In last week’s column, Sandy Yates talked about the difficulties she encountered after purchasing a Cookies by Design franchise. While her experience painted a negative picture of franchising, Rhonda Budz of Green Bay had the opposite experience.
Budz and her husband, Doug, purchased a Breadsmith franchise in 2001. Having owned a non-franchise business for many years, Budz was cautious when considering a franchised business. But she liked the concept and product and saw benefits to buying something that was established. “I wanted to do my homework so I studied up on the franchise, and went to the company headquarters in Whitefish Bay and talked to the founder, Dan Sterling. I was comfortable with his background and what he was trying to do, and when I asked if I could contact other franchisees, he said I could call anyone. He didn’t try to steer me to specific people,” she noted.
Budz called a half a dozen franchisees and got positive reports. So she took the next steps and negotiated a price with the seller, obtained approval from the franchise, and scheduled training at the home office.
The intensive training took her through the production process, marketing, store design, financial reporting and branding. She said they didn’t try to make it look easy and let her know that the hours can be hard. Some of the training started in the middle of the night where she worked with bakers and learned every step of the process. “When you start your own business, which I have, it takes much longer to find out what works, and for people to know who you are and what you do,” she said. “With the franchise, I had confidence that the concept was tested, it worked, and I was stepping into a business that people knew and loved.”
Another benefit was the flexibility allowed by the franchise. While that varies with franchises and should be investigated carefully before purchasing, Breadsmith allows owners to submit recipes for testing and make changes to their stores with approval. Budz created Monkey bread, pull-apart bread that is now a popular staple at many of the stores. Budz said, “If I had an idea and wanted my store to be different, it was usually approved. They are now moving a bit more toward uniformity, but I always felt like they would work with me as long as it fit with the overall concept and menu.”
As far as disadvantages, Budz said that the biggest one is the inability to make a snap decision. You might want to try something, but because it doesn’t fit the brand, you can’t do it.
A serial entrepreneur, Budz sold the business to a relative in 2008 and she and her husband have started a wood reclaiming business and have commercial real estate rentals. But she has only good things to say about the franchise. “I miss the smell of the bread, donating to food pantries and other organizations, the loyal customers, and the goodness of the company. It was wonderful to make grandma’s bread every day,” she said.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.