It takes hard work and dedication to build any business startup into a successful company but buying a franchise can give entrepreneurs a running start.
Why Buy a Franchise?
Froco Pilates, LLC, operates three Club Pilates studios in Omaha with a fourth opening in Papillion this summer, according to Jay Froscheiser, who owns the firm with his wife, Angelia.
“My wife and I were looking to diversify our income as my corporate job of 30 years started to show signs it was no longer aligned with my principles,” Froscheser said. “With the help of a franchise broker, we came across Club Pilates and fell in love with the business model. We liked the idea of having a proven system and brand that had shown success in multiple geographies and demographics.”
The Froscheisers have found marketing support is the biggest advantage of owning a franchise. While driving their own marketing initiatives, they have a vast amount of assets to draw from in creating marketing campaigns.
“Networking with other owners is an incredible advantage as well,” Jay Froscheiser said. “At least once per week, I have calls with other Club Pilates owners to collaborate on problem-solving or learning best practices from each other.”
Play It Again Sports started in the Minneapolis area about 40 years ago and now has almost 300 stores across the United States and Canada, according to Omaha franchise owner Richard Messina.
The company buys, sells, trades and consigns brand-new and quality used sporting goods and fitness equipment.
“There was no way I’d have been able to open up just Messina Sporting Goods,” Messina said. “I wouldn’t know where to start. I didn’t have any retail experience or a business degree.”
Play It Again Sports was a good fit. The franchise was a proven model, and the franchisor offered training and many established vendor relationships. Messina opened his Omaha store in September 2014.
The Grounds Guys of Gretna and Elkhorn is a personal groundskeeping company for both residential and commercial properties. Its services include landscaping, wall gardens, lawn and yard maintenance, holiday lighting, snow and ice services according to Gary Maes, who owns the franchise with his wife, Tish.
After retiring from the U.S. Army, Maes wanted to own a business where he could make a positive impact on his customers’ lives.
“The Grounds Guys not only offered me to be part of a great structured system that has been successful, but it also offered the ‘family’ I lost when retiring from the Army,” he said. “Their core values matched my values and what I stand for.”
Mark Fredrickson owns two franchises — Clothes Bin, a clothing and textile recycling company, and Redbox+ Dumpsters of Omaha, which provides large roll-off containers for job sites.
“Going with a franchise helped ease the point of entry into a new business,” he said. “It gives you a lot of resources at your fingertips. It is really all laid out for you. You still have to execute but the roadmap is there.”
Nikki Wulff recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of her franchise, Assisted Living Locators. The company is a no-cost service to help primarily Omaha area seniors transition to another living situation, whether it be independent living, assisted living, memory care, or a nursing home.
“I help seniors and their families identify what kind of place would be best for their care and finances,” she said. “I’m compensated by the senior living community, so that’s how it is free to them.”
Wulff chose to buy a franchise for the training support and because there’s a network of 150 other owners she can talk with and learn best practices from.
“[The company helps] you with your startup, your business cards and your branding,” she said.
Dustin Sparks opened the first KidStrong, a childhood development organization, in Omaha in January. There are 85 in the nation.
Sparks, a veteran of franchising, said he likes owning a franchise because the systems needed to run a business are already in place.
While the Froscheisers use the franchisor’s guidance, they can incorporate their own local knowledge and preferences to create a Club Pilates unique to their locations.
Messina noted that aside from the hours the store must be open, Play It Again Sports, there is very little oversight otherwise.
“In the end, we know our local market best,” Messina said. “Each store across the U.S. has a different niche market. The ones in the mountain states do a lot of snow sports, the ones in California do a lot of surfing. For us, baseball and softball is by far our biggest category; that’s where we focus a lot of our time, attention, floor space, inventory and advertising.”
Operational flexibility is key to Fredrickson.
“It is your business to run,” he said. “Outside of doing something to tarnish the franchise or give other franchisees a bad image [you can] do what you need to do to be as successful as possible. When it comes to marketing there are brand parameters but it’s your flower to grow. There are marketing components that come with being part of a franchise. More than that [it] is the resources at your disposal. You don’t have to feel like you are on an island trying to figure it all out.”
Creativity is a must, and the franchisor gives its franchisees creative room.
“We have a lot of flexibility,” Maes said. “We can provide any services as long as it doesn’t cross our sister companies or do business that conflicts with The Grounds Guys in general.”
“[Assisted Living Locators is] very flexible,” Wulff said. “I basically can take care of my business and my clients how ever I see fit, so long as I’m not tarnishing the brand or doing anything negative. I really am running my own individually-owned business.”
Sparks said his franchise is able to cross-promote and have partnerships that allow for growth.
Growing Business in Nebraska
When Messina first opened, his biggest mentor was the owner of the Play It Again Sports store in Lincoln.
“She really helped me out with advice and suggestions, and we went in together on certain orders [to get some discounts],” he said.
Being part of a franchise enabled Messina to reach out to other Play It Again Sports franchisees, often at regional and national trade shows and conventions.
With well over 260 The Grounds Guys owners nationwide, there are lots of resources for growing the business.
“They all have knowledge in every aspect of the industry,” Maes said. “All you have to do is call your business coach or another owner and ask questions.”
Having a national presence gives franchises a boost in branding and referrals.
“There are lots of owners in other cities who will refer [clients] to me because certain family members might live in their city, but their parents live in Omaha, or vice versa,” Wulff said. “[Also] if I have clients in other cities, I’m able to connect them with a local owner.”
Wulff likes Nebraska’s business climate because the state is fairly recession-proof.
“We do a really good job of making it through the hardest times, whether it is a recession or COVID,” she said. “[Those things] affected a lot of other places much more than [they] did Nebraska. I think our cost of living helps. You have competitive pricing in the senior living market.”
“The business climate in Nebraska, and Omaha specifically, continues to amaze me,” Froscheiser said. “Our community thrives off of and is starved for good food, entertainment and services. The population growth, strong economy and low unemployment continue to drive a need for more businesses to serve them.”
Buying a Franchise
“When shopping for a franchise, do not take the discovery process lightly,” Froscheiser said. “If it’s your first time, consult with someone with experience in addition to your franchise broker. Talk to as many current and, more importantly, former franchisees of the brand as possible.”
Messina suggests following a passion.
“Otherwise, you may not be able to give it the full commitment it takes to get it through the very tough initial stages,” he said.
Do your due diligence and listen to what other franchise owners have to say about their experience with the business model and the franchisor’s support or lack of support.
“Have an exit strategy before even starting the business,” Messina said. “Is it something you plan to open, grow, then sell in five to 10 years or do you plan to keep it until you hand it off to your kids, or something in between? Having in mind a long-term plan will affect how you operate your business for tax purposes.”
Know yourself, know your weaknesses, know how or who can help you overcome your shortcomings, Maes said.
He suggested making a good budget plan to pay for wages and know your employment pool—it’s more difficult to find employees today than it was eight or 10 years ago.
“Always stay hungry,” Maes said. “Learn the business and not just the money part, and you will be successful.”
Wulff suggested looking into a couple of different options in your chosen industry.
“Get a feel for the corporate team, the training and the support they will provide,” she said. “Call other owners who already have a business in the franchise. Call high performers and also low performers to get their perspective.”
In the end, you’ll know it’s a good fit if you’re willing to do the tough parts.
“You’re going to have bad days and hard conversations, and it’s easier to have those if you’re truly passionate about the business,” Sparks said.