Born and raised in Brazil, Susan Dean first came to the U.S. in 1977 as a foreign exchange student. She had basic English skills, but learned much more during those six months—and fell in love with the language. “I remember flying back and just wanting to keep speaking English,” reminisced Dean.
Upon returning to Brazil, the young woman decided to get a dual degree in Portuguese and English. At the time, she wanted to be a bilingual secretary, but once she reached that goal, she began wanting more autonomy. “I realized I’d rather be more of a boss,” she said.
In 1984, Dean visited the U.S. again to see loved ones in Louisville, Kentucky. She was staying with the family of a friend when the phone rang. She answered it. Two years later, the man on the other end of the line became her husband. Susan and Steve Dean went on to have two children together, both now in their twenties, and have been married for 33 years.
Dean then began working at Ford Motor Company in Louisville, first as a secretary, then as a production supervisor. But the long, overnight shifts didn’t allow her to spend adequate time with her young children, so in 1997, she left. After enjoying a year and a half off, Dean began looking for her next venture.
She learned that a local neighborhood bakery was up for sale. That bakery turned out to be a My Favorite Muffin franchise with eight years and a solid profit margin under its belt. “It had a great history. I’d been there a couple of times myself to buy muffins,” said Dean. “I’m not a salesperson, so we loved the idea of people coming to us through an established business.”
The first-time franchisee also loved that owning a bakery would set her work hours earlier, freeing up her evenings to spend time with her family. “I didn’t want to own a restaurant that closed at 10 p.m.,” said Dean. “We wanted a business where we could all have dinner together at home.”
As a first-time business owner, Dean said that the franchise model laid out a perfect introduction to entrepreneurship. “When we first bought the business, we were so naive,” she said, “But My Favorite Muffin, along with the previous owners, helped us a lot initially. I think we needed that.” Around a year in, in the midst of booming business at My Favorite Muffin, Steve left his job in medical equipment to help run the store.
In addition to being a first-time franchisee, Dean said she rarely baked before owning her My Favorite Muffin. “I still don’t bake at home,” laughed Dean. “But baking is now my favorite part of the job. And I love the muffins. I can’t stay away from them. You have to believe in what you offer, or it won’t work. And I eat the mini muffins every time I’m there.”
When asked about her favorite part of being a My Favorite Muffin franchisee, Dean said that getting to know regular customers has been an incredibly rewarding experience. “Even if we don’t know their last names, we’ve known many of them by their first names for years and years,” she said, adding that her community of regular customers even take care of each other. “Recently, when one of our regular customers, who is in her 80s, broke her hip, someone brought her several weeks worth of muffins so she could freeze them.”
Dean is clearly a community-builder, and since realizing her dream of becoming “more of a boss,” she has become a fiercely compassionate one. “I could write a book about my staff,” she said. “We’ve never had a problem hiring—because we close at 6 p.m., high school kids have time to do their homework after work. Since we’re a small operation, it’s a good and trusting environment, and parents like it too.”
On the business side, Dean takes special pride in her operations. A little over a year ago, the biggest church in Louisville placed an order for 5,500 large muffins on a Monday, asking to receive the delivery that Friday. “We said we could do it,” she said. “That day, I was baking, I had two employees boxing the muffins and Steve made multiple trips delivering. We were able to react so quickly to such a big order and do it all at once—we accomplished that. I never thought I could do it so flawlessly.”
Dean is looking forward to celebrating 20 years in business this August. Now in her late 50s, Dean said that she and her family have no current plans to expand or shake anything up—after all, they’re happy. “If we were in our 30s, we’d definitely have more stores,” she said. “But this one store is plenty busy for us, and we have a good profit margin. We plan to stay until we’re ready for retirement.”
My Favorite Muffin franchise continues to provide the Dean family with plenty of opportunities to spend quality time together, both inside the store while working and around the dinner table at home after it closes for the night. “Yesterday, all four of us were at the store, actually,” she said. “It’s all worked out perfectly.”
Dean believes that the nearby city of Lexington, Kentucky holds exciting opportunities for the next crop of My Favorite Muffin franchisees. My Favorite Muffin is now looking for qualified business owners to open two to three new stores in the south and southwestern regions of Lexington. The brand operates in areas with at least 30,000 residents within a three-mile radius and an average household income in the $80,000 to $100,000 range. Prospects will also be invited to visit Dean’s Louisville store to experience the culture of southern hospitality that My Favorite Muffin does best.
Startup costs for a My Favorite Muffin Gourmet Muffin Bakery franchise range from $243,500 to $352,500 for a full store or $100,300 to $283,700 for a satellite store. For more information, visit https://www.myfavoritemuffinfranchising.com/.