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2022’s Top Franchise Influencers: 35–26

Once again, 1851 Franchise and SeoSamba have teamed up to find the most influential influencers in the franchise world.

Franchising is a big world, and it’s only getting bigger. Still, it’s a community, and a fairly close-knit community at that. Franchisors and franchisees across brands are constantly kept abreast of what their colleagues and competitors are up to, eager to implement best practices and leverage the industry’s best ideas. 

That’s why it’s essential for everyone in the industry to know who’s who. Whether you are buying a franchise, franchising your business, growing your franchise or looking for general information on franchising, tapping into the franchise world’s thriving community is vital to your success.

To that end, 1851 Franchise has teamed up with SeoSamba to bring you a list of the most influential people in franchising. 

Publishing throughout the month of February, this list is not a ranking, but a collection of 175 franchise industry professionals we think you should know. To help you connect, we’ve provided links to each professional’s LinkedIn page where available. So read on, and get busy building your network!

Scott Thompson

LinkedIn Bio:

Chief Development Officer for Big Blue Swim School, Heyday Skincare and Operating partner at L-5 Capital Partners. Strategic Franchise Executive, Lifelong Learner, and Planner. Data Driven Sales and Marketing Executive that continuously innovates and leverages technology to accelerate growth.

Specialties: Franchise Development, Lease Negotiations, Real Estate, Financing, Sales and marketing training, Franchise law, Corporate startups, Business Coaching, Partnership Development, Teambuilding, Technology

Scott Wendrych

LinkedIn Bio:

"The best strategy in the world is meaningless without a relentless focus on execution!" 

Franchise Operations and Development executive with 16 years of leadership experience building

great teams and delivering results. Strong track record of building start up brands from zero to re-engineering brands that have gone astray. Solid business acumen with a proven track record of developing infrastructure and tools to lead franchisees to success. Strong relationship builder that delivers results both operationally and via franchise sales and openings. 

  • Deep franchise development experience and track record of selling and opening units
  • Strong operational background focused on building systems, processes and metrics
  • Private Equity experience
  • Driver of franchise system engagement

Sean Fitzgerald

LinkedIn Bio:

Sean Fitzgerald, CFE is a c-level franchise executive with 25 years of experience working with brands ranging from startup franchise concepts to large developed franchise systems. This level of experience provides unique insight and perspective in growing, operating, and building franchise brands. His expertise includes franchise sales, development, marketing, lead generation, digital marketing, content marketing, lead flow management, candidate journey mapping, PR, web design, SEO/SEM, CRM, franchise operations, multi-unit development, franchise compliance, training, and franchisor/franchisee relations. Currently, Fitzgerald is the President of TruBlue House Care franchise, the only national provider specializing in home maintenance and repair, both inside and outside the home, for Seniors and Busy Families. 

Formerly Chief Development Strategist for No Limit Agency* and 1851 Franchise, he provided franchise development strategy for many well-known brands, including DQ, Great Clips*, Buffalo Wings and Rings*, and Two Men and a Truck. His experience also covers a wide range of industries including retail, restaurant, hospitality, service, healthcare, and technology. Before that, he was Executive Vice President for BrightStar Care, Senior VP of Quiznos, and National Vice President of Franchise Development for Wireless Zone, a Verizon Wireless retail chain. Fitzgerald also was the co-founder and COO of an automotive accessory retail chain out of Cincinnati, Ohio, which grew to become a national franchise and eventual IPO trading on the NASDAQ-QTC.

Sean Manning

Nominator’s Rationale:

Sean Manning, CEO/Founder of Payroll Vault, is a dedicated businessman that has created a successful franchise system that presents enthusiastic entrepreneurs the opportunity to support their local professional community strategically and effectively.  Throughout the pandemic and with the close support of Tricia Petteys, COO/Co-founder of Payroll Vault, Manning has led the executive team and franchisees through a powerfully disruptive and radically evolving time. As a result of his dedicated leadership, business acumen, and focus on clear communications, each franchise office has been able to remain current on important legislative changes that allowed them to help their local business community navigate workforce management fluctuations, to access a variety of emergency funds and tax credits that helped their business stay afloat, and to ensure compliance at each stage for their clients and non-clients equally. As a leading payroll company, it’s important to be accessible to clients, and even more so during times of distress. Over the course of the past few years, Payroll Vault has reshaped expectations for small business owners across the nation and will continue to help business owners re-think payroll.

Sebnem Flores

LinkedIn Bio:

26+ years of experience in international sales of military aircraft parts and services, believing and living the "customer first" focus and the power of strong team effort in getting it done with highest quality, on time and exceeding external and internal expectations at all levels.

After 25 years in the aerospace industry, we decided to give our 110% to being our own boss and sell......hamburgers! Continue to sell the highest quality of goods, with the best team and delivering superior level of customer service and LOVING our job. Working hard and playing harder.

Seth Larsen

About Cheba Hut (from Company Website):

As a lifelong “foodie,” Scott Jennings worked at quite a few different restaurants during his college years and decided it was an industry he wanted to grow into, but with one condition; he had to seriously shake things up. In one particular job as a delivery driver, Scott noticed a severely underserved market for late night deliveries. After coming to the realization that most college students liked to get high, he figured, why not create a cannabis-themed sub shop?! And so in 1998, Cheba Hut “Toasted” Subs was born

First, he wanted a place that served a sandwich that was better than anything on the fast-casual market. Second, he wanted a unique and fun theme that embraced the counterculture.

Finally, he wanted to create an environment where everyone truly felt welcome and got to experience a genuine and authentic level of care in customer service; something that most people would rarely receive in the fast-casual world.

Shane Evans

About Massage Heights (from Company Website):

At Massage Heights, it is our goal to elevate the lives of the people we touch by caring for the mind, body, and spirit. As a company committed to the well-being of everyone who visits our Retreats, we are passionate about maintaining relationships with our guests, members, team members, franchise owners, and the rest of our Massage Heights family. We are loyal to our guests and invest love and positive energy into everything we do for them. Our company is diligent in our pursuit to provide an elevated experience for everyone we touch.

Shannon Hudson

LinkedIn Bio:

Shannon “The Cannon” Hudson, founder and CEO of 9Round, has had more than 30 years of training in martial arts and is the IKF Light Middleweight Kickboxing Champion of the World. On October 1, 2011, while training under legendary boxing trainer Xavier Biggs, Shannon won his title with a 6th round TKO victory. In addition to a 5th degree Black Belt in Japanese Shotokan Karate and a 4th Degree Black belt under the Joe Lewis Fighting System, he also holds a degree from USC Upstate, and is a Best-Selling Author. 

Shannon is now fully involved in the daily operations of the company by bringing constant support to the franchisees and ensuring the best workout experience to 9Round members. 

Shawnon Bellah

LinkedIn Bio:

Executive leader with more than 16 years of industry experience in Food Service Operations and Domestic and International Franchising. Expertise includes Operations Management, Employee Training and Development, Domestic and International Sales Growth Strategy, Franchise Relations, Menu Development, New Product/Program Launches, Corporate Communication Strategy, Vendor Relationship Management, Marketing and Public Relations.

Shelly Sun

LinkedIn Bio:

Founder and CEO of BrightStar Care, a home health care franchise dedicated to providing both medical and non-medical assistance for families and individuals in need. 

Founded BrightStar Care in 2002 and expanded through franchising in 2005. Today, the brand has grown to over 340 locations represented by 200 small businesses and reached $500M in revenue in 2019. BrightStar Care is consistently named in Forbes’ Top Ten Franchises under $150,000 initial investment. 

Dynamic, entrepreneurially spirited leader with over 20 years of leadership experience across diverse industries?with an emphasis on consumer-facing services and franchising. 

An innovative, forward-thinking trailblazer focused on driving results in relentless pursuit of excellence. Passionate about delivering the highest quality care and building a network of like-minded small business owners to activate this vision across the brand. Strategic mindset to continuously innovate and create new opportunities to drive brand growth and performance. 

Highly experienced in?leadership and?executing business growth and development strategies, analyzing industry and competitor performance, and maximizing business earnings. Comprehensive background in workflow streamlining, mergers and acquisitions, contract negotiation, corporate finance and accounting, budgeting and cost controls, and strategic planning. 


  • Named Inc’s Top 100 Female Founders in 2020 
  • Named Glassdoor’s “Highest Rated CEOs During the COVID-19 Crisis” 2020 
  • International Franchise Association (IFA) Chair 2017-2018 
  • Featured in Harvard Business Review Case Study 2016 “BrightStar Care: The Evolution of a Leadership Team” 
  • Published Author Grow Smart, Risk Less?2011 
  • Featured on CBS’ Season 2 of Undercover Boss 2011 
  • IFA 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.