Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
Bill Zolper stopped into burger chain b.good in Boston to grab a quick lunch, he didn’t know how much a bite to eat would change his life. Drawn in by the food and the concept of locally-sourced ingredients, Zolper was hooked. At age 23, Zolper opened his own b.good in Portland, Maine. Here’s how opening his own franchise put his knowledge of small business and entrepreneurship to the ultimate test.
Name: Bill Zolper
Franchise owned (location): b.good in Portland, Maine
How long you have owned the franchise:
I bought the franchise the beginning of 2013, and opened it Oct. 2, 2013.
I went to school for small business and entrepreneurship. However, as I am only 23 years old and fresh out of school I knew it would be a great learning experience for myself to run a proven business model that has the systems in place. Once our methods of systems are in place I can use these to compare to any aspect of this industry or any new business that I choose to pursue.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was an associate real-estate broker in Maine for two years, which helped tremendously when talking languages of leases and my place of business for a location.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I walked into a b.good one fall day in Boston on Newbury Street when I was in a hurry to get a quick bite before catching a flight. I not only enjoyed the food but also the concept behind b.good. We source everything from local farms, so a b.good in Glastonbury, Conn., would be using local farm fresh ingredients and in Portland, Maine, we’re using Spiller Farms in Wells, Maine, to keep our seasonal products fresh and unique.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
$600,000. Almost all was in the build out of the business, which was just over $500,000.
The rest of the expenses fell under staffing, legal teams, marketing, city fees, sign companies and b.goods corporate team helping us settle in and get things running efficiently (this was the biggest help of all).
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I have been lucky enough to have entrepreneurial-minded mentors as well as investor mentors in my life that taught me an investment is not a risk, the person investing is the risk. When you take calculated and informed risks you’re not taking a risk, you are in fact exploring an opportunity. Just because someone hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean it won’t be successful.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The most unexpected challenges was the sheer time of trying to accomplish a dream of mine. This included sacrificing time with family and friends.
The other most unexpected challenge was acquiring building permits with the city, which made engineer and legal expenses much higher than expected. Additionally, this pushed back our opening five months, which meant five months of cash flow taken away from the business in its first year of operation.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do you want to own your business? If you do, then you feel like myself: something drives you within to accomplish something bigger then yourself. To achieve this make sure the team around you is a competent one, as well as one that works equally as hard or harder then you. If you’re the smartest one in the room, time to start expanding your team immediately. Learning never ends.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are very excited to be open in Portland, Maine, changing the way people see not only fast food, but real food. We are now catering and establishing ourselves as part of the community here for years to come. We are also looking to expand into South Portland, Maine, Portsmouth, New Hampshire as well as Freeport, Maine.
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