Pat Sajak has been hosting TV's Wheel of Fortune for the last three decades but now he's playing host to a new franchise concept and the payoff could be huge.
Great American Deals is a new variation on the daily deal concept made popular by Groupon. But co-founder Sajak says it's unique because it builds a community of connections between local business owners, consumers, and the franchisee. The goal is ongoing customer loyalty and lasting relationships at the local level.
Franchisees don't need real estate or a lot of equipment with this home-based concept, start-up costs are low - as little as $49,500 - and there are no long hours managing a staff. The brand also donates $1 from every customer purchase to local schools and nonprofits.
Sajack says Great American Deals comes down to building relationships with business owners throughout the community and becoming a true ambassador of the brand. It's about reaching out, telling the story, establishing rapport, and becoming a go-to source for the hottest deals of the day and pertinent information about what's going on in the community.
We sat down with Sajak to find out more about the brand and his involvement. Here's what he said.
Q. Why get involved in this franchise?
Our show, Let's Make a Deal, has been on for 30 years and it still continues to amaze even me. I would feel odd about sticking my name on a cereal box. I've never endorsed anything, because I always felt squeamish about it.
However, my partner, Michael looked at this new thing called Groupon when it came along, which intrigued me. What can we do that they are not doing? What's the next step in the evolution of this business? How can we refine it? The attractive thing is, it parallels what we do on the TV show. Our marketing slogan is "We're America's Game."
With the daily deals I have never seen such a concept that has so many potential winners. We can make our mark in a special way about this. People can get into this business for a relatively low entry. The fact that their local businesses benefit is attractive to me. The fact that the local community benefits is attractive to me. It says a lot about this country, and the strength of our communities. I like the philosophy of it.
Q. How is Great American Deals different?
The big guys try to localize. Just for fun, I Googled Groupon. In my community there were no deals, yet there were several that were 30 miles away. We're not just joining the cluttered space, it's cutting out our own niche. We can do things the big guys can't do.
Q. Where do you want to take this? What's your vision? We want a nationwide network of successful franchisees. On Wheel of Fortune we run a segment about changing lives. We see people helping other families and starting charitable foundations. We share these stories. We can change lives with Great American Deals, as we also give back proceeds to the local communities from our daily deals.
Q. Your smartest mistake?
Getting involved in Great American Deals. My friends questioned me since there are two giants in the industry. Conejo, CA has been a great test market for us. It's not just the franchisees who are selling deals, it's the merchants spreading the word to other businesses because they are having success with it.
Q. Why franchising?
It's the only way you can do something national on a local level. Every community is unique. Franchising makes a great deal of sense. We are hyper-local. The best way to accomplish what we want is through franchising.
Q. Current progress for launching your program?
We have been building community databases in our first markets and ten franchisees have now signed with us.
Q. Tell me about your give-back program
This whole give back thing... it's not tangential to what we are doing, it's central to what we do. One dollar from every daily deal sold is donated to a local community organization. We had a school principle who wanted to tell people how they benefited from this. It's great to see this enthusiasm. Everybody is suffering from setbacks. They don't succeed if their community doesn't succeed. Schools are so appreciative about our give-back program. If a school is benefiting, and the students are benefiting, they become your customers. And they know every time they buy something they are helping their own school. All that goes around comes around.
Q. What's your role in Great American Deals?
It's still evolving. This is not a passive investment, as I will have an active role and am anxious to do it. My mug is known for better or worse, and can help us get noticed. I've started with interviews on business radio stations to start building the brand for Great American Deals. As you said, I'm like the "Dave Thomas of Daily Deals." We want potential franchisees to know who we are.
Q. Tell me about your franchise program
It's a turnkey program as much as possible. It's a proven business, but we don't know the upper end yet. The system works, and we are not inventing a new product. It's about the sales savvy you have. Our franchise partners don't have to think about the nation. They think about their community. The investment is relatively modest, without the traditional headaches of brick and mortar. You can be up and running literally overnight. It's an excellent way to get involved in a proven field.
Q. Any unexpected surprises?
We're pleasantly surprised at the level of sophistication of those who have come to us and grasp what we are doing. I was gratified by the enthusiasm for their communities and the give back aspect of it. Our franchisees are motivated.
Q. Any concerns you may have?
As an example, I don't make political endorsements - if you are going to choose a presidential candidate based on what a game show host says, you probably shouldn't vote anyway! I want people to succeed. One of the reasons we have gone so slowly is we don't need to take checks from people. I would feel dreadful if we get people aboard and they don't know how to paddle. Their failure would be my failure.
With a reasonable amount of diligence by the franchisee it can work for them. I value the trust that people have in me, and their perception that I'm a "good guy." It really needed to be demonstrated to me that our concept was viable, and that your chances of success were better than average. And I'm very comfortable with that. I'm very confident you can succeed with this.
In the past I have avoided making recommendations. Now that I found something I truly believe in. I've found an opportunity that can make a difference in people's lives. I know as hokey as it sounds, it's not just the success of the franchisees, it's the success of the businesses their serving, its the success of the schools and the organizations that will benefit from this.
Q. Anything else you'd like to add?
No, except would you like to become a franchisee?
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