Tarji Carter, Founder and President of The Franchise Player.
The Franchise Player was created to increase franchise ownership and wealth across the African American community. Their goal is to provide a clear path to ownership for aspiring franchisees with franchise brands committed to fostering inclusive and diverse environments and providing a sense of belonging.
With more than a decade of experience in franchise sales and development, she has helped hundreds of small business operators realize their dream of owning a franchise while expanding the footprint of some of the world’s most delicious brands: including Cinnabon, Carvel, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin, Wingstop, Edible Arrangements, Fuddruckers, Bojangles’, and more. Her focus is pushing for Black entrepreneurs to operate high-performing restaurants, while helping companies grow their brands and build wealth in the Black community.
Connect with Tarji on LinkedIn.
- The Franchise Player
- Franchise experience
- Work experiences with Cinnabon, Carvel, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin, Wingstop, Edible Arrangements, Fuddruckers, Bojangles’,etc.
- Resources she provides to aspiring franchisees and business owners
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:25] Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor on pay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio, we have Tarji Carter, the franchise player. Welcome.
Tarji Carter: [00:00:45] Welcome. Thank you so much for having me, Lee. I appreciate.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:48] It. Well, I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about the franchise player, how you serving folks?
Tarji Carter: [00:00:55] So the franchise player was created out of a need. I’ve spent the past decade and a half selling franchises for some of the world’s most delicious brands. And I noticed that there was there was a huge disparity in the amount of African Americans who were franchise owners. And so throughout my career, I just really noted it was just something that stood out to me throughout the years. And I realized that it’s just a matter of bringing information, education and resources to the community so that they can be able to break down the myths versus realities and really create an achievable plan to prepare for franchise ownership.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:35] So what attracted you to working with franchises early in your career?
Tarji Carter: [00:01:40] It’s kind of a fluke how it happened. I actually was working in the hotel industry and I happened to meet the then president of Cinnabon Corporation, and before you knew it, I was on the team as a sales manager for the Carvel ice Cream brand and within eight months was promoted to director over Cinnabon and Carvel for the entire country. And that’s really how my career in franchising took off. So I, as a kid growing up in the inner city of Boston, I knew nothing about franchising. I had never even uttered the word franchise before in my life, and then was just really kind of thrust into it. And it’s been my passion ever since.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:26] Now, when you were working with the franchise or your view of the business is different, I would imagine, than somebody that’s an aspiring franchisee. Can you explain maybe some of the opportunities that that budding entrepreneur, that person who has that itch to become an entrepreneur would benefit from learning more about franchising, where, you know, there’s a playbook for success for franchisees.
Tarji Carter: [00:02:52] There is a playbook, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the front end. And the preparation piece is really, I think, where a lot of folks don’t really give it as much effort as as they probably should before they sign on the dotted line. And I think the due diligence piece is also another area that most individuals don’t really take the time to to to really dig into. So I think just really having an opportunity to prepare before you inquire with a brand really helps you to get off to a great start. And and so that’s what the franchise player does. We, we prepare individuals for for that application process. They we inform them on what to what to expect, how to be ready when when it’s time to apply and some of the nuances that are involved to achieving an approval by a brand. Right. They award franchises and they award them based on a number of different criteria and every brand’s going to be different. And so someone who’s green to franchising or is just looking to pivot in in a career move or looking to add an additional revenue stream, it’s not that it’s hard, but it really does take some some some effort on the front end to ensure that you’re really vetting out the brand, the opportunity, and then whether or not franchising is a good fit.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:26] Now, it’s interesting because franchising, they’re very proud. I hosted for many years a show called Franchise Marketing Radio where I got to interview lots and lots of franchisors and to a to a franchise. They probably each of them you probably know more than me, but probably each of them have some program for veterans and they’re very proud of a veterans program, but they don’t necessarily also have a program to help underserved community members get franchises. Is this where you come in and you’re trying to fill that niche?
Tarji Carter: [00:05:03] This is exactly where I come in. So I work with a number of brands currently who are devoted and dedicated to improving the diversity within the franchisee pool. And so I’m able to work with different brands. We come to an agreement in terms of incentives. So in some cases it’s a reduction in franchise fees or royalty rates. In other cases, it’s a it’s a commitment to additional support from an operation standpoint. And so every brand is different. Every brand has something different to offer. But the franchise brands and franchisors that I work with are really dedicated to to the cause, and they understand that there is a need to really extend themselves in a way that hasn’t been extended before. And so, yes, that’s exactly where we come in.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:57] Now, are you finding that franchisors are like saying, Oh my God, this fantastic. Where have you been? We’ve been looking for somebody like you to help kind of be that bridge to help us enter that market because it is a win win situation. You’re helping them get franchisees, which is a hard thing to do.
Tarji Carter: [00:06:14] And yeah, I think they’ve been very receptive and it’s not just finding the franchisee. So the candidates that I work with, I don’t refer them to a brand unless I know they meet the criteria. So I might work with an individual today who’s not ready, but in six months or a year he could be ready. So now I can deliver this candidate to the brand with a bow, meaning their person is not going to have to work as hard or jump through as many hoops. And once that candidate enters their sales funnel, it’s a shorter sales cycle for them. And so they’ve been very receptive to that. It’s really kind of an I don’t want to say it’s an untapped market, but there’s definitely a lot of potential with what I’m doing in the candidates that come through the program.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:04] Now, are you finding the candidates open to the idea of working for a brand like the ones you mentioned, you know, Carvel or Duncan or one of those kind of. Is that meet their criteria of how they envision themselves as a business owner?
Tarji Carter: [00:07:23] You know, there’s some hard conversations that that that take place. And the hardest of them all is, you know, it doesn’t just appear right. There are some turnkey opportunities, but even with those, there’s still some work that has to be done. There’s a level of commitment that has to be present. And so once we have those conversations, in some cases, some folks come ready, they’re like, Listen, I know what it is. Let’s do it. Let’s just let’s go ahead and get started. But, you know, it’s a matter of I believe the franchise player is really a safe space for people to come and kind of dip their toe in the water and see if franchising is truly an opportunity. So we have those real life tough conversations and sometimes it works out where they’re ready to move forward. And sometimes it’s it’s a matter of, you know what, this isn’t a good fit for me because I’m really a true entrepreneur. I want to do things in my own way. I want to make my own rules kind of thing. And so, you know, just a really again, going back to separating the myths from the realities as it relates to the business model.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:29] And that’s one of the realities of the business model, right? Like a franchise is a kind of baked situation. They have rules. You know, you can’t be grilling your burgers at McDonald’s because you think it tastes better. Like there are certain ways that we do things at a given brand.
Tarji Carter: [00:08:47] Absolutely. And that’s what you’re buying into. You’re buying into the process. The systems. Typically, it’s a battle tested approach to that particular industry. Right. And so you’re buying into the experience. You’re benefiting from the mistakes that the brand has made and you’re able to basically reap the benefits of it. And so when you explain it, you know, and I can I can take the time to explain it because I’m not working for a brand. I’m not the clock isn’t ticking for me. Typically, most brands, when you’re working for Brand as a franchise sales person, you know, there’s a there’s a certain window, right? You need to have this deal closed within a certain amount of time. So the franchise salespersons, hand hands are kind of tied. They don’t have as much time that I have to prepare the candidate. They’re really expecting the candidate to come already prepared and knowing that they want to move forward and make the decision to become a franchisee again, should they should they be approved by the brand?
Lee Kantor: [00:09:47] And again, that’s one of the trade offs of a franchise model, is that they have systems and they have a methodology on how they do what they do. So if you don’t fit cleanly into it, they’re not usually they’re not the people who color outside the lines very often.
Tarji Carter: [00:10:04] That is correct. And sometimes when I work for corporate offices, some more times than not, it wasn’t one individual that met all of the criteria. Typically, it’s a group of folks, right? Someone might be their strength might be in real estate, someone else might be really good at the HR piece. And so the franchise player, we can we can work with individuals to help them build that infrastructure before they go to the brand, because the goal is ultimately to get them approved so that they can become a franchisee and start to create generational wealth.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:43] And are you a franchise broker or do you work with franchise brokers or are you something altogether different?
Tarji Carter: [00:10:50] I mean, I don’t know that any broker even likes that term, but I guess in a sense, yes, I would be a broker. So I but I work like both ends of the candle, right? So I’m working with the candidates to prepare them for the brand. I’m working with the brand to help them find the right candidates. And so it’s it’s a win win for everyone.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:10] So now in your methodology, you have something called pick your position. Can you talk about that?
Tarji Carter: [00:11:16] Absolutely. So pick your position is really just a self identified identification method. We have four different positions. The first would be in operations, someone that works in operations currently, maybe they are director of operations for a brand and they’re looking to move into an ownership position. So that’s position number one. Position number two is someone who is there in a different career altogether. But they they’re intrigued by franchising. They want to invest in some into something they’re not quite sure just yet what that might be. And so that’s the the the individual who is who is a professional but is looking to move into franchising, whether it be full time or part time, that would be position number two. Position three is the existing franchisee with another brand who’s looking to diversify, possibly even take down some larger acquisition deals. I work with brands who have pretty large opportunities for acquisition and in and I have some candidates that fit that third, that third position who I can then partner with these larger brands. And then the fourth position is someone who has a they have a concept and they want to eventually convert it into a franchise. So I, you know, all things franchisee, I don’t know everything about franchising, but I know enough to have a really strong team around me that can help with different aspects in different disciplines within the process.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:56] And something that I’m sure you found was while working inside that world, the insider world of the franchise, or you were seeing a lot of folks, franchisees, especially attaining a lot of wealth, that generation, generational wealth you were talking about. And you want to, you know, open that opportunity up to folks that maybe not necessarily even thought of that path.
Tarji Carter: [00:13:20] Yeah, they may not have thought of it or the opportunity was just never presented. Right. So, you know, we’re not talking about folks who don’t have a solid professional background. And, you know, these folks are just looking for new and new, new, newer ways to create that wealth. And so, yeah, we definitely want to make sure that we’re providing those opportunities to them and and then making sure that the brands are committed to the to the cause of what we’re what we’re doing, which is really franchising with integrity. Right? We think everyone deserves an opportunity. There’s enough to go around for everyone. And you know, we want to work with brands that that want to figure out how do we get to a yes with your candidate. Right. Something may or may not be off, right? There may be a group that I work with that that’s ready to just kind of hit the ground running. But what I found a lot of times in not just with the minority groups, but just in general, when when I would work with different different individuals or groups, I noticed that most folks who work in operations, right, they’re dedicating their lives to the work that they do.
Tarji Carter: [00:14:35] And so oftentimes they’re they’re away. They’re on the road a lot. They’re really focused on work. So in most cases and I might be speculating a little, but there’s usually some sort of a ding on the credit or maybe there’s a they might not have the financial wherewithal to enter into this opportunity on their own. And typically there’s an explanation for that. And if we can have that conversation, if the brand allows us to dig a little bit deeper versus saying, hey, you don’t meet this criteria here, so we have to decline you if they’re willing to have a conversation, because sometimes it’s a matter of, you know, maybe there was a divorce. Right. And we know how that can turn out. Right? Usually people take a hit on their finances, their credit. You know, it’s not a fun situation in some of the brands that I work with are willing to have those conversations, conversations and not just decline someone because this one particular metric wasn’t met.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:32] Right. Which could just be a function of timing.
Tarji Carter: [00:15:35] Absolutely. It happens more, more times than people even. And this is a conversation no one really talks about. And when I was working for different corporations, I would bring this up in meetings and I would notice like a light bulb would go off. Like most people don’t even think about it. Like life is happening for everyone. You know, individuals are not just numbers in words on a piece of paper. There’s a human being behind that, that the computer, that application. And if we can figure out how we get to a yes, I think it opens up a world of opportunity for everyone.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:09] So now what is it like been for you going this entrepreneurial route, you know, outside the protective coating of the franchise of a franchise or a larger corporation?
Tarji Carter: [00:16:23] I think it’s been great for me because I’ve worked for a lot of different brands. You know, some folks have spent their whole career at one brand and that’s all they know. I’ve worked for over ten brands in 15 years, and that might seem like a lot to everyone, to some folks, and it is a lot. However, I’ve gained experience from all these different brands that I now have that no one else has, right? No one no one’s walked in my in my shoes down that path of all of these different brands. And so I think working independently allows me to tap into everything that I’ve learned and and apply it in different ways. And I’ve met so many great people and I’ve been able to just kind of garner so many different resources that I’m I think I’m better utilized in this in this capacity versus being kind of captive with just one brand at a time. So I’m able to have relationships with many different brands and take the time, like I said earlier, with the candidates to figure out what’s the best opportunity. So maybe one candidate is is more qualified for something that is is is like maybe a snack brand or someone else might be want something or be a better fit for a pet services concept. Right? So I get that I have the ability and the flexibility to really. Feet in the dirt, get in the mud with the candidates and really figure this thing out. How do we make this fit for you?
Lee Kantor: [00:17:58] And that’s an important thing. You brought up that a lot of people think of franchising. And the first thing that comes to their mind are these food franchises. But there are franchises in pretty much every industry niche that you can imagine, and it’s just a matter of matching up the the person with the right fit.
Tarji Carter: [00:18:16] Absolutely. It’s almost like 300 different industries. Right. And so the different there are different industries, there are different price points, investment, investment points. And and it’s not one size fits. All right? You have to really dig into what is this individual bring to the table, what are their passions, what is their financial wherewithal? Do they have a team that they can put together that again, back to the initial what we discussed earlier in the conversation, you know, who on their team can handle which disciplines within their within their infrastructure. And so I think it just really opens up a lot of opportunity.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:59] So what do you need more of? How can we help you? Do you need more relationships with franchisors? Do you need more folks to raise their hand and say, Hey, I’m open to this, I want to learn more about franchising? How can we help you?
Tarji Carter: [00:19:11] Thank you for asking. I really appreciate that question. Yes, I mean, all of the above, right? We want to work with brands that that recognize that there is a need for some change. Right. We want to work with brands that say, listen, we we’re starting from ground zero. We know we haven’t done a great job of bringing in diverse candidates. And we recognize that. And you know what? We want to make a commitment to do better. Those are the brands that we want to work with because we think about it. You know, you have to start from somewhere, right. And some some just people in general, just our human nature is we don’t want to admit where we fell short. Right. And no blame here. We don’t want to sit here and point fingers or anything of that nature. It’s a matter of partnering with the brands that get it and want to grow and do better. And then also tap into this, this, this, this, this pool of candidates that they may not have considered before. So, yes, we would love to work with with brands that that that have this as a priority. Right. We don’t want to work with brands that where it’s just kind of a pie in the sky idea. We want to help bridge that gap. And so if there are brands out there that want to partner with what we’re doing here, we would love to talk to them.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:34] So if they want to learn more, what’s the website? What’s the best way to connect with you or somebody on the team?
Tarji Carter: [00:20:40] Absolutely. So the best way to connect is to email me info at the franchise player or visit the website, which is the franchise player dot com.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:52] Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all the momentum and you’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Tarji Carter: [00:20:58] Well, thank you so much. And thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:01] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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