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Why This Entrepreneur in Long Island Transitioned from a Career in High Fashion and Food Manufacturing to Owning a Paris Baguette Franchise

Growing up around her family’s frozen food manufacturing company, Tina Lee always knew she wanted to open a business of her own one day. Now, she is pivoting to the owner/operator role at the Westchester County Paris Baguette location.

By Luca Piacentini1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 9:09AM 08/31/22

Tina Lee, the New York-based entrepreneur with a background in both high fashion and food manufacturing, is the newest franchisee with Paris Baguette, the 4,000-plus-unit global bakery café powerhouse. When Lee started pursuing other career opportunities, she was drawn to Paris Baguette because she knew it would not only provide a reliable path to successful business ownership, but also allow her to bring something unique to her local community.

“My family has been in the food business since I was five or six,” said Lee. “We used to be just a small little distributor, and my parents would make food out of my basement and sell it to super markets. I’ve always helped with that. Then when I was in my teenage years, I would help my parents go to trade shows and learn about different aspects of the whole business. I’ve made deliveries, rolled egg rolls and dumplings, and cut vegetables. I've touched upon many different aspects of the manufacturing business. But my goal was never to be a manufacturer, and I’ve always wanted to do something on my own.”

As a lover of high fashion and retail, Lee began working at Gucci after moving to Las Vegas. “I became the number-one salesperson there within months,” she said. “I enjoyed talking to people and meeting new clients. Eventually, I moved back to New York because my grandmother wasn’t doing so well, and started working as a purchasing manager with the family business.”

When Lee decided it was finally time to take the reins and start something of her own, she knew franchising would likely be the best route. “I really just wanted to run my own business, but I had never had the experience of opening my own store, so I knew franchising would allow me to learn the ropes,” she said. “I felt like I could take that high-end experience that I gave to people in retail and translate it into a cafe. I want to get to know my customers and engrain myself in the community.” 

Paris Baguette’s primary mission, executed every day by its expert staff of bakers, cakers and baristas, is to share moments of joy with customers by providing world-class cakes, pastries, coffees, breads and other bakery café fare. And right now, the brand presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs wanting to invest in the café segment, because no other brands are focused on offering authentic baked goods in a friendly, neighborhood establishment

“Paris Baguette is a very clean, upscale cafe, and for someone who has always wanted to own a bakery and doesn’t know how to bake, it seemed like a great place to be,” said Lee. “It was how I always imagined my own bakery would be, nice and bright, with delicious-looking pastries. I’m also a huge fan of the brand — anytime someone in my family had a birthday, we went to Paris Baguette.”

And with an easy-to-manage business model, franchisees like Lee can rest assured that they will have a profitable business that offers unique career opportunities for local communities. Lee says the franchise fee was very low compared to other restaurant concepts, and she knew that the support that was in place would allow her to thrive. 

“The whole team is full of helpful, insightful people, and everyone is super knowledgeable and willing to give you all the support and information you need,” Lee said. “That drove me to want to work with their team. I knew I would have that support.”

Lee officially signed on with Paris Baguette in December of last year and is excited to bring the brand to the Westchester County community. “There are a lot of families here and real estate is booming,” she said. “In Queens, where I’m from, everything is so close, and you can get anything everywhere. But on Long Island, where I live now, they are really lacking that array of convenient choices, and I wanted to bring a piece of Queens there so everyone can enjoy better food. The actual Long Island territory wasn’t available, but I knew Westchester was a great place with a very similar demographic.”

Looking ahead, Lee says her goal is to expand to multiple locations, and she is already working on taking over another location. “Especially knowing how successful Paris Baguette is right now, there are a lot of opportunities for growth,” she said. 

With franchisees like Lee joining the team, the Paris Baguette brand saw significant U.S. growth last year, signing 121 new franchise agreements among new and existing franchisees. Now, the brand is looking to carry that momentum into 2022 with an even more ambitious plan for growth — opening 1,000 units in the U.S. over the next 10 years. 

“As we continue to expand across the country, we are looking for franchisees like Tina Lee who are passionate about serving people in a neighborhood establishment,”  said Mark Mele, chief development officer for Paris Baguette. “We want someone who is going to take the time to be present in their store and be caring with the staff so that everyone understands the most important person is the guest and how they perceive us when they stop in for a visit. We are excited to welcome Tina to the Paris Baguette family and are confident she will be the perfect fit for the brand.”

The total investment to franchise with Paris Baguette ranges from $528,270 and $1,638,554, including a $50,000 franchise fee. For more information, please visit: https://parisbaguette.com/franchising/

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

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