Franchisees share insights gained from three different journeys toward finding their perfect franchise match.
With thousands of options out there, exploring franchise ownership opportunities can be intimidating. It’s a highly personal process to select the business in which you be pouring what is likely a large chunk of your life savings into, and as such, no two prospective franchisees take the same route to arrive at ownership.
1851 talked to three franchisees from all different backgrounds about their journey to find the perfect fit for them: Sami Sweeney, a Pure Barre multi-unit franchise owner in Seattle, Scott Shaw, owner of Mosquito Joe of Gold Coast, Connecticut, and Jim Ryan, Right at Home franchisee in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
How long have you been a franchisee? What did you do prior?
Sami Sweeney, Pure Barre: I only spent a couple of years in the workforce before diving head first into franchise ownership. I worked in business management in Nashville, Tennessee. I began teaching Pure Barre at the original Pure Barre franchise in Nashville, eventually leading teacher training programs all over the country. I opened my first studio in Seattle in 2010 and currently own 5 locations with a total of 104 employees.
Scott Shaw, Mosquito Joe: I worked in human resources, compensation and benefits in the corporate sphere for 18 years, the last 8 of those spent with GE. Less than a year ago, I bought and opened my territories and we just finished our first season.
Jim Ryan, Right At Home: I’ve been a franchisee with Right At Home for just over a year now. Before that, I had a career in the Navy and then spent 25 years with IBM.
How did you first encounter the brand and what was your experience like?
Sweeney: Within months of moving to Nashville from the Pacific Northwest, I stumbled upon a Craigslist ad for Pure Barre instructors. At that time, I had a full-time job and was interested in teaching fitness, something I’m passionate about, on the side. I loved being in the studio and sharing my energy and passion for movement and connection.
I met with the studio owner and decided to attend teacher training immediately. I was teaching an extensive amount of classes around my full-time work schedule when Pure Barre founder Carrie Dorr, hired me to conduct teacher training programs around the U.S. The experience of training and developing teachers around the country gave me the confidence and determination to open my own location.
Shaw: About 3 years ago, a Mosquito Joe territory opened where I live in Larchmont, New York. There were lots of us battling mosquitoes, so there was a pretty big buzz about it. I’d been exploring the idea of business ownership for about a decade, but very passively. It wasn’t until last year that I started to explore franchises more seriously, and Mosquito Joe wasn’t on my radar when I started looking.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of franchise options out there, so I decided to work with a broker. They asked serious and necessary questions I hadn’t considered and gave me an analysis to help me understand my strengths, weaknesses and what kind of business I was looking for. They provided franchises for me to contact, helping to dwindle down thousands of options to a few to begin the discovery process. It really made the overall process much less daunting. While I was making validation calls, I saw an ad for Mosquito Joe and remembered the buzz in my community, so I reached out to see if they had availability anywhere near me.
Ryan: IBM wanted me to move to Washington, D.C., and though I’d spent a lot of time there during my time in the Navy, I wasn’t interested. I decided to part ways with the company, so they connected me with a career counseling service where I met a franchise consultant. I knew I didn't want to work in food, so they helped me explore different things through. I was seeking an opportunity where I was going to be able to make a difference, so I was given an assessment to determine options that might fit the build, Right At Home being one of those.
What compelled you to sign on with the brand? Were you considering any other franchise offerings and if so, how did you ultimately make your decision?
Sweeney: My experience as a Pure Barre employee on the unit and corporate level and my relationship with the founder was unique. I was involved with the brand at the time it began franchising and the more time went by, the more opportunity I saw sprout up within the company’s franchising system. It’s fair to say that I was in the right place at the right time, but more than that, I believed wholeheartedly in the service we provided. With roots in Seattle, I knew this concept would be well-received in the uber-health conscious and rapidly growing city.
I would be lying if I said I actually considered other franchises. I applied for other fitness franchises in the beginning (and later in my experience) to simply get a pulse on what was customary in small-scale fitness Franchise Agreements, but I never realistically saw myself owning anything other than Pure Barre because it gave me the chance to build a business and a community in the industry I deeply love.
Shaw: Working with a broker helped me nail down what I was looking for in a franchise opportunity: recurring revenue through smaller transactions a couple of times per year, nothing brick-and-mortar and the ability to positively make a difference in people’s lives. I was considering other options and went through numerous validation calls with those franchises. While they met my preference of mobile or home-based services, they didn't check all of the boxes and either weren’t lucrative enough or had poor work/life balance.
I was looking for a brand that people would be passionate about and made a positive impact, and Mosquito Joe had that. After speaking with a few current franchisees, the brand’s FDD margins were true and almost all of them were adding trucks frequently, which meant a growing client base.
Ryan: My mother had recently passed away due to a brain tumor at the time I was considering my options. She was a nurse for 23 years, and Right At Home being an in-home care company for seniors and disabled adults gave me the chance to give back in a way that honored her. I have three siblings and we were luckily able to help care for my mother as her health worsened, and it left me wondering what people who weren’t in as favorable of a position as me were left to do. Being a veteran myself, I was also interested in any way I could help care for other veterans. Right At Home afford me that opportunity.
Outside of my personal experience, it was the people at Right At Home that sold me. The first contact I made was with Diane Huffer, Right At Home’s franchise development director. She was incredibly genuine, honest and informative. I wasn't anywhere near as impressed with the people at the other franchises I was exploring. Right At Home had their hearts in the right place and my best interests in mind.
Why is the brand a good fit for you?
Sweeney: Pure Barre’s structure gives reasonable autonomy to its owners. Each studio in every market is different. We sell motivation, relationships and human connection, so there is no cookie-cutter approach to success. I’m a firm believer that my studio’s success is due in large part to our local ability to meet the ever-changing demands of our clients. Pure Barre’s corporate team understands the value in providing their franchisees autonomy in the areas it matters most.
Additionally, Pure Barre continues to be the brand that allows me to share my love for people, physical movement and community building. The concept combines many of the modalities that I know and love: pilates, yoga and strength work in a musically driven, high-energy class.
Pure Barre’s vision and values are still, after nearly 9 years of ownership, aligned with my professional goals and values.
Shaw: I like the seasonality of the business. We move at 1,000 MPH while in season from April to mid-October. After that it's more marketing and administrative-based work, giving me downtime to be with my family in the fall and winter.
Mosquito Joe’s humor in its marketing approach is also a big connection point for me. The brand has so much fun with its advertising and overall approach. Messaging doesn't talk about pesticides or health risks, and while all of that is true, we remedy those issues while focusing on the nuisance aspect of mosquitos to promote an outdoor lifestyle as opposed to pest control in marketing. I love how the business presents itself: making outside fun again. Our service has a really positive impact by getting people outdoors.
Ryan: Being able to have such an emotional connection with my business is extremely important to me. Right At Home gives me the opportunity to honor my mother and help elderly veterans, both of which I’m very passionate about.
The support corporate provides in amazing and I couldn’t have done half as much without them. Any problem, question or concern, they had seen it all before and were right there with a solution. I have a great office manager and our hearts are in it and each day is different, and the good ones outweigh the bad. We do challenging work, but the job satisfaction that comes from being able to keep people in their home and helping people with nowhere else to turn is something I absolutely love.