Before becoming a Zoup! franchise owner, Colleen Hopkins said that her only restaurant experience was “eating in them.” That didn’t deter the former insurance company CFO from choosing the restaurant system as her path to business ownership: “I had been thinking about making a career change when a friend suggested that I check out Zoup!,” she says. “It was one of those ‘you-had-me-at-hello’ moments. Not only was I impressed with the overall concept from a business perspective, I also felt an immediate connection with the brand.”
In April 2011, Colleen opened up her Westlake, OH location. As for her lack of restaurant experience, she says it actually was a good thing for her. “I honestly think that coming in with a clean slate—with no preconceived notions—made it easier for me to learn the right way to do things.”
Colleen’s training, like that of all Zoup! franchise owners, began with a three-week visit to the company’s business offices where she spent time in a classroom setting and at nearby company-owned stores. In addition, Colleen learned the financial and operational “ins” and “outs” of running the business.
Upon returning home, she also arranged to work at a nearby location, where she found a strong mentor and gained valuable experience. “Things really clicked for me when I saw how well the systems work in a real-world setting. Watching another franchise owner do the exact things I had been taught really bolstered my confidence as I continued to prepare for my store’s opening.”
Colleen started her final phase of formal training when two company staff members arrived at her store for a 14-day stay. For one week before and one week after the store's opening, they all worked together to train her employees, solve problems and prepare for a successful opening. “As good as the training is, nothing can prepare you for the craziness of those first weeks. Having trainers on-site, by my side, made all the difference in the world,” Colleen says.
Although her formal training is behind her, Colleen says she still can count on help from business office team members. “Because of the size and structure of the company, I know exactly who to call if I have a question.” She also keeps in close touch with other franchisees and participates in company-sponsored annual meetings where owners exchange ideas and the Zoup! leadership team updates owners on new products, operations and marketing. For day-to-day communications, the company intranet provides a message board where franchise owners can ask questions, make announcements, and share experiences.
Colleen has no regrets about her decision to become a franchise owner. “Any new business is going to require a lot of work, but I can honestly say that choosing Zoup! was absolutely the right thing for me. I couldn’t be happier!”