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.

Kevin Papula had a nice niche in life -- IT director of a company with 300 employees. But the desire to start his own business prevailed, and he chose both franchising and Postal Connections. "I’m a born leader, and I like to make the decisions that matter. I like having control," he says. "With no office politics or useless corporate bureaucracy, things move very fast." Papula also had some other things going for him: solid savings, a family chockful of small businesspeople to give advice and the patience needed to hold out for success. This last point was important: Papula had to supplement his franchise income for several years and put in dedicated labor. But what he calls his "work ethic" helped: Eventually his business took off, and he hasn't looked back.

Name: Kevin Papula

Franchise owned: Postal Connections, in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg.

How long have you owned a franchise?

Six years this coming January.

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Why franchising?

The ideas and processes are already established, the training is included and comprehensive and the network and camaraderie are jumpstarted.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was the IT director for a company of 300 employees.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

It was the right fit at the right time. My dream had changed from a good day job to business ownership. I had been diligent about saving money, so all the components were falling into place -- plus, I come from a family of small business owners so the advice was plentiful and easy to acquire.

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

I spent $15,000 for the franchise fee, $100,000 for the business purchase and $25,000 for marketing materials and signage -- $140,000, total.

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

I got most of my advice from family (there are many small business owners in my immediate and extended family -- I have it in the blood!) I used the Internet like none other to identify the market and assist me with building my business plan. I called many franchise owners in the Postal Connections system and the competition (UPS Store, independent “mailbox store” owners and others) with a list of questions and compared answers and crunched the numbers.

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

For me, it was the work that is involved to make the business run in a financially viable way. In the beginning, work was slow, so I supplemented my income with a few other ventures. However, in time, the systems and processes set in place by Postal Connections began to mesh with my work ethic; and, now, after five years, I don’t have time for anything else!

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

I love the freedom it gave me. I’m a born leader, and I like to make the decisions that matter. I like having control. With no office politics or useless corporate bureaucracy, things move very fast. There’s nothing stopping you from turning your dreams into realities. But it doesn’t come easy -- you’re putting in tons of hours, but it’s all worth it. I love the options afforded to me by franchising.

What’s next for you and your business?

Right now I am squeezing all the possible potential out of this business through proper marketing and accounting. This is after I streamlined operations, then built my customer base through networking and sales. I’ve learned so much in this endeavor, and I love it! What’s next? More growing, more learning and, hopefully, more success. I am looking into how to apply my interest and knowledge of 3D printing to this business, and others.

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