Something that often sets millennials apart in business is their personal connection to their work and their 24-hour commitment to the job. Young couple Matthew Brown and Stephanie Ervin are no exception.
“We had been eating at Pita Pit for years prior to applying for our own franchise, so it made sense to get behind a product we were huge fans of,” Ervin notes. “We met at a Pita Pit, actually, and now own our own location, so our journey has come full circle.” The couple opened their Pita Pit location in January 2017 in Peterborough, Ontario, and it’s been a perfect match for their business and personal ambitions.
“I grew up being surrounded by entrepreneurs and loved the idea of being my own boss and building up a business through hard work and dedication,” Brown shares. In fact, he spent two years as a manager of a Pita Pit restaurant before pursuing the idea of becoming a franchisee in his own right. He wanted to “learn the ins and outs of the business before applying” – something that dovetails with the couple’s longstanding support of Pita Pit restaurants as customers themselves.
“We were both always very fond of Pita Pit as a company because of its fresh and healthy product,” says Ervin. “It was a brand that stood out compared to its competitors in the food industry, and had a product we could feel good about serving our community.”
The couple’s combined interest in entrepreneurship and the food service industry has proven a definite asset in making their franchise thrive. “I have been in the food industry my whole working career and am a Red Seal pastry chef by trade, so my knowledge of food is a strong assist, and meshed well with Matt’s experience and dedication to Pita Pit as a brand,” says Ervin.
Along with the couple’s personal connection to the Pita Pit brand and entrepreneurship, they embrace the benefits of the franchise model, especially as young people new to owning and operating a business. “Buying into an established brand that has a concrete structure in place and systems that help the business thrive, but allows you to […] manage the business the way you think will benefit it the best” are key in Ervin and Brown’s satisfaction with their franchisor/franchisee relationship.
“With franchising, you’re still able to have your own ideas for your business,” they share – something of particular importance to millennial business owners who want to feel their unique effect in their work. “But,” they add, “there’s a great support system behind you if you ever hit a bump and need some extra input on how to handle any roadblocks.”
Dedication and innovation go hand-in-hand
With the couple’s obvious commitment to their franchise, one of Ervin and Brown’s first orders of business was to find staff members who were just as passionate about the company’s product and role in serving healthy food to their community. “It was a learning curve to fine-tune what characteristics we were looking for in individuals when we were interviewing,” they note. They discovered the best way to find people who matched their dedication to customer service and consistency was to be in their store as much as possible.
With that approach, they say, “We were able to notice the traits we were looking for through our strongest team members.” Ervin and Brown learned from this approach, too, fostering a symbiotic relationship between staff and franchisees. “It allowed us to tweak our training procedures […] to advance our team members [and] ensure quality and performance.”
Staff satisfaction is just as important to the young couple, and they love the fact that with a franchise, they’re on the ground to make this happen. “We are able to put our own ideas into our store to help increase sales, build our customer base, and engage our staff through fun contests and promotions.”
While Ervin and Brown provide the support to their own staff, the Pita Pit franchisor team is there to support their franchisees with whatever they need to run a location. “The company has a great online portal that allows us to search for any documents we may need within our business, as well as to make sure the staff stays informed and everything is up to date,” they share. Not only that, but each franchisee has a dedicated business coach who is able to provide advice and input on a wide range of topics that will help the business grow and thrive.
As in almost every aspect of daily life, social media plays a definite role in millennials’ success in franchising, Ervin and Brown say. “Following businesses around us on social media lets us stay on top of events and promotions that may be coming up in our area so we can stay one step ahead.” They complement this approach by incorporating more traditional strategies, as well. “Being a member of the Chamber of Commerce is another way we stay current with businesses within our community, and it’s a great networking resource.”
Find what you love and you can’t go wrong
In one word, Ervin and Brown would describe their experience with franchising and the Pita Pit franchise in particular as “fantastic!” While there are sometimes long hours involved, “it’s worth it to see your hard work and ideas pay off.” One of the most rewarding parts of being a franchisee, they note, is being in charge of your business’s fate. “You have put your heart and soul into it. You can’t be ‘half an owner’ – you have to go all in or not at all.”
While the first year of any franchise is likely the hardest, Ervin and Brown have noticed a marked difference from where they started to where they are now. “During the first year, it was a bit difficult to make time for other things in our personal lives because we were at the store all day, seven days a week.” It takes an incredibly strong work ethic to succeed, especially starting out in business – something the millennial stereotype can often get wrong.
As the franchise becomes more established, the couple says they are “starting to experience the freedoms being a business owner can have” – something a franchise with a strong support system makes especially possible. And the couple’s dedication to their hiring and training process is paying off, too. “Now that we have strong and trustworthy staff in place, we can step away when needed.”
One of the things that see new franchisees through the hard work it takes to grow and develop their location is a belief in their product and service. Ervin and Brown offer some key advice to other millennials considering getting into franchising: “Working within the franchise before you take the steps to purchase your own will allow you to learn the ins and outs and make sure your passion is still there.”
Learning as much as you can about the company beforehand is also essential to making sure you’re ready when your own store opens its doors. Above all else, “you have to feel good about what you’re offering your customers. Find something you love, and you’ll never have to ‘work’ a day in your life.”
By Jessica Burgess