Mateusz Dabrowski owns a PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans franchise in Gonzales, Louisiana with two silent partners. He fell in love with the brand while working there as a college student. He shares his thoughts about what he feels contributes to his success in franchising wit Franchise Business Review.
What led you to purchase your franchise? I worked within the PJ’s Coffee family for quite some time before opening my own location. I was a barista, manager, and shift lead at other locations while I was in school pursuing a Degree in Public Relations after I finishing my BA in Marketing. I began falling more and more in love with the idea of opening my own location because of how much I enjoyed the customers, employee ecosystem, the leadership role, and most of all the product I was making daily. Additionally, each of the three franchisees in the system I had worked for previously had been absolutely amazing mentors to me.
What advice would you share with people considering purchasing a franchise? There is a wide range of potential profit margins between concepts. It’s important to understand the numbers. Know where your return on investment (ROI) would be and understand the potential profit margins for each business. Odds are the biggest variables you will come across will be rent and potential gross sales. These will be the two most important numbers to weigh against the time to ROI. Also, be sure to select the right location for the concept. Create a SWOT analysis in order to effectively analyze each option. You need to consider many things including the distance from the street, car traffic, demographic information and brand strength.
What thoughts do you have for franchisees in their first year of business? Be prepared to work! Be an operator, be involved, and know the product. Use your marketing tools, instill a positive opinion about the product, foster a healthy employee ecosystem since they are an important success variable. Evaluate your Year to Date metrics and understand the trends of what’s happening. Be willing to adjust to minimize waste, optimize labor, and to serve the customers with better quality and in a more timely manner. Keep in mind, the first year or two might be slow. It took about a year and a half for me to see a really see a big spike in business. Lastly, never get complacent. Nothing is forever, so be prepared to grow and shrink as needed. Create an exit strategy should things not pan out.
What is your work/life balance? Today my work week ranges from 30 to 40 hours, 25 to 30 of which I spend behind the counter being a worker since this helps me understand our customers. I feel I have a very strong employee system with employees who have been with me for quite sometime. I trust them, they know the product, and solutions to problems, which frees me up to have more time to myself and with my family. During the first year, I worked 10 to 12 hours a day five days a week behind the counter, sometimes more. Although I did not take a vacation the first two years, I found tons of time with family and friends.
What is it that you like best about owning a franchise? Independent business ownership oftentimes is plagued with tons of barriers of entry. There are always things you don’t know, growing pains, consistency issues, sourcing problems. A lot of this is completely avoided by being part of a tried and true franchise system. The franchisor is solving these problems as they come up and creating a unified product that is recognizable in some cases around the world. They also help maintain a customers TOMA (top of mind awareness). Mine provides marketing and cooperative marketing groups that help me reach new and old customers as well as corporate sourcing oversight to maintain the products long term perception in the eyes of our consumers. The scale of most independent business owner’s operations can’t accommodate a specialist in every field in order to help them stay ahead of the game. A franchise provides this kind of support.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a franchisee? It’s difficult to not be able to control 100% of something from to start to finish. Sometimes you want to make slight changes which you would consider improvements, but you can’t. If this happens, talk with your contacts at the franchise to work through your problems.
What kind of support do you most appreciate from your franchisor? The brand really went the whole nine yards to help me get open. When I needed last minute or emergency items, they sent them to me overnight if needed. To be honest one might think that this introductory period of generosity would be short lived, well it isn’t. I find that if I need something the brand immediately goes to work to help me.
What kind of support did you get from fellow franchisees? I have tons of back and forth feedback with my fellow franchisees. I ask them how their sales mix looks and what trends they are seeing and compare the information to my own to see if I sit inline with them.
To see how PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans franchisees, including Mateusz, rate it in a variety of crucial areas such as leadership, culture, training and support, financial outlook, and franchisee community, click here.
If you are interested in learning what it takes to invest in a franchise and how to do so wisely, visit FBR’s Franchise Buyer’s Toolkit. To see more franchises that are ranked highly by their franchisees click here.