March 4, 2011: SoBRO held a moderated panel discussion today at Hostos Community College that pooled together several experts within the franchising industry to discuss successful business practices. The event was the first in a series of wealth creation lectures named after the investor and business tycoon Reginald F. Lewis, who, in 1987, engineered the largest offshore leveraged buyout in US history. Ms. Loida N. Lewis, Reginald Lewis’s widow and successor as Chairman and CEO of the consumer products conglomerate TLC Beatrice, introduced the discussion. The event was moderated by Professor Hector Lopez, Chairman of the Business Department at Hostos Community College.
After remarks by Professor Lopez, Loida Lewis, and SoBRO’s President and CEO, Phillip Morrow, and Dr. Felix Rodriguez, President of CUNY/Hostos Community College, five panelists provided their perspectives on franchising: Esther Yip, the owner and operator of five Wendy’s franchises; William Landers, Vice President of Business Relationships at HSBC Bank; Radame Perez, Chief Operating Officer of Mastermind Realty; Julie Lusthaus, Partner in the Law Office of Einbinder & Dunn, LLP; and Gary Chipurnoi, Financial Services Professional at New York Life Insurance Company. Ms. Yip stressed the hard work of running a franchise for 25 years, explaining that her days often begin at 5am and does not end until late into the night. She also acknowledged the value of having a supportive franchisor, Wendy’s in her case, that is not inflexible in dealing with start-up operations. Mr. Landers of HSBC emphasized the importance of a sellable business plan when approaching a financial institution for a loan, while Mr. Perez of Mastermind Realty gave informative tips about securing a successful business location, such as searching for a densely-populated neighborhood close to the corner of a city block, to mass transportation, and schools such the bustling retail area on Fordham Road. Ms. Lusthaus provided the audience with legal issues in the franchising agreement to which potential franchisees should be alert, and Mr. Chipurnoi of New York Life underscored that planning for long-range financial goals and leadership succession is just as vital for a business owner as day-to-day questions of financial solvency.
A question-and-answer session allowed the audience of community members and aspiring franchise operators to participate, giving the program an interactive atmosphere. In a lighthearted moment, Ms. Yip described that her sons were not allowed to patronize other fast food stores because she stood by the rule, “never eat from your competitors!”
The Successful Franchising lecture will be followed by other best practice lectures at various Bronx-based colleges in the coming months in order to encourage wealth creation among Bronx entrepreneurs. The series complements SoBRO’s repertoire of small business assistance programs, including the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Industrial Business Zone Program, and Entrepreneurial Development Program.
SoBRO, a not-for-profit community development corporation, has been serving the South Bronx since 1972. SoBRO’s programs include adult education and workforce training, real estate and community development, technical and financial assistance for businesses, and an array of programs for youth. For additional information about SoBRO, call 718 292-3113 or visit www.sobro.org.