Even though Jitin Choudhry only became a Blimpie franchisee two years ago, he has been working at the sandwich chain for over a decade. Choudhry started out at Blimpie at age 16, working at the same shop that employed his mother. He worked his way up the ladder as manager, gaining the respect and support of local customers. When an opportunity emerged to buy his own Blimpie location, Choudhry jumped on it. Here's how he's made the transition from employer to employee.
Name: Jitin Choudhry
Franchise owned: Blimpie, in East Meadow-Long Island, N.Y.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have owned my Blimpie location since November 2012 – a little more than 1-1/2 years.
I have always wanted to own my own business. I have been around Blimpie as an employee for more than 10 years and was inspired to own the business based on business owners I met.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I started at Blimpie when I was 16 and worked at the same Westbury location that employed my mother. I worked at that location throughout high school before moving to the Freeport store – a store I managed by the time I was 19. At 22, I returned to the Westbury store and enrolled in college at Queensborough Community College. For the next three years, I split time managing the Westbury store and the East Meadow store (the store I own today) as I finished my education. At the end of 2012, I was offered the opportunity to take over the East Meadow store and it was a dream come true! I took over the East Meadow store when I was 27. I will turn 29 this year.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I bought into Blimpie because I have lived the brand for more than ten years. I have been working in various Blimpie locations since I was in my teens and have fallen in love with the brand and what it means to the customers we serve in the community. Also, since I have worked as a manager for more than seven years, I know the brand incredibly well and understand how to operate a successful location. And I can’t forget our parent company, Kahala, and my Long Island area developer, Pat Conlin, who provide me with the support I need to thrive as a young business owner.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Considering I purchased the store from a former owner, I was able to avoid considerable real estate/construction costs associated with a brand new location. Most new Blimpie locations cost $150,000 - $175,000 (very affordable compared to most restaurant brands), but I was able to purchase the existing location in East Meadow for just $75,000. The only additional investments I have made are an additional $7,500 for necessary renovations (an expense agreed upon before I bought in) and another $5,000 to add a Surf City Squeeze, a high performing Blimpie co-brand concept owned by the same parent company, Kahala, to my Blimpie location.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I actually spent a lot of time speaking with the local customers I was serving as an employee. Many of them had asked me in the past if I had owned the store and I had developed excellent relationships with them. Even before I owned the store, I was already the guy in charge at the front of the store and most of the local customers supported my idea to take over the store. The support of the customers really inspired me to buy in. I also relied on Pat Conlin, the local developer, to help me make smart decisions. For example, Pat, along with a lawyer we hired, helped me negotiate a new lease and minimize renovation costs.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
If I were to narrow it down to three things, I’d say paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork! Outside of that, it’s a big change to pay yourself AFTER paying everyone else and paying off all bills – this was a huge transition for someone like me who was used to receiving a constant paycheck as an employee. Also, as a former employee/colleague, I faced occasional issues with a couple of employees who had a tough time adjusting to me as their boss. It was simply an adjustment period, though, and things run very smoothly these days.
Outside of that, there are just so many questions/situations you have to answer/prepare for as a business owner that you never consider as an employee. These include: If the weather is bad, the business is slow – how do you adjust your approach to the business that day? How do you manage to compensate for lack of traffic/earnings on slow days? How do you respond to things that are out of your control that you don’t think about as an employee? How do you improve your sales? How do you get new customers in the door? There are a lot of new questions and challenges I face now that I’m the owner.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Follow the blueprint. When you buy into a franchise, trust that the corporate team, area developers, and other franchisees know what they’re doing – follow their lead and take advantage of the resources you have available. New business owners must be patient but also diligent. Don’t get discouraged on tough days – keep pushing! The biggest advantage of buying into a franchise is that you’re buying a proven model - trust it!
What’s next for you and your business?
My younger brother, Manish, is being trained at the East Meadow store to be a manager and I want to help him realize his own dreams of business ownership at a new Long Island location. This year, I am really looking to capitalize on Blimpie’s nationwide 50th anniversary initiatives.
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