Tom Jones, like most Wisconsin natives, grew up on Cousins Subs. When he was in high school, he even secured his first after-school job as a sandwich maker for the brand and has been with Cousins ever since. As Jones graduated high school and began his college career at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he continued working at the local sub shop and eventually earned a corporate manager title.
Like most new college attendees, Jones remembers he too “had no idea what degree” he wanted to get. Fortunately, at the time, Cousins Subs was offering tuition reimbursement for any current employee attending college that chose to major in marketing or finance. This support was ultimately what carved Jones’s path for success and helped him become one of the youngest franchisees in the Cousins Subs system.
After graduation, Jones applied for a position within Cousins Subs’ corporate office located in Menomonee Falls and became a marketing consultant before moving into a marketing manager position. During that time, 24-year-old Jones was presented with an opportunity to get into franchising. Timing aligned, and Jones took his first leap into franchise ownership of a for-sale sub shop in South Milwaukee.
The location, opportunity to “get out from behind the desk,” and his passion for the Cousins’ brand were the main motivators to go into business for himself.
“Working in a corporate setting made me realize how much I liked the operational side of the business and how much I hated sitting in an office,” said Jones.
Jones quickly found he had a knack for business ownership and began to acquire multiple Cousins Subs locations. Along with the success of owning his multiple stores, Jones realized that he had spread himself too thin and ultimately made the decision to take a step back from his marketing manager position and shift his focus solely to his responsibilities as a franchisee.
He knew that if he was going to continue to stay in line with the brand’s standards for quality, he was going to need some help and decided to call on his sister, Cheryl Ryan, for assistance.
When Ryan was 16, she got a job at the Cousins Subs where her brother worked. When she graduated from high school, she decided to move to California with their aunt. But when Jones decided to purchase his newest location in South Milwaukee, he couldn’t think of a better candidate to run the store than his sister.
“I ran the idea by her and without any hesitation, she said she was willing to come back to Wisconsin and run the store,” said Jones.
Initially, Ryan was Jones’s general manager, but as more opportunities to purchase additional stores came along, he eventually asked her if she would like to become partners.
“Up until this year, my sister – who’s currently on maternity leave – and I worked together daily, and she is an incredible business partner,” Jones said, beaming with pride. “Being in our home market has allowed us to find success as young business owners.”
As Jones’ career advanced, he divulged that one of his favorite things about working so closely with Cousins’ corporate office has been the familiar faces of the corporate team members and the growth of the brand.
“It’s not just my career that has evolved,” shared Jones, “it’s also the business that’s growing and evolving and those original team members are really the ones who are making it possible with their decisions.”
Christine Specht, daughter of Cousins Subs founder Bill Specht, is as passionate as her father is about staying true to the brand’s Midwest roots. Specht believes that high standards and unwavering support for franchisees like Jones is what continues to drive the Cousins’ brand forward.
When Specht took over as President and COO in 2008, she wanted the brand to be recognized for its continued commitment to “better,” driving home its mission statement, “We Believe in Better.” That’s why in 2012, Specht and her executive team made an investment in their franchisees’ stores by incentivizing each location to add grills. Of that $30,000 investment, Cousins Subs offered to cover $8,000 between cash and royalty reprieve.
Jones and other brand partners appreciate the franchise’s willingness to go above and beyond to support its franchisees when needed. “We went from calling it the corporate office to the corporate support center,” said Jones. “The culture has morphed into an incredibly collaborative relationship. They know what’s best for the business and what’s best for the stores — it’s truly a family relationship.”
Jones attributes the growth of his stores to the collaboration and trust that was established on day one between himself and the Cousins Subs corporate team. He said, “I love the industry and my stores, and I enjoy the commitment and hard work that’s involved in running my own franchise. I’m happy with the results I’ve received.”
Within the next five years, Cousins Subs is planning to expand its franchise into neighboring Midwest states. With that expansion plan comes continued cooperation between the corporate support team and franchisees, requiring Cousins to bring its pillars of hospitality, transparency and support to all new franchisees.
That level of commitment and support from Cousins Subs is what continues to inspire franchisees like Jones to expand alongside the brand. Jones added, “I have a strong sense of pride in being a Cousins Subs franchisee because this is a Milwaukee-based business. It’s not just your average restaurant or sub shop. I was born and raised here, and when I reflect on what I’m doing, I’m proud to work for a company that was founded in Milwaukee.”
Potential franchisees can expect startup costs to range from $182,200 to $632,000 for a single unit, with multi-unit development agreements ranging $17,500 to $78,750 plus the initial $25,000 franchise fee for the first Cousins Subs location. For more information on Cousins Subs franchising opportunities, please visit cousinssubsfranchise.com.