More than 30 years ago, Phong Ly and his family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam. Like many, they were in search of opportunity and a fighting chance at living the American Dream. And with the help of the perfect franchise, Ly found exactly what he was looking for.
Ly got his first taste of business ownership after opening up a nail salon in Fort Collins, Colorado alongside his wife. The experience was rewarding, and he fell in love with the challenge that comes along with running his own company. So much so, in fact, that he started looking into other opportunities to expand his portfolio.
“Coming from Vietnam to America, we understood the importance and value of hard work. We found success in our first business, but it also made me eager to explore new and more challenging avenues of ownership,” Ly said. “And that was the great thing about moving to America—the opportunities to find that perfect business model seemed nearly limitless.”
That’s when Ly started researching new business ideas that could thrive in Colorado. He came across Togo’s, which, beyond a single location in Colorado Springs, was fairly new to the state. Realizing the potential in a brand that has long been a favorite throughout the west coast, Ly decided to travel to California to see what the Togo’s experience was all about firsthand.
“Colorado is such a rapidly-growing state, and a lot of its new residents are California transplants. I was surprised to find that even though there weren’t Togo’s restaurants nearby, many people around here still knew about the brand. Having that built-in following was a huge driving force behind my decision to invest,” Ly said. “But beyond that, it was the quality of the product itself that really convinced me that I would have a future with Togo’s. After traveling to California and trying its sandwiches, I was truly blown away. Everything was so fresh and made only with the highest-quality ingredients. I was hooked.”
Ly, alongside his brother, moved forward in the next step of owning a Togo’s—attending a Discovery Day. Much to their surprise, the room was filled with a diverse range of cultures--all looking to become the brand’s newest franchisees, too. It was a reassuring moment for Ly.
“It was such an incredible surprise—there were other immigrants who were looking into Togo’s. We came to Discovery Day expecting mostly Americans, but what we saw instead was a group of first generation immigrants,” Ly said. “That told me one really important thing: that the product lends itself to people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Because I came to this country with nothing, I was raised to look at the value in everything—Togo’s clearly offered that.”
While researching the brand, Ly recalls one moment in particular where he met another Vietnamese woman who had immigrated to the U.S. She was the owner of multiple Togo’s restaurants, and she told Ly about her incredible experience with the brand’s corporate team—they were supportive and responsive, and, most importantly, the company’s CEO, Tony Gioia, was always only a phone call away.
“She told me to go for it—to invest. That was very reaffirming. It’s rare that you find a brand where people from all over the world support it and like it. But with Togo’s, it’s the full package—from the model itself to the food, every single person I encountered had only great things to say,” Ly said. “How many brands can say that they have such a multi-cultural backing? It’s hard to find a place like Togo’s where, universally, everyone loves the product.”
Today, Ly is gearing up to open his first of two locations in Fort Collins, Colorado—a new market that he’s aiming to eventually dominate over the next few years. He communicates weekly with the Togo’s corporate team to make sure he’s on track—from the CEO down to his real estate agent. It’s been a seamless process, he says, and he counts his lucky stars every day when taking a step back and looking at how far he’s come since immigrating to the U.S. more than 30 years ago.
“Without franchising and without Togo’s, I wouldn’t have had a shot at the American Dream. People in Colorado are already so excited for the grand opening of our Togo’s restaurant. That validation reminds me why I decided to get into this business,” Ly said.