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 email@example.com.
Alexandra Myers found her passion for entrepreneurship after five years in the Navy. Now, she serves servicemen and women in a different way -- as a Smoothie King franchisee. Based on her own experience, Myers felt there was demand for healthier food options on military bases. Here's what she has learned.
Name: Alexandra Myers
Franchise owned: Smoothie King
How long have you owned a franchise?
I currently own eight Smoothie King locations across the country, but I will be opening two more stores within the next month. The venture began in 2005 as an opportunity to bring a healthier food option to servicemen and women on military bases. While the majority of my locations are on military bases, we recently opened in Clarksville, Tenn. near our existing location on Fort Campbell in Kentucky. By the end of August 2015, I will be opening a store on Fort Hood in Texas, as well as my first drive-thru in nearby Harker Heights, Texas in September 2015.
I saw this as a great opportunity to bring an existing concept within a growing market sector to people seeking healthier fast food options, especially where they are often lacking accessibility on military bases.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where I studied engineering. Following graduation, I served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy for five years. During that time, I was stationed in both Japan and San Diego. Once I completed my time on active duty, I decided to get an International MBA at ESADE in Barcelona, Spain. After earning my degree, I began conceptualizing potential business opportunities.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I grew up in New Orleans where Smoothie King originated. It was a proven concept and a high-quality product, and I believe that when compared to our competitors from a taste perspective, the brand is the best in the marketplace. There was also a lot of potential for growth since much of the United States still lacked any franchised locations. Smoothie King is a great brand with an aggressive growth strategy -- smoothie consumption has nearly doubled in the last five years as a meal option for consumers. It’s great to be a part of a brand with a clear direction for growth, brand presence and image.
This type of concept also has the benefit of versatility from a location standpoint since the square footage and layout can be adjusted based on the real estate available. Start-up costs are also lower than a traditional restaurant.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
This can vary greatly depending on the size of the real estate, the city where it is located and whether or not the location is leased in a strip mall or is a freestanding unit. However, the basic equipment is typically in the range of $60,000, and construction costs can be anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 for a basic location in a food court or strip mall respectively. There are other additional costs such as architectural fees, franchise fees, state permits and licenses, as well as opening inventory and training of new personnel.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
For the most part, I was able to draw from my own experience while serving in the Navy. Based on my own familiarities as a customer of Smoothie King and the knowledge I acquired studying business while pursuing my MBA, I knew there was a demand for healthy and desirable food alternatives on or near military bases.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The real estate aspect can be the most difficult, especially when operating in several different markets. Assessing the location and the potential sales in that market can be challenging. In addition, often times there’s a lack of available real estate in a desirable area which can slow down the growth of the business significantly. This can happen even when you are prepared from an operational standpoint to continue with opening new locations.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
The franchise brand has a proven concept that can assist in predicting some of the variables to opening a new business and hopefully mitigate some risk. However, focusing on key aspects to making any location a success and opening and running a successful business is up to the individual. Another essential area for success is ensuring you have a solid understanding for basic human resources practices. Implementing the systems necessary to properly hire, develop and train your personnel is important, too. Any successful business needs to ensure the staff is service-oriented and has an understanding of the product to keep people coming back for more. Hopefully, this leads to attracting new customers.
What’s next for you and your business?
I hope to continue growing with the Smoothie King brand on military bases across the country as opportunities become available, while also expanding into larger cities in the United States.