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.
"Lifers" is the term Rahul Arora chooses to describe his and his brother Rohit's commitment to Blimpie, the franchisee system they bought into in 2014. But that didn't happen until both had managed Blimpie restaurants for a decade. And that happened only after both had made the tough transition of immigrating from India. So the brothers have had their challenges, including the biggest one -- Rohit's need for a kidney transplant just weeks after they'd opened their Uniondale, New York, store. Thankfully, the transplant was a success, and the brothers have held fast to their commitment to Blimpie's -- and to each other.
Franchise owned: Blimpie Restaurant, Uniondale, New York
How long have you owned a franchise? Since February 2014. My brother Rohit and I realized our dream of business ownership by taking over the Uniondale, New York, Blimpie location.
Both of us are in our early twenties and are franchising "lifers." We started working at a New York-based Blimpie when we moved to America from India ten years ago. Neither of us has any formal education, so we have developed all of the management, operations, marketing, etc., skills required to run a business effectively by working as Blimpie employees for more than a decade. We have always liked the Blimpie operating model; our fresh-sliced sandwiches, the quality of the meats, breads and cheeses; and the opportunity to earn our customers’ loyalty.
Ultimately, we decided to purchase a Blimpie franchise location, as opposed to starting our own business, because of the iconic and established brand name and proven systems and processes. With Blimpie, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel; we can rely on our experience working at the stores and follow the operating system provided to us by Blimpie’s parent company, Kahala, and Long Island area developer Pat Conlin.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Both of us were born in India and came to America in our late teens. We both got jobs at a Blimpie location in Long Island and worked hard to earn manager positions within a few years. As managers, we were exposed to all aspects of running a Blimpie franchise, which has allowed us to easily transition into our roles as co-owners.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
We chose Blimpie because we love the brand and the people at the corporate and local level who are responsible for its success. We have been working in Blimpie restaurants for 10 years and are very familiar with the operation. Additionally, we have worked in successful locations over the last decade and knew the cost of entry was affordable.
In the years leading up to our purchase, we stayed in close communication with Pat Conlin, the area developer, who is responsible for all Long Island-based Blimpie locations. He worked diligently to help us find a good location that fit our needs and helped us understand what we needed to do to finance the purchase and position ourselves for success.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We estimate that we spent a grand total of $66,000 before we were able to successfully take over the business from a previous owner. This cost included the purchase price, the lease and utilities, security deposits, training expenses and initial franchise fee.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
As I mentioned, we couldn’t have done this without Pat Conlin and the corporate staff at Kahala. Outside of that, we relied on our experiences working as Blimpie employees and leaned on our family members to ensure we were making a smart decision that benefitted all parties.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
We were very fortunate as new owners because our years of experience working inside Blimpie stores made the operations and management component of ownership very easy to handle. However, there is always a learning curve associated with the transition from a managerial position to ownership. We work even longer hours and handle all of the bills, employment decisions and backend work we weren’t responsible for as managers.
However, the most unexpected challenge was when my brother, Rohit, was forced to leave the country in the first two-to-three weeks into our opening due to severe health problems. Rohit returned to India in April 2014 to secure a kidney transplant and restore his health. Thankfully, my wife was able to lend a hand when things became overbearing, and she helped me endure emotionally and professionally during that tough time. The best news of all is that Rohit returned to America healthy and better than ever last month and our business has never been better.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Don’t be afraid to take the risk. Working for yourself, as opposed to by yourself or for someone else, is one of the most gratifying and refreshing feelings in the world. And if we can do it as first-generation immigrants with no formal education, anyone can!
What’s next for you and your business?
Honestly, with my brother back in town, I want to take a day off! But in all seriousness, we are eager to take our location to the next level by improving our already-great customer service and implementing a marketing plan to reach and influence more customers who we want to turn into loyal fans!