Press Waffle Co Franchisee Zainab Turay

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Zainab Turay came to us wanting a brunch franchise. Typically people come to us with something in mind and usually end up going with a completely different industry. Not because we steer them away from it, but usually what they want to get out of a franchise doesn’t align with the specific one they had in mind. Not this time! Zai knew what she wanted and after going through our process, her desires were validated even more. 

In this video Zai shares what she was looking for and how that aligned with her family, financial goals and lifestyle. She talks about the other franchise she looked into and ultimately how she knew Press Waffle Co was the right choice for her. Unlike most of the people we work with, Zai is choosing to keep her current full-time job and have her sister run the day-to-day operations. Most franchises are looking for owner-operators, but some franchises are willing to have semi-absentee owners, like Zai. 


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

Q: You came to Thoughtful Franchise Brokers already knowing you wanted a brunch franchise. Can you talk about why you wanted that?

A: I’ve held operational and leadership roles, but deep down I always knew I wanted to run my own business at some point. So the biggest thing was trying to decide what business it was going to be, because I have varied interests, and what model was going to fit me. So as I started digging deeper to see what was going to work for my lifestyle and my child, I kinda settled on the things we enjoyed already. So when I approached Kevin and Charista it was more looking for a brunch franchise, because I liked those hours. It wouldn’t require me to be there all night. 

I was looking for something that was unique that wasn’t the usual run of the mill. I didn’t want your everyday restaurant experience. I was looking for a different model and that is what led me down the path of looking down the franchise model. I’m a process oriented person. I like to know how to go about doing things and what I love about a franchise is they’ve already got expertise in all areas of the business. Whether it’s marketing, getting your construction situated, finding locations, things I don’t have experience in, they have already gone to the trouble to figure that out. So it made the most sense for me to do a plug and play model. 

Q: What has your past experience been and how do you see that helping you?

A: I’ve worked in operations my whole career and supported the restaurant business. So all your major chains, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, anything you can think of across the US. I understand that side of the operations so I know I can do that well. I’ve held leadership positions as well as managing folks out of college to people my mother’s age and being able to navigate those relationships. So when I put those two together and I think about what would be successful and important from a foundational perspective, in terms of fundamentals to help me kick things off the ground I think those two things are important and helped steward me to the direction of ok, this is something that I could do.

Q: What did you like most about Press Waffle Co?

A: One of the reasons I chose Press Waffle Co is that they are a relatively young company. You’d think that a person would want to go with something that has been around for 20-30 years, and while that has its appeal, I also like the idea of not having a fixed mindset. So because they are new, they are open to hearing suggestions. Like some of the newer Press locations are trying things like a gluten free menu and one is trying a salad menu. So I like the fact that they are into innovation and they have some flexibility in allowing owners to even flex the hours that would work for your specific geography. From all the franchises I spoke to, working through the process, there is a lot of collaboration at Press Waffle. While I still have the agreement of this is how I am going to execute on this business model – having those conversations with them I found a willingness of them being open to having that conversation to figure out what is the best case scenario for me.

Q: Can you talk about the other franchise you were considering and how you chose Press Waffle?

A: During the discovery process when I was presented with Press Waffle it was actually a newer one to TFB as well. Really there were two different industries that I was looking at – one was in the beauty industry and one was in the food industry. The other concept I was looking at was lash extensions. I really wanted something that I could see myself doing and enjoying. I think it’s important that you’re selling a product that you are 100% passionate about because that translates to when you are talking to your customers. So as I think about my lifestyle, a lash business can be profitable and could make money, but it’s not necessarily a thing that I do every day. That may be something I consider in the future. 

When I wake up in the morning with my daughter, the first thing I think is alright, it’s time for breakfast. We tend to go to pancake and waffle types of places. We’re late sleepers, so we’re constantly in that brunch mode. We got an opportunity to go out to Texas to the Press Waffle restaurants and to try the food. I liked the aspect of people being able to build their own. So in addition to what’s on the menu, if you wanna decide, hey, I like this on my waffles and so on, there’s that option. And then they had a couple of other different things that they could incorporate into their menu, like milkshakes and craft beers. So you are appealing to different segments of the population. Whereas with the other business model I was looking at, traditionally catered only toward women. Now we know there’s a segment of people that would do lashes that aren’t women, but I wanted a broad scope of things, something that could appeal end to end from little kids to their grandparents so it made the most sense to me. 

Q: What did you think of the process that Thoughtful Franchise Brokers took you through?

A: What I liked about their process is they are extremely detailed. The personality assessment was one thing that we did and walked through that was helpful. And they kinda met me with my questions before I even had the questions, if that makes sense. They’re thinking ahead of the curve. Also from a perspective of giving me referrals and people that I hadn’t thought of, that I would need as part of this process so when we came to that junction, we were able to get there.

I liked the way that they presented the concepts. They talked to us about what we were interested in, we looked through the list of the different business opportunities and they presented each one. They helped me open my eyes to other things that I may not have thought of like things from a cost perspective. We looked at the initial investment of options from $50K to a half a million investment. And then in different sectors, one was maybe like a blinds company and then another one was taking care of estate sales and things like that, that I didn’t even know were franchises. So I liked the broad scope of how they did it, but also, you know, coming back into the micro, focusing on what they knew I wanted as we had that initial conversation. When they presented Press Waffle Co they could probably see my eyes light up and say yep, this is the one we want.

After being introduced to the franchise, I had checks with Kevin and Charista throughout the process. To see how things were going once would had those introductory calls with the franchisors. And then as we went through the process of making the selection, in as much as they weren’t there to say choose this one, but helping balance my viewpoint, in helping me understand the different aspects of how this could be beneficial versus the other one.

I thoroughly adore what they do and they are professionals through and through. I think both Charista and Kevin bring different strengths to the table and being able to have that dual relationship and folks that I can call and say, “hey, you know, I’m freaking out about this. What can you tell me about what I need to know”, made a ton of difference. 

Q: I heard you’re planning to open semi-passively, keep your job and have your sister run the restaurant. Can you talk more about that?

A: So what I’ll say is when I approached them, the thought was that I wanted to go 100% into being my own boss and quit my job. I’ll tell you throughout the process I came to the conclusion that I’m not quite there yet from a financial perspective. Part of what we did was to fill out my net worth. Then as I went through the process of meeting with the franchisors, and I got a breakdown of the fees and structure of what it’s gonna take to build the location, and then also doing the projections over five years and so on, I determined that it was better if I could stay where I’m at and be able to work in this industry part time. So what I’m doing is having my sister come and run the operations day to day, and then I’ll be sort of like the weekend and part time person, because it made the most financial sense for us looking at the cost. 

At the time when I approached Kevin and Charista, I really was at the tail end of the position that I was in so I have moved into a different position right now. I’m staying with my current job and then approaching this business on a part-time basis. That was another thing that was important as well – finding a franchise that was flexible to and did not require that I’d be there 100% of the time.

One motivator for me is I want to be in a position where if things don’t work out, I can still sustain and maintain my family. One of the folks, when I was doing discovery that I talked to with the lash business, kinda gave me the motivation to know that it was possible. She had actually worked at my company for a little while and she’s got three franchises that she’s running that are all being ran without her being on site, as an absentee.

Q: Has there been anything that has surprised you about the process?

A: We’re going through the process now of trying to find a location. So that in itself has proven to be about a four month process and we’re still not there yet. We just submitted our first LOI. Also the process of even completing SBA loan – they had a separate set of requirements so it wasn’t just, “Hey, I’m buying this franchise, here’s what we know the cost is.” They wanted us to provide an actual architect and building cost. So I have to complete all of that process first – find the location, sign the lease with the landlord and then find an architect and then get the construction before I could even complete my loan process. When I started, I was of the impression that, okay, I’ve got the breakout of what the construction costs were gonna look like thinking that was all I needed. And then the SBA guy was like – nope, this is not gonna work. I’m gonna need the actual versus the estimated. So that has taken a little bit longer than I would’ve imagined. 

The process of actually opening, that is TBD. From what I’ve heard from some of the other franchisees they have talked about the construction delays. My old role was in supply chain where I managed our retail side of the business, so the delays are no surprise to me. Nothing has been glaring that I didn’t expect, or really changed my goal if you will, or made me think, okay, I’m gonna have to do this a little bit differently.

Q: What would you say to someone who is considering buying a franchise?

A: My recommendation would be to go through this – the same process that I did. I’ve given referrals to Kevin and Charista, because I think it was super helpful in just demystifying the process. You’re looking online, you’ve seen all these things out there and, and you really don’t have an understanding of how the whole thing works from end to end. So I think going through that formalized process and having somebody there to help you understand what are some of the things that you need to be thinking about upfront?

Also going through the franchise agreements, that was one of the things that Charista did with me as I got the FDD. We would do like a breakout of trying to understand what each section meant because these were huge documents, a lot of legalese and things that can go over somebody’s head. Having that support in helping you understand here are some of the things that you potentially would wanna think about to evaluate whether or not it is in fact, the right business for you was helpful.

I would not recommend anybody do this without the assistance of a broker, like what I did with Kevin and Charista. I didn’t even know they existed. I just kinda always thought if you were interested in a franchise that you just went directly to the franchisor and started the conversations. So having that person in the middle there to help represent me, helping me understand some of the things in the language, the timelines and things of that sort is of tremendous importance. That would be my first recommendation is to go and make that connection with a broker.

Any other closing thoughts or other things you think are important for someone to know?

A: One of the big deterrents that people are always anxious about is giving a huge chunk of my profits to somebody. I mean, the way that I look at it is the fees that they collect is really payment for the work that you don’t have to do upfront and the steps that you potentially would’ve taken had you not had that work done for you. Whether it’s making marketing mistakes or buying the right type of equipment or knowing how to hire the right type of people. I’ve had leadership experience in hiring and firing people over the course of my career so I understand how that works, but that’s a huge part of some of the training that these franchises provide in helping kind of simplify the process for you. The operations piece as well, you know, having somebody help you understand what your cash flow is gonna look like, your cost of goods and things of that sort.

Those are all painful experiences that people can go through in starting a business from scratch that you have no idea what you’re doing. So where it may not be a fit for everyone. I don’t necessarily look at it as here I’m giving away money, but I’m paying for their experience and their pitfalls and so on.

I think maybe just shifting perspective a little bit in how you approach that conversation and how you think about how you’re investing and spending the money makes a difference. I don’t necessarily see myself as somebody that’s out here trying to make millions of dollars. There’s enough for everybody to go around. I’m looking to work more for fulfillment and whatever franchise you end up picking, make sure it’s something that aligns with something that you’re interested in, something that you would use as a product or something that you would buy or consume and things of that sort. Having that alignment there and that the culture of that organization aligns and fits with your personal beliefs and how you work, those are some of the things that I think are important. 

At the end of the day, finding that right match is thoroughly important. And having somebody to kind of hold your hand through the way, it helps tremendously. Also, I don’t want to oversimplify the plug and play of a franchise and make you think you don’t have to do anything. You still have to know how to run your business. You still have to have your goals and how you wanna push your marketing, you know, cause your franchise is in a different city. Like some of the conversations we’ve had, even as we’ve talked about locations, those franchisees are not in the area that I’m in. So knowing the ins and outs of the community because I’ve lived there and I know what goes on there and I can share perspectives that their demographic studies can’t tell you. Those are the perspectives that a franchisee can bring to the table as part of those discussions, when you are finding the right location for you and something that makes the most sense for where you wanna run your business.