managers freedom to make decisions about their individual restaurants. “She’ll give us a lot of leeway to make calls about what happens in our restaurants. Sometimes she’ll do it even if she doesn’t agree with it just to make a point,” he laughs.
Daniels-Carter says that before making the jump into franchising she and her brother looked into a number of opportunities, including retail ventures, manufacturing and co-branding ideas. But “at the end of the day, I really wanted to focus on things that would be long term. And with fastfood opportunities, you know people are always going to eat,” she chuckles.
At the time, Burger King had been unsuccessful in saturating the Wisconsin urban marketplace, so Daniels-Carter saw an opportunity for growth. “I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. But I wanted to first work in corporate America to get the experience in finance and banking I knew I’d need because that’s the bloodline of franchising.”
After entering a Burger King training program in 1984, she and her brother formed V&J Foods and purchased a Burger King restaurant in Milwaukee. In the years since, she’s grown the business at an impressive pace, with 37 Burger King restaurants throughout Wisconsin and Michigan.
But that only whetted her appetite, so to speak. Daniels-Carter was anxious to spread her wings and have a more diverse product base. Then, in 1997 she may well have pulled off the franchise deal of the year when V&J acquired 61 Pizza Hut restaurants in Rochester and Syracuse, New York. The new deal not only considerably increased the company’s employee base from 1,385 to 2,400, but with the one-two punch of Burger King and Pizza Hut (a total of 98 restaurants), V&J is now poised to grab an even greater share of the fast-food market.
“Since we wanted to diversify, the Pizza Hut acquisitions made sense,” says DanielsCarter. “We only wanted to be with corporations that are leaders in their industry. Pizza Hut was in the process of spinning off company restaurants, and I felt its brand had a strong, bright future.” Indeed, that transaction doubled V&J’s annual sales from $35 million to $70 million, boosting it 30 spots up the BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE 100 list, from No. 58 to No. 28.
Leading one of the country’s most thriving franchises, Daniels-Carter shows that black women can flourish in running their own businesses. And now that she’s blazing a trail, what words of advice does she have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “You have to have a true understanding of the industry you’re entering. And you have to surround yourself with a circle of key advisors, accountants, attorneys and counselors. They have to be there to give you advice even when you don’t want it,” she says.
Yet even now, despite Daniels-Carter’s many successes, being a double minority in the world of fast-food franchising isn’t lost on her. “I know there’s a ton of racism. But I see this as an opportunity to show how a strong and vibrant black female can make it in a business