Welcome friends, to the third installment of our Franchisee Spotlight! Today, the spotlight is on Angeli Valenzuela! He is our longtime franchisee of 18 years, 18 stores, and counting! He started his franchises even when he was still an operations manager of a retail chain, worked his way to early retirement, and now is one of the most prolific franchisees in Potato Corner history.
Sir Geli is the prime example that it's not impossible to start franchising even when you still have a corporate job. With proper time management, lots of grit and determination, and the right mindset, it's possible!
Why Potato Corner?
Potato Corner wasn’t exactly my conscious choice when I started exploring franchising.
All I wanted then was to be an entrepreneur and Potato Corner was the most accessible and well within my investment budget among the other brands that I considered.
Versus the other franchise chains you've tried having, what made you stick to Potato Corner?
I have tried franchising a laundry shop, siomai, pizza and dimsum. To date I am maintaining 2 pizza carts and 2 dimsum stalls along with my 18 potato corner outlets. I stuck with Potato Corner for several reasons:
FIRST: A very strong back-end support. I knew very little about running a business when I started and it really helped that the Area Supervisors were very visible and pro-active.
SECOND: Along the way, the brand was evolving and improving. I believe that when I joined Potato Corner, the brand was on a slump and it bounced back to what it is today after it focused on re-branding, product development and improvement of processes.
THIRD: Simple business format with good margin. Period.
Sir Geli at his Shopwise Alabang kiosk in September 2000 (what a throwback!)
When you started franchising, you were still a professional in the corporate world-- how did you balance your priorities in work and in your franchises?
What compounded the situation was I worked in the operations group of a retail chain which was naturally a 24-7 job.
I had to sacrifice my personal time. I was a one-man team. Weekday nights are spent for my Potato Corner tasks; weekends are devoted to visiting my outlets with an hour or two spent with my family.
When I began expanding, I assigned a supervisor to help me manage and monitor my outlets while I still kept my 9-to-5 job.
Fast forward, 16 years later. I retired at 50 years old, and set up my office with 3 supervisors and operations head to manage all 22 outlets while I explore other business opportunities outside franchising. Ironically, I get to spend more time with my family now.
Summary: Time management, and hiring and trusting the right people to do the job for you are the keys to being able to maintain balance between being an employee and employer.
Sir Geli at his Metro East kiosk in August 2001 (yet another throwback! Spudster is different here!)
What were your memorable experiences from when you were starting out your franchise?
One was when I would help out in the outlets during weekends. In doing so I realized that our service crew’s job is never easy. It made me realize how important human resources is any business.
The many hits-and-misses in running the business – customer complaints, shrinkages, and personnel issues – they are the memorable experiences that are meant to make us improve and run our business better.
And the most recent was when I represented the brand in a franchising forum. It was an incredible honor to represent the image of Potato Corner and the core values of Cinco.
What challenges you the most as a franchisee?
It is how to make each and every outlet representative and worthy of the Potato Corner brand – from the physical attributes, the processes, all the way down to the staff’s attitude. It is a work in progress.
Likewise – the challenge to turn around the performance of an ailing outlet. It compels you listen to what the numbers are saying, to dig deeper, and to be able get out of the hole. This is what entrepreneurship and what being a franchisee is all about.
Another challenge is sustaining the business so that we continue to uphold the Potato Corner brand and provide livelihood to our employees.
Sir Geli with our CEO Jose Magsaysay at the 2014 Potato Corner Franchise Conference
What is the most rewarding part about being a Potato Corner franchisee?
Having been a franchisee for the past 16 years – I witnessed the evolution of Potato Corner from what was a backyard business into an international brand. I beam with pride in bearing the Potato Corner brand alone.
Profitability comes with the territory of selling a brand that is well-recognized and with a strong back-end support. My being a Potato Corner franchisee is instrumental in my pursuit to be an entrepreneur and provided a very stable ground in my transition from being an employee into an employer.
Being able to provide livelihood to our staff, and seeing them grow and improve – prove that the success of Potato Corner rewards not just the franchisees, but their employees as well.
Sir Geli (3rd from left) receiving his loyalty award at Potato Corner's 25th Anniversary Party
What piece of advice can you give someone who wishes to franchise Potato Corner?
Come prepared. Do your assignment. Protect the brand.
The brand and the products are there – this is half of the work done, the other half is all about the franchisees’ commitment and eagerness to be Potato Corner’s brand ambassadors.
There will be rewards, but most of them will first come in the form of failures. Dedicated franchisees will see these failures as the only key to succeeding.
What do you think was the secret that you were able to become among the most prolific franchisees with the most number of stores? How do you do it?
I started with hardly any knowledge on how to run a business and with so very little interest in numbers. All I wanted was my own cart business and the bragging right that go along with it.
My first outlet was a failure and I eventually had to be relocated. The second was an opening day- wonder and took more than two years to finally deliver.
On my third – I became cautious; I learned from my mistakes and sought the assistance of my Area Supervisors. And this outlet would turn out to be my most successful outlet for 16 years and still counting.
Once you have struck the right formula and you continue to seek ways to improve, the whole thing becomes cookie cutter. Operating one outlet versus 18 would hardly make any difference.
BONUS: Sir Geli was also among our featured franchisees in our 25th anniversary commemorative video! You can check out snippets of him in this video, as well as our other exemplary franchisees as well.