"I wish I had started my career in franchising 10 years earlier," says Shahid Hashmi today.
But he's doing his best to make the most of his time now. The multi-unit franchisee, whose holdings in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions include 45 Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens, 2 Burger Kings, 2 Retro Fitness gyms, and, most recently, ZIPS Dry Cleaners, has hatched an aggressive growth plan that he predicts will top $150 million in revenue in the next 10 years.
Armed with two MBAs and 20 years of financial experience in the telecom industry, Hashmi considered his initial foray into franchising an investment, when he opened a Popeyes store in Washington, D.C., in 1994. He soon would quit his day job after discovering he needed to be more than just a weekend boss.
"If you are an entrepreneur, you can't be part-time," said Hashmi, managing partner of Pure Foods Management, which operates in the D.C. area and New Jersey.
A native of Pakistan, Hashmi, the eldest of seven children, says his parents emphasized the traits of honest and hard work and were "hard on us" when it came to education. After earning a graduate degree from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1971, Hashmi decided move to "the land of opportunity" where he earned his second MBA in finance at Western Illinois University. He worked as a financial analyst at two large telecommunications companies before his entrepreneurial spirit took over. After 20 years in the corporate world, he found franchising appealing because of the built-in customer base that comes with a strong brand.
"With good brand recognition, you can put up a sign, open the door, and people are waiting to come in," he says. "With a non-franchise business, you have to build business gradually."
Hashmi used his own capital and understanding of numbers and projections to grow the company, starting with Popeyes. He added Burger King and ZIPS Dry Cleaners in 2014 and now has two Retro Fitness gyms under construction. In five years, he hopes to have 100 Popeyes, another 50 or 60 Burger Kings, and expand the ZIPS brand into new markets.
His decision to diversify was to avoid "putting all his eggs in one basket." A former connection with Popeyes introduced him to the New Jersey-based Retro Fitness brand, which provides personal trainers, group fitness, and its Cardio Movie Theater, featuring popular movies to work out by. Initial plans are for two gyms, one in New York and one in Connecticut.
Hashmi didn't have to look far for his most recent investment. For more than 10 years, he has been a customer of a neighborhood ZIPS Dry Cleaners, which gave him a firsthand look at the same-day, low-cost, one-price business model. ZIPS has also garnered attention for its eco-friendly practices, including the use of biodegradable bags and environmentally friendly technology and cleaning techniques.
Founded in 1996 by a group of eight competing dry cleaners in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area, ZIPS has grown to nearly 40 locations in the Mid-Atlantic region. The company has been franchising since 2006, but growth is on the upswing because of interest from multi-unit franchisees, such as Hashmi.
With ZIPS, says Hashmi, finding the right location that will also draw a loyal customer following is key. Because garments are cleaned on site, the brand requires a larger facility than a traditional dry cleaning establishment. Hashmi sees great promise for ZIPS as a multi-unit franchise.
While he may not have started in the franchise business soon enough for his liking, Hashmi is taking advantages of all the opportunities coming his way. He recommends anyone looking to prosper in franchising to remember the advice of his parents and stick to the basics.
"Planning and hard work are the two ingredients for success in franchising," says Hashmi. "If you are persistent, your planning and hard work will pay off."
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