Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chiral Desai is a licensed architect, but these days she's building something new: yummy desserts, through Nothing Bundt Cakes, a franchisor she signed up with over four years ago. A native of India, Desai is a talented henna (Mehndi) artist who early on published seven books on this beautiful form of body art to pay for her professional studies. After arriving in the United States at the age of 22, she spent eight years with various Bay Area architectural firms, working on residential and mixed-use projects. When the recession took its toll on that industry, Desai refocused her sights on a business of her own and chose Nothing Bundt Cakes as a "perfect fit for my personality." Today, she's got three bakeries in California and is sweetening the pot with plans to expand to more.
Name: Chiral Desai
Franchise owned: Nothing Bundt Cakes bakeries in Fremont, Sunnyvale and Bakersfield, California.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have been in the Nothing Bundt Cakes system for about four-and-a-half half years.
The day I came across Nothing Bundt Cakes, I fell in love instantly. Until then, I had not considered owning a franchise business or even any business at all. But it’s a great concept and a successful one, as it helps individuals own their business, utilizing a proven success model. Following this model keeps things less complicated for a small business owner like me, and I can focus my efforts on growing my business without having to start from the ground up.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I am a licensed architect. Before owning Nothing Bundt Cakes, I worked as a designer and project manager with architectural firms in the Bay Area. I am also a LEED-certified professional. I worked on residential and mixed-use projects, preparing designs, construction documents, submittal sets for city and [other] graphic presentations per our clients’ needs. My husband is a mechanical engineer and still works full-time as an engineer.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
My husband and I are very selective and picky when it comes to sweets. One bite of Nothing Bundt cakes and we knew there was nothing as delicious as this cake!
When I researched Nothing Bundt cakes, it appeared a perfect fit for my personality. We found the business very promising because of its simple and unique concept. I felt confident venturing into this business and felt it was a reasonable investment. During the process of opening our first bakery, the founders Debbie and Dena supported us with each step. It felt very much like we were becoming part of a “happy family” brand. The franchisor's team offers great operational support and helps with marketing training and ongoing support, so franchisees are able grow rapidly along with the brand.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We invested $425,000 as a total project cost to open our first Nothing Bundt Cakes in Fremont, California. We put in $225,000 from our savings and secured $200,000 through an SBA loan. We started our operating expenses with $25,000 in working capital.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I am a very curious person. I enjoy browsing on the net, and it turned out to be very useful. I read through the Nothing Bundt Cakes website and franchise disclosure document, as well as talked to current Nothing Bundt Cakes owners, who all provided valuable information and guidance.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
We opened our first bakery in January of 2012. We didn’t anticipate high-volume [sales] right from day one as we assumed all businesses take time to get their feet on the ground. We were inundated with a high volume of sales and struggled in the beginning to match our staffing and product availability. We put in many extra hours to make sure we did not compromise the needs of our business and customers. Not having prior experience owning a business, we learned new things every day. I learned this business inside out very quickly.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
My first piece of advice is, having the passion for a particular business is more important than what the profit will be. Owning a business is a big commitment and requires lots of hard work. But, when you love what you do, it makes any challenge worth it.
My second piece of advice is, leadership is the most important key to success in business, whether it is about contributing back to your community or coaching the young generation that works for you. I believe each individual is very capable of achieving anything they want to. If I can make a difference in my community, and if I can help my staff members learn the skills and qualities to be successful in their lives, that will be my greatest success.
What’s next for you and your business?
Next . . . maybe something even bigger! I am an ambitious individual and I enjoy challenging my capacity. So, I feel I will venture [further] into more Nothing Bundt Cakes bakeries or something else in the future. Most importantly, I want to make sure I am creating lots of memories with my two boys, ages 5 and 9, now that they are growing very fast. I want to help them learn values in life, become strong and passionate going after their dreams and have [the motivation] to help others in any possible way they can.
Related: Why I Founded an Ice Cream Franchise