How did you get started in your career? I got my degree from Saint Joseph’s University in marketing, and I started in pharmaceutical sales out of school. I loved it, but then I had kids. I was home with them for about 3 years after I got pregnant with my third child in 2005. After that, I knew I wanted to do something else.
What was your first introduction to the concept of franchising? I found out about the Retro Fitness in Lawrenceville, N.J. I remember walking into Retro, and I couldn’t get over that it was $19.99 a month—I was paying more than $200 for the gym I belonged to at the time. I thought, If I lived here I would definitely join this place. But I also thought that it made total sense from a business owner standpoint. I remember thinking of it from both sides so I went on the Retro website and I filled out the forms to become a franchise.
Why was the idea of franchising attractive to you? I have a passion for running businesses. It’s the best job for me because the hours can be flexible for my children, but it’s also hard. I think franchises are such a great way to own your own business. I liked the fact that I was literally following a model. You’re taking a proven model and using energy and hard work to make it good and strong. On the other hand, it’s not just handed to you. Sometimes, people think they can just copy it or that it’s very simple. There’s nothing simple about this. It takes a certain personality. I don’t ever walk through my gyms without saying hi to every single member. Sales is kind of the same thing in that way.
What have you learned about franchising that you wish you knew when you started? I’ve definitely learned so much along the way. I am a different business owner now than when I first started. Looking back, I was so gung-ho—you tell me what to do and I will do it. Now, 8 years as a business owner, I see more of the whole picture. In the beginning, I don’t think I was as aware as I am now.
You’re franchising in a very male-dominated business. How has that been for you, and have you encountered challenges?
I’m one of very few women franchisees at Retro—there are 90 or so owners, and I’m one of a handful of female owners. But I never really questioned myself. I never said, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ It’s not about success or failure, it’s about being adaptive.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in franchising? Believe in the franchise, and be prepared to follow their model. Know that it’s a lot of hard work, and hiring the best employees is key to your success. I knew going into this that I was going to do it with all the energy and excitement that I had. I want to make money and be successful, but that has never meant sitting back and collecting a check. It has meant that I’m either working, or I’m with my kids. That’s been my life for 8 years. If I have free time, I’m on my computer working or in one of my businesses. I balance it the best I can. I work off lists. Prioritizing is key.
How do you go about choosing the right franchise for you? You look at the pro forma they give you, but you should also talk to other franchisees. You can ask whether the numbers are realistic. They will tell you stuff the franchise can’t. Also, remember that with the franchise agreement you’re locking yourself in and committing to copying their business model, so you want to make sure you’re comfortable. Think about it in terms of being a customer, too because you want to make sure it’s something you would do.