We reached a milestone this week. #150. Just Between Friends now has 150 franchises throughout the United States and Canada. This means so much to me on many levels: it is an achievement professionally – that is true. But it is so much more. It means we are helping more families make ends meet, earn extra cash – and shop with dignity for their families. When I think back on how it all began, I am humbled how communities have truly embraced the concept and the community aspect of the event.
A friend and I started Just Between Friends in 1997 in my living room in Tulsa, Okla. I had left my teaching job to stay home with my children and was looking for a way to save money and maybe make a little cash. Our first event had 17 consignors. We sold about $2000 in merchandise and my co-founder Daven Tackett and I each took home about $150.00 and our consignors were equally excited with their own sales. We were thrilled. We never intended to start a national franchise. But as our sale grew in Tulsa, so did interest from other moms (and dads) in other communities to open a JBF sale.
So in 2003, we launched Just Between Friends Systems, Inc. To say I had no idea what I was doing would be an understatement. But that didn’t stop me. We bought the book “Franchising for Dummies” and delved right in. We did all we could to learn as much as possible. And we surrounded ourselves with smart people. We worked hard to grow our company and sell franchises. A major turning point came in 2008 when we received some national publicity on CNBC, Inside Edition and most of all – Good Morning America. We sold 30 franchises within one year. That catapulted our company.
But we almost grew too fast. I know it sounds counterintuitive but it is true. We needed to be able to sustain and support these franchisees and we did not have a plan for that. It affected our cash flow – significantly. In 2010, faced with the possibility of going south, we made the tough decision to tighten our belt. I call it my “year of austerity” – halting the spending and separating the needs from the wants. It was a tough year but we survived. We continued to grow the Tulsa franchise as well which helped sustain both businesses. We made it through and are stronger because of it.
Fast forward five years. Today I am the sole owner of Just Between Friends Franchise Systems, Inc. My former business partner runs the Tulsa franchise which continues to be one of the largest JBF events in the country. Our newest event – franchise #150 – is in Marysville/Mt. Vernon, Washington. Sheila Palaruan and her husband Bryan are gearing up for their first event next month. I am filled with hope and excitement as they embark on this business and work to bless their community and their young family.
Many people ask me to share lessons I have learned over the past 18 years, especially entrepreneurs who are just getting started. Here are my “truths” I want to share with all of you out there ready to test out your idea.
Get Involved – Get out there and get involved. You need to support your community and your community will support you. Look for networking opportunities and go for it. Remember – people do business with those that they know, like and trust.
Budget – File this under “I wish I knew then what I know now”. Make sure you have enough working capital or access to it before you jump in. You need money to sustain you professionally AND personally while you build your business. Watch that bottom line and your cash flow (the life-blood of every small business) and always know where you stand financially
Know Your Strengths – This is one area where I believe I have learned to excel. I know my strengths and play to them. More importantly I know my weaknesses and hire and outsource those weaknesses to people who are strong in those areas. Focus your time and effort on areas that will move your business forward.
“Dream big dreams, work hard, and expect great things to happen.”
My Biggest Lesson to Date
Surround Yourself with Smart People Invested in your Dream
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I would argue you could say the same about building a small business. It takes many talented people to build a successful company. This milestone belongs to my staff and franchisees as much as it belongs to me, probably even more so. I am fortunate enough to get to lead this organization, but I know without a doubt that it would not be the success it is today without that team. “
Just Between Friends is actively seeking franchisees throughout the U.S. and Canada. Click here for more information on joining the JBF team.