2. Charles Reed
Owner of five Schlotzsky's in Texas
Listen to your gut.
Charles Reed got his entrepreneurial kick-start in 1993 when he decided to leave his job in HR at a large oil company and buy with his wife a
sandwich shop in Plano, Texas.
Nearly 20 years later, the couple owns five Schlotzsky's, all in Texas.
"I was working for a major corporation and I was just looking for a change," Reed says. He decided on franchising; he wanted something that was local, but had opportunity for expansion.
But being your own boss comes with pros and cons. "I have a lot of responsibility," Reed says. "That being said, I do have a fair amount of opportunity to arrange my day in a way that fits the things that I am doing."
"The most important thing is it allowed me to provide appropriate jobs for people, and that's important to me," he adds.
As a minority, though, Reed acknowledges that finding capital has been a challenge. "For me the challenge has always been, where do you get the cash to grow and [to be able to] build the appropriate banking relationships -- that's always been an issue for a small business, and blacks in particular," he says.
"If you have the appropriate training, the appropriate amount of capital and the understanding of how much time and work is involved in it, then I think that the opportunity will be there," he says. "Learn as much as you can about the endeavor you are going into and recognize that whatever you think the cost is, add another 15% to 20% to it and more time. In addition, never eat your seed money, and spend a whole lot less than you make."
But probably the biggest lesson Reed has learned is to follow your instincts, even when others contradict you. "Instincts are all of your experiences and training. If it tells you contrary to what someone is trying to tell you to do -- stick by your guns and be willing go down the path that others may not," he says.
For instance, two years after Reed bought his first store, he saw an opportunity to build a location on a busy highway in Plano. At the time, it didn't have much else going on around it. Schlotzsky's corporate didn't think the site he had chosen would be very successful. Reed went ahead with the store opening anyway. Today, he says, the area surrounding the location is fully developed, with more than 150,000 cars that pass by on a daily basis. And his Schlotzsky's gets to reap those customer benefits.
"I'm local and I believe I have better local knowledge," he says. "I did it anyway and it did fine."