To be a successful business owner you have to take some risks. Perhaps no one knows this better than Jannetta Wells Allen, owner of two Williams Chicken franchises in Dallas and Tyler, Texas.
In 1988, Hiawatha Williams, owner of Williams Chicken, persuaded Wells Allen to leave her job at Taco Bell to work for him -for minimum wage. “People said I was crazy to leave $34,000 for less than $10,000 a year, but I knew I could only go so far at Taco Bell,” says Wells Allen, who now trains 75% of the current Williams Chicken franchise owners. “I knew I could grow with Williams Chicken. Plus the owner, who watched me work for years and said that I was the type of person that he wanted to work with, promised me that if I came on as an employee, stood by him, and helped him build the business, he would make sure that I would get my own franchise.”
Of course, Wells Allen, had no guarantee that the owner, Hiawatha Williams, would make good on his promise, but she had faith that he would. Back then, Williams Chicken was just one small, little-known restaurant in Dallas that struggled to break even and had no consistent customer base. Today it spans 48 locations throughout Texas and Louisiana. The stores generate an annual $28 million in gross sales.
Wells Allen helped market the restaurant by working 12- to 14-hour days, seven days a week, for a meager $210. She walked door-to-door to spread the word about Williams Chicken and even negotiated deals with area high schools to provide boxes of chicken for the schools’ sporting events.
By 1993, Wells Allen was earning $1,600 per week, and the restaurant’s sales increased from $5,000 to $20,000 per week. With the restaurant’s increasing success, the time had finally come for Wells Allen to collect on the promise that Williams had made. And she did.
Williams not only kept his promise but also loaned Wells Allen the $150,000 she needed to purchase her own Williams Chicken location, which she bought in 1993. Her second franchise opened just four years later. Together, her two franchises have 35 employees and earned nearly $1.5 million in revenues last year. Wells Allen, 39, projects that with the third restaurant she plans to open this year, her franchises will earn $2.5 million in 2005.
According to franchise industry analysts, every eight minutes a new franchise opens for business somewhere in the United States. That comes as little surprise to Don DeBolt, president of the International Franchise Association, a trade organization in Washington, D.C.
“In the last two years the franchising community has seen a larger pool of qualified and financially capable franchisee prospects than they’ve seen in years,” he says. “A lot of it is due to the recession that we’ve just come out of and job losses. [As a result], people had to create their own jobs and many of them chose a franchise business.”
According to The Economic Impact of Franchised Businesses, a 2004 survey