The first black female franchisee at Charleston Airport at Focus Brands

If founders, chefs and other innovators are the beating heart of the restaurant industry, then franchisees are the veins that deliver their ideas to all corners of the world. Franchising is critical to the success of the industry, allowing brands to scale their big ideas quickly using other people’s capital. Whether it’s a restaurant owner with one or two franchisees or a seasoned connoisseur with a known influence in the industry, franchisees – with all their individual traits, styles, and personalities – have a significant impact on the success of the business.

In this column, we feature first-time Cinnabon franchisee Shawnalea Garvin, owner and president of the Airport Employment and Training Center, which acts as a consulting firm for airport franchisees. In 2021, Garvin acquired the franchise and opened its first Cinnabon location at Charleston International Airport in South Carolina. We spoke with her about how she got the franchise and her future business goals.

Store collapse:

Cinnabon Shop and 2 Licensed Cinnabon and Auntie Anne Trucks

back story

“When I was 14, I went to work for Shawnee [a Tennessee-based, family-dining brand] I worked with them through high school and college. Then after that, I went to work at JCPenney for 10 years and then came back to Atlanta to start volunteering at an African American Museum. One of the board members there was a Wendy franchisee and asked me to represent him on a contract with a restaurant at Hartsfield Airport. My job was to represent and work with underprivileged businesses as they grow their airport businesses, including all franchisees. After our contract expired in 2005, I established AETC Airport Management Group.”

Why Cinnabon

“I was a partner at Charleston Airport with nine other brands. The airport asked me to bring the concept of candy. It took me about a month and a half to decide on the brand because I looked at so many brands, then I remembered the experience I had in the 90s with Cinnabon at and Hartsfield Airport. Once I contacted Focus Brands, it seemed like the right fit for me.”

Diversity in Excellence

“If you don’t have diversity in the franchise, that means it’s not in different societies. […] Minority communities don’t want to go 10 miles out of town to find our favorite brands: we want to go and work with them, too. […] Culturally, financially and socially it is important. […] Over 20 years in business and numbers [of minority owners] It’s pretty much the same. I think it’s an opportunity we have at all the airports and all the perks. I think there are changes happening as we speak.”

airport operations

“The airport has its tides like a Disney theme park. After you’re done with the ride, people race to get something to eat and it’s the same with the airport: people get off the plane and they get crowded for about an hour and then they die for a while. […] Experience is very important when you open an airport business. […] I was telling people in consulting if you have experience on the street you can treat yourself at the airport. But you have to be able to deal with stressful highs and lows.”

Biggest Challenges

“the biggest challenge [for franchisees] It is always capital. But competition is fierce at the airports. You need money and creativity, and you should be able to navigate the politics of airports. Then, of course, you need to know your brand, your people, and you need the money.”

growth plans

“We are looking forward to adding quite a few more stores. We want to bid [for a store at] Another airport now, which will be our second location. Next, I’d like to add more trucks and maybe 10 more units. […] I am in the process of purchasing another brand in the Atlanta area. Under Focus Brands, I plan to add Carvel and Jamba. I am better [transportation hubs] But I will also be opening a Cinnabon in Martin Luther King National Park [In Atlanta]I currently run a gift shop. […] I want to have 12 units and four trucks by 2027.”

What the franchise needs most

“Flexibility. I posed the National Park Service to Focus Brands to say, “I know you haven’t thought about this, but this is what I need from you.” I think they had second thoughts about it at first, but they agreed. Being from a diverse community, they My community looks different from what they think of as a traditional store location.So flexibility in locations, structure, and support is important.What may have been the focus in the past, as in a mall location, may look different to me.My community is changing and evolving and [Focus Brands location] It may not look like a typical mall store.”

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

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