From Nurse to OBC Chicken & Meat Franchisee
Your name: Susan Maake
Franchise name: OBC Chicken & Meat
Location of franchise: Phalaborwa – a store in the township of Namagale, another in the city centre.
1. Why did you go down the franchise route?
After spending close to 25 years as a nurse working for the Department of Health, I wanted a change in career and the chance to pursue my dream of owning my own business. But I knew I needed to choose the right business to invest my hard-earned savings and pension into – which I would be putting into my future. Franchising struck me as the perfect option as I did not have to start from scratch and had not only a good, established brand but the business and administration support from my franchisor that would help me every step of the way.
2. Why did you choose your franchise?
In our community, especially in the north & north-west provinces, ask any commuter at a taxi rank or in the city centre where they shop and they will all answer in chorus, ‘OBC – Ekaya Lenkukhu!’ I was always impressed by their bright and clean retail stores and how well they were run. They play a big part in township community life, offering a wide range of quality and affordable products. The establishment of a new OBC almost always means an improvement of trading standards and quality of life for the people it serves – that was very important to me. From the moment I met the OBC team I knew it was a good fit and that I was going to be not only their first black female franchisee but the best one at that!
3. What did you do before taking up a franchise?
I come from the school of hard knocks in life, from poverty where I had to walk 7km barefoot to school and know what it’s like to go to bed on an empty stomach! At a young age I started selling fruit and vegetables to help my unemployed mother and disabled father and to look after my siblings. This taught me determination and I trained as a computer operator and then changed careers to become a nurse at the age of 33. During 17 years of nursing, the urge to be entrepreneurial never left me and spurred me on to realise my dream to own my own business.
4. How did you raise the finance?
I used my pension and retirement package to raise the deposit to satisfy the requirements of a commercial loan to fund my first OBC in the township of Namagale in Phalaborwa. For my second store in the city centre I am being funded by the NEF as a PDI. OBC Head Office facilitated the loan, doing all the paperwork and negotiations which has been fantastic – a lot easier than the first time around!
5. What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
One of the big attractions of buying into a franchise like OBC was that I did not have to start from scratch and had not only a good, established brand but they gave me business and administration support right from the word go and at every step of the way. OBC offered a full turnkey project which included training at a current store and in-store training for my staff both prior to and after opening until staff were able to meet the required standards of the franchise. This included everything from back-of-store operations to front-of-store merchandising including administration systems that showed how cash and stock always has to balance. I commend OBC for continuing their in-store support until I was comfortable to be left on my own. I receive monthly visits from them and enjoy sharing my successes and know I can always rely on them if I have challenges.
6. What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I strongly believe in working side-by-side with my staff and being the ‘face’ of the business so my involvement with the business is very hands-on. I am the one who opens the store every day and who controls everything from stock-ordering, cash control and quality checks. My staff is family to me and I believe in working as a team, motivating them and bringing out the best in them. Interacting with customers also takes up a large part of my day – whether it’s greeting them, finding out what their needs are and, in the same spirit as my role as a pastor, helping those less fortunate wherever possible.
7. What challenges have you faced?
Starting a business is in itself a challenge and requires great strength and perseverance. Financing and cash flow are perhaps the biggest challenges – from finding the funds to start the first store and now my second store to balancing the cash flow of the business. Taking the leap to being a multi-store owner is also a challenge as I will now have to divide my time and energies between two stores whilst keeping the level of enthusiasm and passion going for both stores. Fortunately, OBC head office, with their efficient back-up and controls in so many areas of the business, I will able to focus on growing my business and servicing my customers.
8. Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
When I put my faith in something I make sure I give 100 percent and when I became a franchisee, I came armed with determination, passion and my church’s blessing! As a pastor for the Christian Faith Assembly, I believe in making a difference not only in my own life but in the lives of others. Although I have always helped others, even when I had nothing, becoming a successful businesswoman has allowed me to do even more for my community. I am proud to now be responsible for many families being able to put food on their tables every day and blessed and honoured to be able to help my community in any way I can!
9. What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
Buying the OBC franchise was the best decision I ever made and I highly recommend it. Buying a franchise is the best way to go into business for yourself, but not by yourself but you also need to have the stamina and commitment to make the business work. You have to be hands-on in the business, get to know your customers and be prepared to put in the hard work. Many people want to own that big fast food brand or supermarket but believe that, by virtue of it being a franchise, they will make loads of money without too much effort. That is setting you up for failure. Franchising is a two-way street with huge responsibilities from both sides: using the franchisors support mechanisms to help run your business on the one hand but also putting in the effort to make your business successful. I pride myself in being the face of the business, interacting with my customers, finding out what they want and relaying that back to the OBC Head Office.
10. What are your plans for the future?
As an established businesswoman and a pastor in my church, I realise I can be a role model to many in my community – and show, by my example of consistently working hard and inspiring my teams, my family and through my church, that dreams can be achieved, no matter what your background. I hope to continue making a difference in the community through the opportunities and work I create through my businesses and have ambitious plans to build a crèche and a mission school.