Gotcha Covered Franchisee Jivesh Toor

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Jivesh Toor had previously been a business owner with a luxury men’s clothing business in Chicago. His previous E2 Visa was expiring and he needed to start a new business in order to avoid going back to Singapore. Instead of starting another business from scratch, he chose to become a franchisee of a window coverings franchise called Gotcha Covered.

In this video, Jivesh shares what it was like going through the validation process with Thoughtful Franchise Brokers and how he chose Gotcha Covered.


Here is a shortened version of some of the answers Jivesh gives in the video. 

Q: What is your background?

A: I’m originally from Singapore. I grew up in the UK and I’ve been living in Chicago since 2011. I started a luxury custom clothing business here and ran that all the way until the end of 2020. Had to shut that down because of Covid and the riots and all of that. My visa to the US was tied with my business so when I shut that down the visa also expired with that. I relocated back to Singapore for some time and then in the beginning of 2022 was considering maybe moving back here to the States and started speaking to an immigration attorney.

The attorney suggested that I open a business again to get the visa, but my caveat was I didn’t want to bootstrap a business again. The first time I did it, there was a lot of expensive learning; that came at the expense of client experience and just brand reputation and whatnot. The first three years I feel like if I could have avoided that, you know, that would’ve been a lot easier. So he is like, why don’t you just go ahead and try a franchise instead this time? That way you get all the benefits of a business model that’s already pre-existing and the immigration offices actually prefer franchises cause it’s already a proven business model that is successful in the American market. Through that, I was connected with Kevin and Charista at Thoughtful Franchise Brokers. 

They showed me a whole bunch of different options based on the budget, based on my skill set and what some of my previous work experience was. I did have a tighter budget, so I think we were looking more at service based type businesses that I could afford. Out of the maybe 15 or 16 businesses that we reviewed together, Gotcha Covered seemed like it was the best fit. So I did some validation of my own and due diligence with calling the other franchisees. There were some pros and cons, challenges, opportunities. etc. It was quite helpful – the validation process and that’s how I made my decision.

Q: What was the E2 Visa process like? Can you tell us more about that?

A: I’ve had multiple E2 visas in the past. The first time I did it was 2011, and then I renewed anywhere between every two to three years. Then most recently applied for this particular one here at the beginning of this year. The process is generally quite straightforward. I worked with an immigration attorney. To explain what the E2 Visa is – it is a non immigrant visa, so it is specific for countries that have a free trade agreement with America. So this allows for the ease of citizens from that country to come into America to work as a non-immigrant. Meaning there is no intention to ever become a green card holder or to become a naturalized citizen. The purpose of your visa here is purely to run and operate the business in some way, shape or form, and you need to be the majority owner of your business.

So that’s what I decided to come in on. The process involved an immigration attorney. They had to fill out all the necessary paperwork for the E2 visa. They had to put a business plan together based on the business that I wanted to do. We had to show the source of the funds to ensure the source of the funds were legitimate. So if it’s from your savings, they wanna see your savings history. If it’s from investment amounts, they wanna see that. If it was a gift, they want a gift letter and even if it’s a gift, they wanna see where the source of the funds are for the gift. So let’s say if it’s a family member, they wanna see all the family member’s finances, and where do they get that from. After that is all done, they submit it to the embassy.

In my case, I submitted it to the embassy in Singapore because that’s where I’m from. They always recommend that you submit it to the embassy in the country that you are from or are closest to because if you are rejected entry for whatever reason, you’re not left stranded somewhere else. So I applied and that went through. 

It typically takes anywhere from three to six months for you to get an appointment at the embassy. There is an in person interview as part of the visa process and from what I understand, Singapore’s a little bit faster just cause I think they’re a little bit more efficient and it’s a smaller country. There aren’t that many people utilizing this avenue in Singapore so I managed to get mine in just a matter of a couple of months. 

Q: Can you talk about the differences of going through the E2 visa process with a franchise versus kind of bootstrapping your own business like you did the previous time?

A: The big difference is you have reference points for the business plan, you have some structure as to how other franchisees have run their business. Through validation calls you can generally get a much better idea of what your assumptions are for your business plan. Whereas if you’re bootstrapping you may not necessarily always have access to benchmarking data and a lot of your assumptions may not necessarily be well founded. I must have spoken to at least 25 different franchisees to get some idea of how their business was run.

Q: Are there other reasons that you were considering a franchise versus bootstrapping sort of outside of that?

A: I know this isn’t going to apply to all franchises, but Gotcha Covered just got purchased by a larger entity that has multiple different franchises under it. They also have multiple different franchise core services under it – things like call center, phone answering systems, bookkeeping, all of that. Having run a business before and managing these independent services, you know, even if it’s SEO and web marketing and all that, it just takes so much time to teach each vendor what you’re about and for them to actually get to know who you are and what the messaging is and get on brand and that time is money. Whether it’s managing the vendor or just communicating with the vendor or going back with new edits and just trying to get things done. The nice thing is with the franchise, you’re leveraging efficiencies. So with all this already being in house, so to speak, they have vendors that just have account managers that focus only on this one franchise and they already get it right off the bat. Then all they need to do is understand more of just the subtle nuances that make you unique as a business to be able to fine tune. I find that it’s actually a lot more affordable paying for these services going through the franchise versus doing it independently.

Q: Was your immigration attorney the person who suggested looking into franchises in general? Or was that a thought that you had had to look for a franchise?

A: I wasn’t even considering doing a franchise at all. It was not even on my radar. In talking with my immigration attorney, that’s how the conversation came up. I was like, okay, you know, I’m open to the idea. I’d never thought about it before. I personally always thought it was far more expensive. I think that’s the perception, right? The immigration attorney seemed to feel that it would be easier to come in using a franchise model as opposed to a bootstrap business where there are a lot more questions to answer. Coming in with a franchise, they’re like, okay, we know that this person is gonna have some structure.

Q:  What advice would you have for someone looking to obtain a franchise for their E2 visa?

A: It’s so funny. I just had a conversation at a networking event maybe a week ago with this lovely couple who had just got their green cards from Taiwan and they’d been here for about 10 years previously on E2 visa. 

And they were talking about how they’re very close with the expat community of Taiwanese people and a lot of Taiwanese people are trying to come to America on the E2. They were saying how a lot of them were struggling because the first thing that they did was they gathered whatever capital they could and then they came to America by starting a restaurant. Even though they had no experience in food service or restaurant management or anything else. 

So the first thing I said to them was why wouldn’t they do a franchise, you know, if they have no clue what they’re doing? First of all, a service based business would be less capital intensive than a physical location business where you have to pay rent and you have to do a build out and have all this equipment and inventory.

That’s what I suggested to them. I actually said if you do go back to any of these meetings or these communities that people are looking for, I suggest looking at a franchise broker such as TFB because you guys really did help me. It’s one of those things where you don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes you need somebody to kind of educate you and lead you through the process. 

I’m not saying that people have to always go for service, but let’s say if they did have the capital with them and they wanted to go for something much bigger, go for it. At least you’d know that you’re not gonna be figuring it out once you get here. I think from an immigration standpoint, especially when it’s involving people from different countries who may not be familiar with American culture, or haven’t spent a huge amount of time here to understand who their target market exactly is, it’s a huge leg up. Of course with the franchise, you do end up paying for that service upfront and on an ongoing basis, but that’s the trade off for ensuring that in the beginning, you know that the startup phase is not volatile, and you don’t have that early crash and burn.

Q: What was the research part like while you were evaluating Gotcha Covered?

A: With Gotcha Covered I filled out a potential franchisee questionnaire. They of course want to do their due diligence on you to make sure that you’re a good fit for their franchise. They wanna make sure you’re not gonna fail because if you do, they have to disclose that as part of their franchise disclosure document (FDD). It doesn’t look good for potential franchisees to see that you’ve got franchisees that got shut down, so they wanna interview them and make sure that we are gonna be a good fit or ideally be compatible to grow with. At some point Gotcha Covered provided me a list of all the different franchisees with their contact information for the purpose of validation. Legally they are not supposed to claim certain earnings claims for liability sake, so it’s better for you to do your own calls with franchisees to get the information directly from the source.

Q: Have you been happy with the support you’ve gotten from your franchise? Did you feel your experience has helped?

A: For me, with my previous experience running a small business, I had to wear many hats. It was a business where I basically had to figure everything out. So I designed clothing. We had to come up with an entire brand identity packaging, graphic design, fashion shows, seasonal collections, custom garments for people and engagement events. So it was just constantly things going on. Even though I wore many hats, you never really become incredibly good at one thing, cause you’re not focused. The one thing that I think the franchise, or at least Gotcha Covered, is very helpful with is the marketing. I think that with most businesses, you’ll have similar products and services to your competitors, generally speaking. I mean, there are gonna be some distinctions and differentiating factors.

But the single most important thing for the success of a business is, at least within the first couple of years is, can you generate those leads? Can you generate that revenue? Can you close those leads? With Gotcha Covered, they have people who all had very strong marketing backgrounds.

With my other business I had vendors that did my marketing, but managing them was so difficult and took so much time and they weren’t always great at it. So having this side of things already taken care of by corporate is very helpful. They pay a lot of attention to the ROI on what you spend on. Also, historically the company was a software company, so they made a very important point of putting in all the data for every lead, every conversion, so that they can use that data in order to make better decisions to market more effectively to help sell more effectively, to help build margins more effectively. It’s not just an advertising vendor that I would’ve had to look at, I would have to look at somebody who would come in and basically help me with my entire marketing strategy, so that’s been really great.

I knew nothing about window treatments prior, so obviously having great training programs and great vendors with great training programs has also been a huge value add for me. I think the thing that I feel like I’ve done strongest and that I brought with me is just the consultative selling and the sales side of things and the business development. That’s what I know I’m good at. So at least I can really push that part and learn the rest while I’m doing it. 

Q: Can you talk to me a little bit about how your business is going so far? Have you started actually taking on clients?

A: Yeah, so I’m still in the very early stages of my business. I completed the corporate training at the end of July. Used all of August to basically set up the groundwork, getting a vehicle, getting the base set up with all the vendor accounts and familiarizing myself with some of the processes and setting up some of the marketing things. So that was August and September. We just went live at the beginning of September with our marketing, so we’ve done our SEO, Google Ads, Facebook and direct mailing to people who’ve moved into new homes. That’s where our product targets – somebody moved into a new place and they need window treatments. I’ve also been very busy with all the networking and business development activities, going to different chambers and networking groups and just trying to build relationships with people.

The franchise territory that I purchased is an area that I’m not really familiar with. It’s almost like I’m coming into an unknown place so it’s taken a little bit of time and effort in order to connect with people in the community and that will slowly grow.

I think within the first month I’ve probably done three or four consults already. It’s a learning curve, you know, so you are balancing multiple things at once. You’ve got all your training from all the different vendors – because I think we have something like 60 different vendors, each one of them totally different products, price points, how they do things, etc. So there needs to be time allocated to that. Then you’ve got time that needs to be allocated to all your business development activities, and there’s stuff that needs to be allocated towards working with the client leads that you have and then you also have to actually run the business as well. So I’ve been busy juggling all that and hopefully I get to the point where I have sufficient leads coming in where then I can hire additional help. Then I can focus and do some aspects of this and start growing the business more. 

Q: What goals do you have for your business long term? I know you talked about maybe adding a couple staff members, but also the longevity of what the E2 Visa and what that looks like?

A: From my understanding, and I’m not a legal expert by any means, but I wanted something that would be the doorway back into America. I feel like it’s a great place to do business. I went to college here, spent 10 years running in another business, so I’m familiar with it.

You know, I could go elsewhere, I could go back to Singapore. It’s a great country, but the learning curve would be far greater than here. I wanted to make sure that this would be a business that was simple, always in demand, nothing too complicated. The main entity itself is what’s tied to the visa.

After that, I can create sub entities that fall under that main entity and I can get into other areas that are similar. I can get into real estate, flooring, complementary products, but I can grow into different types of businesses. 

Other aspects of the visa is that I think they issue them anywhere from two years, three years, five years, 10 years, maybe even 20 years, depending on each case by case. I think they typically do a shorter visa upfront and then as the business gets larger and more stable, I think they probably are willing to extend the time that they allow the validity of the visa.

The nice thing about the visa is that there is no real limitation on how much or how little time you need to spend in America. So let’s say the business does scale up and you do not need to necessarily be in America running the business every single day anymore. You can still have that visa and you can come and go as you please. With a green card I think you have to spend a minimum amount of time here. The other benefit of the E2 visa is that because it’s a non-immigrant visa, you are not impacted by American tax. So whatever revenue you make here, or income you make in America, you pay taxes on that money. I’m from Singapore, so let’s say I have a family business there or something else that I make any income from over there – I do not have to pay American income tax on that income. So there are pros and there are cons. For some people that’s a pro. It just comes down to what each person’s looking for. 

Q: How long did you work with Thoughtful Franchise Brokers?

A: I think it was all within a matter of a couple of months. I think maybe the conversation may have started in November or December. I engaged the immigration attorney knowing that I would eventually pick a franchise, so that at least was moving at the same time. Then as different franchises got presented to me, I kind of whittled it down to what I wanted and going through all the validation calls. At the same time they’re still working on my case for what they call the petition for E2 visa. They need the franchise disclosure documents, the franchise specific lawyer who reviews the FDD, so that there’s clear understanding. Once that was done, then I did all validation calls and I did that all within a matter of two or three weeks. The validation calls were very, very helpful because I got to get a candid view of what these people’s lives were like, rather than the brochure marketing version of things. I mean, they’re not terribly different, but at the same time to hear from regular people who have families and kids and other things in their lives, how they manage all those things at once and make it work specifically for them and their lifestyles. 

Q: What was your experience like working with TFB?

A: It was very consultative with the whole point of finding the right fit for you. I didn’t even know that franchise brokers were a thing until I came across this. I had never even considered getting into a franchise, to be honest, so this was all a learning experience for me. It was very similar to buying a home. Your broker basically gets all the pertinent information from you – what’s your budget, what are the things that interest you, what are the things that inspire you, what are the things that you’d like to do, etc. Obviously with the budget that I had, it was very clear that it was going to be more of a service based type franchise rather than a brick and mortar or physical location. 

So we looked at a whole bunch of different service based industries. Everything from home inspections to locksmithing to cleaning services, gym equipment repair and whatnot. At each stage there was feedback from me in order to kind of tailor it down to whatever it is that I wanted. For example, I know that cleaning services are great and a lot of people do that because once you develop that clientele, it’s an ongoing cash flow. But I did not want to necessarily manage that many people, and I didn’t wanna manage schedules that change and people and whatnot. It’s just juggling a lot of those things and I’ve managed people before my previous business, and that’s an area that I didn’t necessarily want to do so much.

I wanted to focus more on the selling side business development, getting things known and then handing off installation and all the technical stuff to people who specialize in that as a third party service. The model I chose allowed me to do that. Another thing that you guys had asked about was what kind of lifestyle would I be looking at, in terms of day to day operation of a business. Do you wanna be out in the field doing everything yourself? Do you wanna be sitting at home, running out of a home office? Do you want to have a physical location where you have clients coming in? I think just inquiring as to what that looks like for me and how we pair that up with potential franchises.