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Success Stories

Feature Story:

Hungry (Howie's) For Success: Don Copus Honored As Franchisee Of The Year »

By Helen Bond

At least six times a year, Don Copus gathers his Hungry Howie's employees for a corporate outing where you may find the Berkley, Mich.-based franchisee batting for one softball team, pitching for the other, or manning the grill. No matter how you slice it, Copus, named 2012 Hungry Howie's Franchisee of the Year, is an employees' employer.
"I want them to know that I am approachable," says Copus. "I want them to realize that I'm no different from them. I started out with less than most of them, but worked hard to get where I am today. I want them to know that I'm willing to mentor them."
A native of Indianapolis, Copus, who operates 25 Hungry Howie's in Michigan, Indiana, and Utah, grew up in a family of eight in a 900-square foot home, made cozier by parents who welcomed any neighborhood child in need of a meal or bed...

Feature Story:

Mega-Stars: Six Movers And Shakers Who Shoot For The Sky »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Franchising is big. And so are some of its franchisees. Just take a look at our "Mega 99" list (page 54) and you'll see what we mean! We've ranked the heavyweights by size, brands, number of units, and locations. These franchisees definitely know how to Go Big!
Franchising at this level is not for everyone. It takes a certain set of skills, drive, and initiative to build and operate these large organizations. The risks and rewards to the ever-growing multi-unit franchisee hinge on savvy decision-making, dedicated managers, hard-working employees, and loyal customers. Few can do it; even fewer can do it well.
And beyond the numbers are the human stories of passion, creativity, and sheer will and determination it takes to succeed at this level...

Feature Story:

Pizza For Two: Papa Murphy's Is Their Brand Of Choice! »

By Helen Bond

Pam Wolfe loves to cook. So much so that when she first began operating Papa Murphy's Take'N'Bake Pizza franchises 15 years ago you could almost always find her in the company kitchen, kneading, chopping, and shredding the fresh ingredients made daily for the pizzeria, known for its take-and-bake, made-to-order concept.
"It's a great day when you can make pizzas all day long," says Wolfe, 46. "That is the fun part." However, she adds, "Papa Murphy's is very physical. We make our own pizza dough and cookie dough and everything else at the store. It is a labor-intensive business, but sometimes people don't think about that. You can't get into Papa Murphy's and assume someone else will run them and you will make a lot of money."
Wolfe still loves to cook--at home--but these days she has left the pizza-making to others to focus on running the company with her husband Jim...

Feature Story:

Membership Exclusive: Former Vet Loves Membership-Based Brands »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Randy Merrill is an Army veteran who is looking for a few good brands--as long as they're in his wheelhouse: sports, health, and wellness. "I want something I can wrap myself around and I'm comfortable with," says Merrill, a former athlete who was involved in fitness chains in Los Angeles before returning to Atlanta, where he got into tanning salons. He also wants his brands to be membership-based.
"My career's been in membership-driven businesses," says Merrill, who operates 17 Solar Dimensions tanning salons (not a franchise) where he is a partner, two Massage Heights units with another set to open in January, and one Cartridge World store. He's signed on to develop at least 15 Massage Heights salons in the coming years.
In general terms, says Merrill, he's looking for "a segmented service industry that can be brought down to a value proposition for the masses...

Feature Story:

Surf's Up!: William Bruce Trades In His Surfboard For The Restaurant Life »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

It was a late night of channel surfing that gave this former surfer-turned-franchisee a life-changing idea to feed the hungry.
William Bruce, chief operating officer at Abundant Brands in American Fork, Utah, stumbled across a cable showing of "Dive!," a documentary that chronicles this nation's habit of throwing out massive amounts of edible food. Bruce was inspired to see how his company--whose portfolio includes 241 Subways and 14 Costa Vida Mexican Restaurants--could bring about its own change.
With a central kitchen for the company's Costa Vidas already in place, Bruce joined forces with The Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City to transform a weekly average of 300 pounds of excess rice, pork, beef, tortillas, and other food into a seven-layer burrito dish...

Feature Story:

Good Vibrations: Trading In His Surfboard For The Restaurant Life »

By Helen Bond

For William Bruce, chief operating officer at Abundant Brands in American Fork, Utah, a late night of channel surfing turned into a life-altering idea to feed the hungry.
After stumbling across a cable showing of "Dive!," a documentary that chronicles this nation's habit of throwing out massive amounts of edible food, Bruce was inspired to see how his company--whose portfolio includes 241 Subways and 14 Costa Vida Mexican Restaurants--could bring about its own change.
With a central kitchen for the company's Costa Vidas already in place, Bruce joined forces with The Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City to transform a weekly average of 300 pounds of excess rice, pork, beef, tortillas, and other food into a seven-layer burrito dish. These days, the regular delivery of 450 meals is known on the streets as "Costa Vida Thursday," says Bruce, who hopes to start including leftover bread from his Subway shops in the donation program...

Feature Story:

From Top Gun To Top Gym »

By Helen Bond

Largest Snap Fitness franchisee has big plans

As a former Air Force fighter pilot, Greg Mooneyham is a natural risk-taker. But his decision to venture into the world of franchising in the fitness industry during an economic downturn was a calculated move to practice what he preached.
Mooneyham, CEO of Atlanta-based JRG Fitness Operations, recently closed a deal with a private equity firm that opened the financial door for him to acquire 35 Snap Fitness facilities. The move made JRG Fitness the largest independent North American franchisee of Snap Fitness, the compact, state-of-the-art 24/7 fitness center concept based in Chanhassen, Minn.
After serving his country as a fighter pilot for more than a decade, the U...

Feature Story:

Tough Love: Kevin Osterfeld Succeeds Through The School Of Hard Knocks »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

That stockbroker job Kevin Osterfeld had longed for didn't turn out quite like he planned. So he made a change.
"When I was a stockbroker, I would eat at Philadelphia Steak & Subs in downtown Cincinnati. I loved the food, so I decided to buy the restaurant, which would become a Penn Station East Coast Subs restaurant," he says. "I knew nothing about the restaurant business. I knew nothing about franchising. I didn't really even know how it worked, but I was young and reckless and thought I'd figure it out."
Twenty-five years later, it's clear that Osterfeld did "figure it out." Recipient of Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine's 2012 MVP Influencer Award, he now owns 18 Penn Stations in Ohio. He also is an active participant in charitable ventures and franchise organizations and a busy family man...

Feature Story:

Breaking With Tradition: Gina Puente Expands Business Her Own Way »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Gina Puente has built her franchise empire in a nontraditional way. She operates her brands in airports and hospitals and she is an innovator with a passion for creating her own brands. In 1995, she opened La Bodega Winery, an original concept and the first winery in an airport, and is now expanding that idea by adding chef-inspired food.
Puente has about 20 units today, both franchised and original concepts. They include Blimpie/Cereality/NRgize Lifestyle Cafe, UFood Grill, Urban Taco, and airport-specific brands such as Main Street New, Wall Street News, Travelex Currency Service and LBW Charters. She also operates her original concepts, La Bodega Winery and La Buena Vida Vineyards.
"The easier road is to build a portfolio of the same brand...

Feature Story:

Franchising The American Dream: Edwin Sarkissian Discovers Franchising Success In America »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Edwin Sarkissian escaped the oppression of his native Iran with his family in 1996. Believe it or not, once in America, one of the first things the young Sarkissian longed for was a computer.
"When we arrived in America, we didn't have much. I remember being so excited to go to Best Buy and look at computers. I couldn't afford one. My mom tried to get a credit card, but because we hadn't been here that long she was declined. I was so sad that day," recalls Sarkissian, now 28.
Fortunately, a church member donated an older computer to him. "It had a lot of problems, but just moving the mouse made me so happy," Sarkissian says. "Now, my laptop and electronic devices are in perfect condition. I take good care of them because I learned how to appreciate everything I have...

Feature Story:

Perpetual Grow-Motion: Guillermo Perales Thinks Bigger In Texas... And Florida »

By Kerry Pipes

After visiting with Guillermo Perales five years ago, perhaps the most pointed question to ask him today is, "What have you not been up to?"
When last we spoke with the country's largest Latino restaurant franchisee, he was holding steady at around 140 units across five brands. Today, following two recent mega-deals with Arby's and Burger King, he's flirting with 400 units, making him the fourth largest franchisee in the country. Perales has more than doubled the size of his company by adding both new units and new brands (Del Taco, CiCi's Pizza, T-Mobile, and Arby's) to his holdings, which still include Popeyes, Burger King, and Golden Corral.
"We're in growth mode, yes," he says, in typical understatement. "With Arby's pushing to refranchise many of its locations, it was a good move for us...

Feature Story:

Development Minded: Michael Knobelock Is Always Thinking Ahead »

By Kerry Pipes

Michael Knobelock has always been in sales. As a 14-year-old growing up in Houston, he sold newspaper subscriptions and was a top salesman, earning between $400 and $500 a week in the 1970s. After high school he sold ads for the Yellow Pages where he was again a successful bell-ringer. But the real twist of fate in Knobelock's sales life came when a friend approached him about purchasing a convenience store.
"My parents loaned me $10,000 to purchase a closed-down convenience store and reopen it," says the 50-year-old Knobelock. It turned out to be a life-changing move. For the next six years he made the store more profitable than it had ever been, and in the process realized that he knew how to run a business. Of course, after making it successful, he turned around and sold the store for a hefty profit...

Feature Story:

Capital Access: Charlie And Judy Divita Have A Second Career In Franchising »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Charlie and Judy Divita operate six Firehouse Subs in the greater Columbia, S.C., area, including one nestled in the heart of the USC campus.
The couple is now knee-deep into their second career and is making the most of it. Charlie, 69, is a former university full professor and consultant, and Judy, 65, boasts a corporate background of organizational development, training, and human relations. Instead of relaxing into the world of retirement, the couple launched Divita Concepts Group in 2003, eager to put their skills to work as business owners in a way that would offer them more control of their future.
With projected 2012 revenue of $4.5 million, Judy and Charlie always look for novel ways to build business. “The franchise gives you the basic things to put you in business pretty quickly,” says Charlie...

Feature Story:

Holding Court: Catching Up With Las Vegas Food Court King Frank Bonanno »

By Kerry Pipes

When we heard Frank Bonanno had been named 2012 Vetrepreneur of the Year by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association, we had to catch up with him to find out what else he's been up to since we last profiled him in this magazine 2 years ago (3rd quarter 2010).
Bonanno, now 70, says he was honored to receive the annual award, which recognizes the finest role models in the veteran-owned business arena. And though he admits to "slowing down a little," Bonanno says he has no plans to exit the business quite yet.
How could he? His business has grown to include 47 franchised locations employing more than 700 in the Las Vegas area. That qualifies him as a "dominator" by any standard. His brands include Nathan's Famous restaurants, Häagen-Dazs, Johnny Rockets, and four Bonanno's New York Pizzeria restaurants, just to name a few...

Feature Story:

Capital Access: Ed Doherty Is The 12th Largest Franchisee In The U.S. »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Ed Doherty has a passion for his business and growth.
His roots in the restaurant business trace back to his youth when he worked after school and college to help his mother run a deli. "She worked so hard to provide for me and to put me through college. I got my work ethic and my determination from her," he says.
After college, he went to work for Marriott Corp. where he eventually became vice president and general manager of the Big Boy division. He took a big step himself in 1985, leaving that job to become a Roy Rogers franchisee, buying 19 Connecticut restaurants for $1 million. He turned the losing restaurants around in five years and grew the company to 28 stores.
Doherty and other Roy Rogers franchisees had a rude awakening in 1990 when Hardee's bought the concept from Marriott, he says...

Feature Story:

Single-Minded Couple: Papa Murphy's Is Their Brand Of Choice! »

By Helen Bond

When Pam Wolfe began operating Papa Murphy's Take'N'Bake Pizza franchises 15 years ago you could almost always find her in the company kitchen, kneading, chopping, and shredding the fresh ingredients made daily for the pizzeria, known for its take-and-bake, made-to-order concept.
"It's a great day when you can make pizzas all day long," says Wolfe, 46. "That is the fun part." However, she adds, "Papa Murphy's is very physical. We make our own pizza dough and cookie dough and everything else at the store. It is a labor-intensive business, but sometimes people don't think about that. You can't get into Papa Murphy's and assume someone else will run them and you will make a lot of money."
Wolfe still loves to cook--at home--but these days she has left the pizza-making to others to focus on running the company with her husband Jim...

Feature Story:

Outstanding In Their Field!: Six Multi-Unit Operators Tell How They Made It Big... Then Bigger »

By Kerry Pipes

Some multi-unit franchisees take it to the limit. They're not content with one or two or even a handful of units. They want to rule the roost in their markets, their territories, and their brands. We like to call them Dominators.
So once again we've lined up six top multi-unit operators--one of them approaching the 400-unit mark--to talk shop and share their stories with us. They've learned the ropes of franchising and aren't afraid to take calculated risks in the name of growth. After all, no risk, no reward.
With this group of dominators we've uncovered six more remarkable tales of discovery, transformation, and bare-knuckle expansion. Their stories reveal savvy operators willing to share some of their strategies, philosophies, and personal approaches to building and running a franchise organization...

Feature Story:

Teamwork: Husband And Wife Duo Serve Up Firehouse Subs On University Of South Carolina Campus »

By Helen Bond

If you've played, coached, or watched a sport on the University of South Carolina (USC) campus, there's a good chance you've eaten a Firehouse Sub from Judy and Charlie Divita.
The Divitas operate six Firehouse Subs in the greater Columbia, S.C., area, including one nestled in the heart of the USC campus. They made their competitive mark by developing a proprietary customer database catering to visiting college sports teams. Their blueprint has evolved over the years to include a commitment to all facets of educational life and the communities their restaurants serve. This synergy between business smarts and higher learning is a natural for the Divitas, winners of Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine's 2012 MVP Innovation Award.
The couple, both quality specialists, are now knee-deep into their second career and are making the most of it...

Feature Story:

Ready, Fire, Aim: Learning Franchising On The Fly »

By Debbie Selinsky

When Kevin Osterfeld's "dream job" as a stockbroker didn't turn out so dreamy, he decided to switch things up.
"When I was a stockbroker, I would eat at Philadelphia Steak & Subs in downtown Cincinnati. I loved the food, so I decided to buy the restaurant, which would become a Penn Station East Coast Subs restaurant," he says. "I knew nothing about the restaurant business. I knew nothing about franchising. I didn't really even know how it worked, but I was young and reckless and thought I'd figure it out."
Twenty-five years later, it's clear that Osterfeld did "figure it out." Recipient of Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine's 2012 MVP Influencer Award, he now owns 18 Penn Stations in Ohio. He also is an active participant in charitable ventures and franchise organizations and a busy family man...

Feature Story:

Living The American Dream: Grateful Every Day For The Opportunity To Succeed »

By Debbie Selinsky

When Edwin Sarkissian and his family emigrated from Iran to the United States in 1996, he was a young boy who longed for a computer.
"When we arrived in America, we didn't have much. I remember being so excited to go to Best Buy and look at computers. I couldn't afford one. My mom tried to get a credit card, but because we hadn't been here that long she was declined. I was so sad that day," recalls Sarkissian, now 28.
Fortunately, a church member donated an older computer to him. "It had a lot of problems, but just moving the mouse made me so happy," Sarkissian says. "Now, my laptop and electronic devices are in perfect condition. I take good care of them because I learned how to appreciate everything I have."
To earn money for a bike, the young Sarkissian rode the bus to work at McDonald's...



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