coming–if at all. But just as important is the example set by these new entrepreneurs for future generations, who will hopefully follow the trail blazed by Generation X and the many generations of African American entrepreneurs who preceded them.
SEARCHING FOR SECURITY
“With all the downsizing going on, there isn’t even the appearance of security in corporate America,” says Warren. In 1994, he and his partner, Chuck Baker, now 27, were looking for a way out. Moving up through the corporate ranks was slow and uncertain, Baker was working as an assistant brand manager at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. He had been an entrepreneur throughout his student days at Georgetown University, with ventures ranging from computer cleaning to arranging step shows. He viewed his job as a pit stop en route to his return to the ranks of the self-employed. “It [entrepreneurship] gives you the ability to control your vision and see it through, while allowing you to enjoy a higher financial reward,” says Baker.
Meanwhile, Warren was working in the advertising department of the Cincinnati Herald and, with Baker, had toyed with the idea of opening a coffee shop–but nothing concrete had come of it. Then in 1994, opportunity knocked loudly. Warren happened across an ad requesting proposals for a minority-owned franchise opportunity in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. “I wanted to take my education to the next level and open my own company,” says Warren, who attended Wright State University. He immediately placed a call to Baker, whose position at Procter & Gamble had given him experience in writing business plans. The deadline for applications was just seven days away.
There was one problem: The franchise application required 10-15 years of food and beverage experience, which neither Baker nor Warren had. Undaunted, the duo enlisted Joey Nugent, a white neighbor of Baker’s, to join the team. Nugent owned a restaurant in northern Kentucky and brought with him the requisite food and beverage experience. The trio, all equal partners, completed the business plan and proposal in just six days and presented it to Host Marriott, which was offering the franchise opportunity, including a start-up loan.
In May of 1994, only three months after Warren saw the ad in the newspaper, their TCBY Treats/Mrs. Fields Cookies joint franchise opened for business in the airport. Within 45 days, the team recovered their $33,000 down payment on the $200,000 start-up loan from Host Marriott. Baker quit his job at Procter & Gamble as soon as they were approved for the franchise, and Warren left the newspaper just before the store opened. At first, they often worked 80-hour weeks, but Baker says it was worth it. “To me, entrepreneurship is all about enjoying a bigger piece of the pie you create.” From May to December of 1994, the store grossed nearly $400,000. Sales shot up to $830,000 in 1995, and the trio pulled down $1.2 million in sales in the next year.
Motivated by the success of their first store, they attempted to duplicate its success