Female Fast Risers - Jessica Ray
Name: Jessica Ray
Brands: Huddle House and Perkins
Title: Director of Franchise Marketing
Years in franchising: 4
No. of units: 624 (both brands)
What attracted you to franchising? There’s so much about franchising that I find fascinating. The idea of taking a proven concept and giving franchisees an opportunity to create their own destiny is amazing in and of itself. Aside from my role at Huddle House I’m also a business owner of a small retail store, which allows me to understand firsthand how challenging it can be to build a brand from scratch. Franchising takes the guesswork out of starting your own business and brings you into a community of many like-minded individuals.
What was your first job in franchising? Technically, my first job as a teenager was in franchising at a local Dairy Queen in my small hometown of Semmes, Alabama. But it was 2016 that I landed my first corporate role at a franchisor, healthcare brand American Family Care. Initially my role was designed to support local field marketing initiatives for company-owned locations, but with my digital marketing background I started working with franchisees and implemented several initiatives to save them time on launching marketing campaigns.
What do you attribute your success to? This is going to sound crazy, but I truly attribute my success to my first corporate job out of college at the Yellow Pages. Yes, that’s right, the <phone book> company. This was in 2013, right after Google AdWords launched call tracking capabilities, and when many companies were shifting their budgets from print to digital. Yellow Pages recruited a college-hire team and the 13 of us were schooled on digital marketing for 4 straight months, including becoming Google Ads certified, before we could even start selling. Everything I learned there, from the rigorous cold calling to overcoming my age barrier, has shaped me into the person I am today and how I approach my work in franchise development.
What challenges and obstacles have you overcome in your career? Any time you introduce new technology there’s likely going to be some pushback. I’ve been thankful to work in environments that trust my recommendations and allow me to bring new ideas to the table. I have found that when you bring together all departments that will be affected by the changes, it makes for a much more seamless onboarding experience.
Describe your journey to your current position: One thing about franchising is that it’s a very small world. While I was at American Family Care, I discovered a new approach to franchise development marketing and the word got out. In 2019, I got a call from Huddle House to join their development team and focus on franchise marketing. It was a tough decision to make, but ultimately, I knew my passion was primarily in the development side of franchising, and this new opportunity allowed me to engage in that passion every day. A couple of months later Huddle House acquired Perkins, and now I lead the franchise development marketing efforts for both brands.
What are your future career goals? I’ve been in my role at Huddle House for only little over a year. My goal is to continue to make strides to improve our franchise development marketing. I’m constantly researching and staying ahead of marketing trends and plan to continue working toward providing exceptional value to our organization while also improving the bottom line.
Advice to young female executives in franchising: Trust yourself and your ideas. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you know an idea will benefit the company. Keep yourself educated and you will always stay ahead of the competition.
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