Franchisee work to build community brand

There’s a great appeal to running a franchise: one buys a business with the comfort that the business model works. While more freedom lies behind starting from scratch, there’s security in knowing that the business one is investing in has worked elsewhere, and presumably will in one’s community.

But that doesn’t mean it will. There are risks if one solely relies on the business model without adding a personal touch. To successfully start and run a franchise, there are several steps franchisees should follow.  

Steve Youlios, franchise owner of six Jersey Mike’s Sub locations in the Santa Clarita Valley, condenses those steps into four basic tips to follow.

“Franchising is a really wonderful way to have a business,” he said. “You can really capture the expertise and business itself and be able to take advantage of several opportunities like marketing and buying power. There’s a lot of benefits to being a part of a franchise but anyone going into this needs to know what they’re getting themselves into.”  

How Youlios started

Long before entering the food industry, Youlios had established himself as a radio sales veteran at CBS Radio and KFWB 980 in Los Angeles. But amid the consolidation of the radio business, he decided it was time to make a career change.

It was through his daughter’s first job at a Jersey Mike’s that he saw how the business operated, and he became intrigued. “It was our daughter’s first job, and through her, I got a first-hand view of the terrific things that Jersey Mike’s stands for,” he said in 2017, when discussing his partnership with Kyanna Isaacson, franchisee of Jersey Mike’s in Valencia. “I knew this was a company with which I wanted to be associated.”

Youlios still recalls the day he stopped by the Copper Hill Drive location for a sandwich and sat down with the previous owner. “I enjoyed his enthusiasm and I really fell in love with Jersey Mike’s as a concept alone, rather than just going in looking for a business opportunity,” he said.

After researching more on the company and the franchise industry, Youlios pursued his goal of opening a new store. And he did that on February 2008, when he started a Jersey Mike’s on Bouquet Canyon Road. Since then, he has opened stores in Stevenson Ranch, Golden Valley, Canyon Country, eventually buying the Copper Hill Drive location, too.

What does it take?

There are four basic elements are important to consider for those thinking of franchising a business or starting from the beginning, Youlios said.

Be prepared

Anytime one has their own business, time will be, perhaps, the most important to invest. The key is to go in knowingly that that is what will be needed to get the ball rolling.

“When running your own business, you have to be prepared psychologically,” said Youlios. “It’s a lot of work and you can’t avoid that you may have to work nights and weekends. I often say that for Jersey Mike’s it’s not the long hours, it’s that we’re open seven days a week. You’ll get phone calls at all sorts of times and you’ll have to cover shifts; it is a challenge.”

A significant part of preparing to become a franchise is making sure one has plenty of capital. The required amount expected to be invested in could vary from a couple of thousand dollars to $1 million, depending on the market.

Some points to consider, according to the International Franchise Association, is to determine “how much you’re willing to risk and how much you will need to live on for at least 12 months. Make a careful and rational decision about buying the franchise. Listen to your attorney and accountant and do not be pressured by the franchise salesperson.”

Be a passionate franchisee

To offer the best in product and service, one needs to not only know the ins and outs of the business but also bring enthusiasm for the job one is going into, which is what lured Youlios to Jersey Mike’s in the first place.

“I really got to appreciate the product and the way the store was run,” he said.

Part of his enthusiasm and understanding of the business model was his strong relationship with Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike’s founder and CEO. “Do the due diligence to make sure you’re associated with a good company that supports its franchisees and watch your business grow,” said Youlios. “Peter is an incredible person with a passion for doing something for others and believes in the power of the brand. From there, we take it further as owners in our community. It’s part of our culture.”

The association added that “the success of any business is linked to the level of enthusiasm you bring to the job. Enthusiasm brings a level of excitement and energy to the operation that everyone can feel, including your customers and staff.”

Recruit the best and offer the best

A strong team is something franchisees will have to consider investing in to guide the business down the road to success.

Youlios recalled hiring his first employee Isaacson, then 16, when staffing the Saugus location in 2008. Over time, she set her mind to eventually become a franchisee for Jersey Mike’s herself. Youlios supported her goal to which she went on to become the owner of the Valencia location — the sixth’s store — while Youlios stayed as a minority partner. What started as a side job for Isaacson led to a well-established business partnership.

Top customer service also plays a significant role in running a successful franchise, something Youlios and the Taylor family, who own multiple Del Tacos across the SCV, both agree on.

For 48 years, Randy Taylor had owned the Del Taco location on Bouquet Canyon, but after retiring, his son Travis and his family took over. The family also owns locations on The Old Road and most recently the Pico Canyon Road. Their focus since becoming franchisees is to improve the quality of customer service.

“We’re a family owned and operated business even though it still has the name,” said Travis. “We give the people the food they want with the service they deserve. We’ve added more employees and improved our service, which allows us to offer fresh food in a timely manner and a cleaner environment for our customers.”  

Give back to the community

Customers appreciate businesses that support their community, the association said. While that helps the business grow, Youlios said his franchise is used as a tool to help those who live in the SCV.

“It’s so much more of an opportunity for us to get involved in our community, it’s not just all business,” he said. Jersey Mike’s locations in the SCV are known for giving back to the local school districts as well as its month of giving in March, where the stores raise funds for charity. Stores across the Los Angeles region also collect donations for the Cancer for College organization. Across 100 stores, $1 million were raised and the SCV community was one of the biggest contributors, which raised more than $45,000, Youlios said.

“This shows the kind of culture and encouragement we have for our community,” he added. “We are looking to expand within the Santa Clarita Valley and will continue to give back to the community.”

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