Express Employment Professionals
WHY I BOUGHT
Why This Franchisee Cleared Out Her Retirement Fund to Invest in an Express Employment Professionals Franchise
From lay-offs to a divorce, Aracely Melendez of El Paso has overcome several challenges to get where she is today as the owner of a successful, minority-and female-owned franchise business.
Express Employment Professionals, the industry-leading staffing franchise with more than 800 locations across the world, is all about empowering people to reach their full potential, whether that be candidates looking for the right job, organizations looking to grow their team or franchise owners looking to embark on entrepreneurship.
Aracely Melendez, owner of an Express franchise in El Paso, is a prime example. From confronting personal and professional setbacks to building a successful business, Melendez has shown the type of enduring spirit, resilience and ambition that Express aims to highlight. Here is her story.
Educational Roots and Early Career
Melendez's aspiration to own a business has deep roots. "This was always one of my goals when I was in college," she said. “I have a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. That education was a great foundation for me. But I never truly imagined I’d be able to afford a business of my own.”
After college, Melendez started a career in for-profit higher education, working for the University of Phoenix for 18 years. She started at an entry level position as financial council and eventually worked her way up to a role as the director of product management.
“That taught me about the people business — how to deal with customers and clients,” said Melendez. “The product we were selling was all about helping people through higher education. That helped me understand the dynamics of the business. Towards the end, I was really able to understand the importance of building a team to execute a plan and generate results.”
Navigating Life’s Storms
Unfortunately, Melendez's path wasn't all smooth sailing. After a reduction in the workforce, she lost her job in 2013.
“I hadn’t been looking for work for two decades, so I had to get used to applying online instead of on paper. It was a very interesting experience,” she said. “Around the same time as getting laid off, I also got a divorce and had to find a new home. A year later, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes life hits you with a ton of bricks and you have no choice but to keep on going.”
And keep on going she did. Although curious about business ownership, Melendez decided to take another corporate role as a program manager for the housing authority in the city of El Paso.
“I worked very closely with the legal teams in Washington D.C., contractors and banks,” said Melendez. “I got to see the acquisitions needed to get funding to buy land and property. I was able to help them restructure, rebuild and remodel all of their housing properties. That was a five year project that taught me a lot about team management.”
Following that project, Melendez was back looking for a job. In 2019, her father passed away, leaving her feeling like she was ready for a next chapter.
“After the storm of that five year period, I was at a moment where I felt like: What did I have to lose? One of my friends sold franchises, and she told me about all the options out there,” said Melendez. “Some were presented to me and didn't really touch my heart. It wasn’t the right fit. I kept on postponing it. But when my friend came to me and told me about an Express Employment Professionals franchise that was being sold in El Paso, everything clicked.”
For the past 40 years, Express Employment Professionals has been in the business of people. From job seekers to client companies, Express offers localized staffing solutions to the communities they serve, employing 586,000 people globally. And with an eye-catching AUV of $6,497,275 for territories open more than 24 months, Express is proving that finding the right people means big business. Express was ranked the #1 Staffing Franchise for the 12th consecutive year on the Entrepreneur Franchise 500 in 2023, and ranked #45 overall.
Taking the Leap with Express
In early 2020, Melendez embarked on her journey with Express. “The team had that same positive culture that I had seen in higher education, and I knew my skill sets would align well with the brand,” said Melendez. “It was right down my alley. I could help people, but in a different capacity. I could also see that the franchisor would support me in all aspects of the business — operations, training, hiring. If I do my part, I shouldn't fail.”
Express offices are 99.9% locally owned and operated by franchise owners. Franchise owners have access to Help Desk support from the Oklahoma City HQ, monthly regional meetings with other owners to help discover best practices, leadership conferences available for staff to attend to further their development, annual conferences, monthly in-person meetings, strategic development and problem-solving and more.
Melendez says she was also blessed because the El Paso Express Employment Professionals franchise she was interested in purchasing was already open and operational.
“The previous owner was doing very well, but he wanted to sell because he no longer had the capacity to run the business,” said Melendez. “I was able to understand the business model, the momentum and the demand in the market. The good, the bad and the ugly. I felt passionate about the fact that I could build it up. As a project manager in my previous role, I knew that if I could find the right people, I could make it work. The more I looked into the business, the more I liked what I saw.”
But that doesn’t mean the decision was easy. "Although the overhead costs are lower than most franchises, I wasn’t quite in the financial situation where I could afford the business, so I cleared out my retirement fund and put all my chips on the table," Melendez said. "Especially as a single mom with a family to support, I had no choice but to make it work.”
Melendez officially took over the franchise in April of 2020, right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, the early success she saw despite these challenges was a clear sign of what was to come. By the end of her first year, Melendez hit the Circle of Excellence, a designation for top-performing Express franchisees who bring in between $625,000 and $999,999 in annual sales.
“We were able to help so many people find work despite the pandemic, and that meant a lot,” said Melendez. “We got through it together. Ever since then, we’ve continued to grow, and we currently are seeing sales above $1 million a year. We are trending well for the future.”
Looking Ahead with Hope and Determination
Today, Melendez's focus is not just on business growth but also on making a difference. "Our goal is to continue to establish ourselves in the community," she said. “I want to continue to grow with the right team. Their families are my families. I am responsible for helping them. We are all on the same mission.”
Overall, Melendez says her story serves as a beacon of hope and encouragement, especially for women in the corporate world. "Being a Latino, female-owned business is not easy,” she said. “I want my story to be an inspiration, especially for my kids — anything you want to do in life, if you work hard and come prepared, it’ll all come together."
Express franchise owners do not need a background in staffing. About 95% of owners have no previous staffing experience. Franchise owners at Express can be successful if they are ready to lead a team, willing to make sales calls and have a strong passion for helping others find success. Whether that’s a small business owner who doesn’t know how to move forward with finding employees, or it's someone who just got laid off and doesn’t know where to turn, Express franchise owners are there to serve. Owners should also possess clear communication, motivation, extroverted personalities and be comfortable making cold calls and building relationships.
And now, the time has never been better to join the Express team. In honor of the 40th anniversary, Express is waiving the $40,000 franchise fee for 40 new territories across the country — an initiative the brand calls the “40-40-40” promotion.
Looking ahead, the Express Employment Professionals team remains committed to its mission, aiming to reach 900 units by year-end and continuing its legacy of bridging job seekers with opportunities and entrepreneurs with the perfect franchise fit.
More details regarding franchise costs can be found at https://1851franchise.com/expressemployment/info.