“I look for franchisees
who are coachable. I don’t
want robots or puppets, but
I have to work with people
who have their egos in
their hip pocket and are
willing to learn.”
find out what that meant for me.”
After this epiphany, he determined exactly
what he wanted out of the next phase of his
work life. At the top of his list were “no more
travel” and “more time away from work,” as
well as a more flexible schedule.
With these criteria in mind, he compared
starting an independent business with buying
a franchise. While researching franchises he
discovered Fetch! Pet Care (www.fetchpetcare.
com), a pet-sitting and dog-walking franchise
that serves more than 1,200 cities nationally.
He says he liked the company business
model and was confident about the company’s financial standing and its ability to handle
growth. Best of all, the work was a great match
because, while he was in high school and college, he had worked with pets, first as a veter-
inarian’s assistant and later in pet hotels. His
experience with and love for animals made
Fetch! Pet Care an appealing choice.
“Starting a business from scratch is so
much work. I feel like the poster child for successful franchising, but I spent lots of time
planning for this. I had to financially prepare
myself, which meant wiping out my debt and
saving money, not just for the franchise but
operating expenses as well,” says Maritzen.
After three very difficult years of trying to
make their franchises work, the Buxtons have
put their businesses up for sale and taken jobs.
They say they may even lose their home in the
aftermath of their business venture.
“My husband’s desire to help others become healthy was the force behind us going
into business, but there were plenty of red
flags with the franchise; we just didn’t see them,
or we didn’t want to see them,” Edna says.
“The franchise we bought into was
brand-new, with no track record to speak of,”
she explains. “And we were inexperienced at
running a business. Before we bought the
franchise, we visited a few locations. No one
would say how many members they had, and
no one was really willing to give much information. Also, nearly everyone working in
the franchise corporate office was
young and inexperienced.
“Initially, my husband kept
his job and I ran the business.
Not long after we opened the first
franchise, my parents moved in
with us to help with the kids. We
made a lot of sacrifices to try to
make our business work.”
The Buxtons say that the franchise took royalty fees and marketing
fees but did very little marketing. “I
believe they used the money for their
own needs locally, and didn’t do much
for their franchisees nationally,” says
Edna. “They made promises that were
not kept and eventually ended up just
letting all their franchisees out of their
contracts, with all the money that we
all spent on this company gone. No
marketing, no help.”
Edna is now working as an office
coordinator for an insurance broker
and studying for a real estate license, while
her husband is working in sales. The ripple
effect of their franchise experience has yet to
be seen because they don’t know what is going
to happen. Edna says, “The landlord could sue
us [and] file a lien against our house, on
which we already have a second mortgage we
used to try to keep the business open.”
PATRICIA BARRY LEVY
What cango wrong?
Edna and Brent Buxton, Costco members in Roswell, Georgia, have a very different
franchising story to tell. They followed a passion for health and fitness into buying two
fitness franchises. As a result, they’re in the
midst of a financial nightmare.
Expanding business horizons
On the other side of the franchising equation, independent business owners often consider franchising as a way to step back from
the daily operation of their ventures and focus
“It’s hard to bake bread and sell bread at
the same time,” says Rick Sikorski, founder of