Carlos DeLeon is a first-time franchise owner who recently opened Pet Wants San Antonio North - a delivery service for fresh, locally made pet food - with his wife, Gloria.
We checked in with Carlos to find out his process for searching for a franchise and learn about his experience as a franchise owner so far. Here's what he shared:
Were you ever a business owner prior to owning your franchise?
Yes. I had several bars and one restaurant.
What made you want to become a business owner?
I spent 22 years in the corporate world. My last job was vice president of operations for a medical supply company. But always on the side, I wanted to do something for myself. Every venture I tried, I never went into it full time.
This last January I decided to do this full time. I resigned my job and went into a full-time mode of business consultant for business manufacturing.
My wife and I started talking and we decided we wanted to do something together, and we talked about what we liked. We do everything around our Mini Schnauzer. When we started, we were looking for a place to rent to open a pet supply store.
But then we decided to check into franchises, figuring it would be easier.
Did you seek out a specific franchise or research several before making your decision?
The odd thing is that there aren't a lot of franchises for pets. Everything is private. The only ones available were extremely expensive.
I also talked to and was close to buying Kups R Us. But I decided not to because I know my wife and myself are not the best salespeople. That would've been full-time on the road. I looked into the UPS store. That was also very hard and very expensive.
How did you find this particular opportunity and what compelled you to ultimately purchase it?
I did research online and that's how I found Pet Wants. I asked for a lot of information - they sent literature and a link. Then I scheduled a call with the salesperson and we went through it and started scheduling weekly meetings and I asked a million questions. And the more and more we looked into it the more we liked it - always knowing the risk that it was a brand-new franchise - they'd only been in business for nine months. But their growth was inordinate, they're selling business like hot cakes.
We have a schnauzer and normally they have a lot of stomach problems. We buy the most expensive food out there. With Pet Wants it's half the cost and it's fresh food. Not only are you helping the community, you're making money on that. That's what got us into it.
Did you have prior experience working in the same industry?
Did you speak with other current franchisees about their experiences before making your decision?
I did not. I tried to but they were too busy getting their own franchise started.
What was your experience like working with the franchisor during the decision-making process?
It was good. The coordinator we had was really good. I asked many, many questions and they were very open about everything. It was basically black and white - no small print if you will. What they told me was what was happening.
At the end when we signed, there were a couple things that changed that I didn't like. During the interview process to buy it, one of the things I liked was we were going to be able to use our local vendors to do furniture and stuff like that. At the end we had to buy it from Pet Wants. They made that decision because they didn't realize how fast they were growing - in order to protect the brand.
How would you rate the training and support offered by the franchisor?
It needs work if I'm going to be honest. I understand, especially when I have a brand-new franchise not having the infrastructure and team ready. They're building and adding really good people. And the training, especially for people like us who want our own business because we have a passion for pets, but have no idea about it.
The main focus of the brand is pet nutrition - during the training we didn't get enough information on nutrition though. And they were really well aware that they needed to work on that. We wanted nutrition Monday through Friday and they only gave us half a day.
The financials were very clear, well done. There were a lot of vendor presentations - too many. Wasted an hour or two just listening to them - trying to sell when the decision had already been made.
Everything I'm telling you, I told the president, I was very open in my constructive criticism.
Did you employ the services of an accountant and/or franchise attorney and if so, how important were they in the decision making process?
I had an attorney review the contract, there were no red flags at all. And then for the accounting, I'm using a local person. She gave me some really good suggestions.
I would say talking to the attorney was important for my own peace of mind. But I actually did a lot of reading and research, so he didn't give me any more insight than you already had.
What is the best part about being a franchise owner?
The flexibility of your hours.
What has been the most difficult aspect of owning a franchise?
I'm going to give you my answer based on talking to all the other couples I met during training, only because I was very well-prepared and I had a very detailed task list, right down to the you need to buy light bulbs
They had difficulties with knowing who to call, specifically for the legal stuff. Creating an LLC, permits, licenses, insurance - they needed a lot of help. I did a lot of that on my own.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about purchasing a franchise?
Do it full time if you're going to do it. Get into it. Do your research learn the franchise, know what they're about. Be prepared. You can't do it half the time. It's possible, but it's a lot more difficult.
What was the most important step during the exploration process in your opinion?
Probably finding something that my wife and I could do together. That would be in line with what we like and our time and our life style.
Looking back, is there anything about the exploration process you wish you had done differently?
I probably would've done a little more research on the insurance side of the business - liability, etc. I didn't do enough research on that. I'm probably one of the ones who got the lowest rates. But I probably could've done better.
Is there anything else you would you like to tell us about your experience becoming a franchise owner?
Overall, it's been a positive experience. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to start a business, be prepared to do your research and jump in.
Want to start a business around the four-legged friends in your life? Check out our list of Pet franchises.