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Success Stories of Minorities in Franchising

The previous How-To Franchising Guide story detailed the growing role of minorities in franchising and provided a list of online resources to help minorities enter and succeed in franchising. Since nothing speaks to success better than success itself, we present short versions of profiles of franchisees who are making it. The full profiles appeared in Franchise Update Media Group's magazine Multi-Unit Franchisee during the past few year, and each version below has a link to the original, complete profile. Since the profiles first were published, some of the details (number of units, brands they operate, etc.) may have changed - in most cases for the better!

  • Lyndon Johnson is president - of Reciprocity Restaurant Group, which operates about a dozen Church's Chicken restaurants in Oklahoma - and good-naturedly lets new acquaintances have a little fun with his name. "I can think of a lot worse people to share a name with," says Johnson. This franchise veteran, who started as an assistant manager at KFC, once managed all the KFC franchisees in Texas; and at Church's ran more than 100 company-operated restaurants and developed 600 as director of franchising before setting out on the road to franchising himself. In 2006 he was named Church's Franchisee of the Year and Local Store Marketer of the Year. And while he's remained with one brand, "Diversification is important," he says. "I'm a frugal guy by nature, and I have an evolving interest in other concepts and how they play out in the market." Click here for full profile.
  • Gina Puente is the CEO and president of Puente Concessions, Inc., which operates a potpourri of franchised units and original concepts in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. As a Mexican-American woman, she has benefited from several programs aimed at helping minority and women business owners succeed. And succeed she has: her company holdings include airport concessions such as Main Street News, Wall Street News, La Bodega Wineries (her own brand), and Travelex Currency Service. In 2010 she competed with the likes of McDonald's to be the food concessionaire at a large, Dallas area hospital, and won by offering two healthy brands: UFood Grill and Urban Taco. En route to building a company with $36 million in revenues, she has been named Enterprising Woman of the Year, Latina Entrepreneur of the Year, and Fort Worth and Texas Hispanic Business Woman of the Year. Click here for full profile.
  • Aziz Hashem is president and CEO of National Restaurant Development Inc., which operates 27 Checkers/Rally's, 9 Popeyes, 4 Moe's Southwest Grills, and 4 Subways. "All through high school and college I worked in fast food," says Hashim. "I started my career mopping the floor at a Burger King and funded my college education as a shift manager at Burger King." Restaurant work was just supposed to help Aziz Hashim pay his way as he pursued his life's dream of becoming an electrical engineer. But by the time he landed the "big job" at Rockwell, he discovered that he had been living the dream all along. "I really missed working with people in the hospitality industry," he says. Today, 15 years after he left Rockwell, his company manages 4 different franchise concepts at 44 locations with more than 900 employees. And he's a long way from finished growing. Click here for full profile.
  • Linda Fong, president of Justipher Inc., operates FastSigns and Plato's Closet franchises in the San Francisco Bay area. She took a roundabout route to franchising, working for utility PG&E, helping her husband at his hair salon (she's a Vidal Sassoon-trained hairdresser), and taking courses in "just about every East Bay city college," she says on her way to forging a career. Today, she says that being a multi-unit, multi-brand owner forces her to step back and look at her business as a business--"not as what I initially created for myself when I had one unit so I could have a job," she says. "It makes you appreciate the systems put in place by each concept. And because I have two concepts, I can cross-reference the strengths of each franchise." Like many franchisees, she's not one of those who made a plan and followed a straight line to success. Rather, it's the detours and her individualism that have taught her what she needed to grow. Click here for full profile.
  • Tony Lutfi is chief operating officer at MarLu Investment Group, which runs 46 Church's, 3 Arby's, 2 Little Caesars, and 1 Burger King. He moved to California when he was 16, a Palestinian-Jordanian immigrant looking for a better life and dreaming of becoming a doctor. To earn some money, he took a job working the graveyard shift at a Jack in the Box. Then fate stepped in. "The manager had a heart attack, and they promoted me. I helped the management team in the summer after I graduated from high school," says Lutfi. "It became my passion. I never went back to school." Later, he worked at Rax Roast Beef franchise units, which were converted to Arby's. That's where he met Bill Brusslan, who would become a longtime mentor. Brusslan made him vice president of restaurant operations for Northern California. Later they partnered on three Long John Silver's and three Church's Chickens. By late 1997, Lutfi had enough money to buy two Arby's of his own, and from there his company grew steadily, racking up $40 million revenues in 2009.Click here for full profile.
  • Ella Avery-Smothers has been an urban pioneer in franchising for more than 30 years, operating seven Burger Kings in the Los Angeles area. She has come a long way from her beginnings, one of seven children growing up on a tobacco farm in Southern Virginia. When she was 15, a teacher told her that students like her, with C-average grades, could make a difference and succeed in the world. She took those words to heart and put herself through college with the help of a United Negro College Fund scholarship, earning a bachelor's degree in elementary education, followed by a master's in early childhood education from George Washington University. In the mid-1970s, after more than a decade as a teacher, she caught the entrepreneurial bug. With her (now former) husband, she cobbled together financing from her retirement funds, an SBA loan, and funding from the Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Company, and opened her first LA-area Burger King in 1976. In 2008 she signed on to open El Pollo Loco restaurants in Virginia. Click here for full profile.
  • Anil Yadav, president of JIB Management Inc., began his career in franchising as a teenager, working as a fry cook at a Jack in the Box in Northern California, where his family settled after emigrating from India. Today, with 155 restaurants, he is the largest Jack in the Box franchisee. He also operates 26 Denny's, and in May 2010 signed an agreement with Marco's Pizza to open 170 restaurants in California. "We've enjoyed a lot of growth," says Yadav. "Once you get to a certain level, you often change your fundamental values, but I have never done that." That's good news for his approximately 4,000 employees, who he encourages, trains, and mentors to become franchisees on their own. This winner of Multi-Unit Franchisee's first-ever MVP Award, who still puts in 10 to 12 hours a day, is now working hard to spend more time with his family. Click here for full profile.

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