As Ann Costlow sat in her Baltimore office on the 21st floor overlooking the tall ships in the harbor, it occurred to her that she’d rather be working on one of those boats than picking stocks for a living. Within six months of that initial thought, she had taken a leave of absence from her sixteen-year career in the finance industry and worked as a galley cook on The Pride of Baltimore for the summer season. That was the ultimate turning point for Ann.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be going back to the office setting after that. I needed to create an opportunity to release my creative energy,” Costlow explained. “I had always loved cooking and crepes especially inspired me after spending considerable time in France and that’s where the idea for my concept came from.”
When Costlow opened the first Sofi’s Crepes location in Baltimore 12 years ago she was new to the restaurant business, but she knew she had a delicious and easily transportable product which would make the concept scalable. Expansion was on Costlow’s mind from the beginning.
“Several years ago I dropped my business card in a box displayed in the Francorp booth at the NRA food show in Chicago,” Costlow said. “At that point, I knew what franchising was, but didn’t know much about the industry at all. Luckily, from my business card they invited me to a seminar in Washington where I saw their presentation of services and had the chance to meet and talk with their team. I was so impressed with their knowledge and proactive nature, shortly after I found myself at Francorp’s headquarters.”
After meeting with the Francorp team, Costlow knew the way to expand her business would be through franchising.
“Starting a franchise can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the industry,” she said. “But Francorp was literally by my side every step of the way, they made the process completely doable.”
Costlow was impressed with the resources Francorp provided along the way, from business plans and templates customized to her business to their complete open-door policy every step of the way.
“Their accessibility, even to the president of the company, whenever I had any question at all was just incredible,” she said.
Since establishing Sofi’s Crepes as a franchise, Costlow has been able to successfully open an average of one franchise location per year. And with all the resources Francorp has been able to provide, she says the single most important thing they’ve been able to do for her is analyze the quality of potential franchisees.
“When you’re new in this business, it’s hard to turn people away when they have a check in their hand,” said Costlow. “But what the Francorp team has been able to do is walk me through the importance of ensuring I’m signing on with the right partners.”
Costlow went on to say that one of her biggest educational moments has been witnessing how negatively your franchise can be impacted if you’ve got a franchisee who is not a good fit.
“For me quality is more important than quantity, and with Francorp’s help I’ve been able to review franchise candidates objectively to ensure I have a network of people who are ready to be just as dedicated and passionate about this business as I am,” she said.
Location and site selection are also elements she underestimated prior to linking up with Francorp.
“Everyone says ‘location, location, location,’ but you don’t necessarily realize how crucial it is until you’re in the thick of it,” Costlow said. “The Francorp team has been really instrumental in helping me identify the important questions and aspects of site selection and it’s been key to our continued success.”
Costlow says it is a big decision to commit the resources and time required to create a company as a franchise, but it has all been worth it in her experience because it created the opportunity to expand her business beyond her own personal reach.
“Franchising also creates opportunities for other people to realize the dream of business ownership,” she said. “It’s a really great experience to see the seed you’ve planted develop into a fruitful future.”
Hands down Costlow says she’d recommend Francorp to anyone considering franchising their business, as they have proven to be an invaluable resource for her.
“The proof is in the pudding,” she says. “I have a successful franchise that’s continually growing at a healthy rate, and Francorp has been by my side every step of the way.”