shelling out your own cash to invest in your own business is enormously frightening. You realize quickly that your ability to support your family lies totally with you. Second, coming from working for large corporations with tremendous infrastructure, it was challenging to learn how to operate relatively independently. Big Frog is great about providing support and coaching, so we were prepared to tackle all aspects of the operation, but when situations cropped up, such as when we lost a huge internal data storage device, we had to learn how to solve the most minute or even business-threatening problems on our own. We learned how to wear many hats, and how to be responsible for all decisions of our business – all the time.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
A long-time friend and mentor of mine told me once that owning your own business means you can work anytime you want to… as long as it’s every day. There is nothing horribly difficult about owning your own business, especially when it is a franchise with an established brand and business model. But there are many small things that need attention every day.
Five minutes here and 10 minutes there can add up quickly. You have to have a plan and be an involved owner, at least in the beginning, to get a good handle on your operation. The absolutely wonderful thing about franchising is that you have the ability to control your own destiny. If I want to leave work in the afternoon to see my son’s game, I can do that. It just means I might have to catch up later. We are no longer bound by someone else’s schedule or expectations, and we love that.
What’s next for you and your business?
We believe this year we will be able to double the size of our existing business in two years, and we are currently developing our second store in Suwanee, Ga. We look forward to having that up and running late this summer.
We have also just entered the e-commerce world so we can support spirit-wear fundraising efforts and small businesses. We always remind our customers, however, that they are more than welcome to stop by and sit down with a graphic artist to create something truly unique, at no charge to them. Right now we are enjoying our fun business, and can definitely see a third store on the horizon.