Profiles in Franchise Development: Jill Summerhays of Totally Nutz
Profiles in Franchise Development: Jill Summerhays of Totally Nutz

The nut brand’s director of business development on what she loves about franchising.

Benefiting from a uniquely flexible and low-cost operational model, Totally Nutz has expanded rapidly in its four years of franchising, popping up in malls, arenas, concert venues, festivals and street corners across the country.

Totally Nutz’s expansion efforts are led by Jill Summerhays, Director of Business Development. Summerhays was no stranger to franchising before joining Totally Nutz. Years earlier, Summerhays had franchised her own business, a retail smoothie concept called Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees and Smoothies. After taking that business from a single traveling kiosk to a 660-unit global franchise, Summerhays formed the Green Seed Franchise Development company, which was hired by Totally Nutz in 2013 to guide the brand’s first franchising efforts.

Today, Green Seed Franchise Development is responsible for planning and executing the development strategies of both Maui Wowi and Totally Nutz. We talked to Summerhays to learn what she loves about franchising and what she would change about the industry if she could.

When did Totally Nutz decide to franchise?

Totally Nutz started franchising in late 2014. After getting so many inquiries from interested parties, we decided to go ahead and franchise the business.

What do you love about franchising?

What we love most about franchising is that we can teach our concept, trade secrets and best practices to new business owners and watch them become successful. Our business changes lives. It allows people to leave unrewarding jobs and long commutes and spend more time doing what they love. They are spending more time with their families and many of them are running Totally Nutz as a family business. The Totally Nutz concept teaches great life skills and creates jobs for so many people. It is exciting to see our Totally Nutz brand grow as we develop relationships with venues and events across the country. We believe our franchisees are part of our Totally Nutz family, and we do everything we can to support them and help them be successful.

Is there anything you wish you could change about the industry?

Typically, in the franchise industry, the sales process is a long one. It can often take 6 to 12 months from initial inquiry to closing. Totally Nutz tries to keep the sales process simple and streamlined to shorten the length of time it takes to become a franchisee while still ensuring that the candidate is a good fit for our culture.

What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in franchising since you started?

Although Totally Nutz started more than 25 years ago, we’ve only been franchising for a few years. The biggest change has been the transition to online inquiries. It is critical to have a strong online presence. We find that most candidates search for us on their phones now. About 90 percent of our inquiries come through our website.

What makes a great franchisee?

Totally Nutz has become very clear on what makes a good franchisee. We look for candidates who have a strong work ethic, are willing to adhere to a proven system, have a cushion of working capital and have plenty of drive. The most important quality we look for is enthusiasm. Do they catch the company vision? Will they embrace the brand and become brand ambassadors by following the system? A willingness to help other franchisees and work together is also an important quality of a Totally Nutz franchisee.

What’s the number-one thing that sells franchises?

A great sales team is critical to successfully selling franchises. This means that the development managers take a lead and walks the candidate through our unique process. We require a client to follow our timeline and complete their assignments. This helps both our team and the candidate determine if we are a good fit for each other