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Venus Williams, Shaq, and Other Star Athletes Scoring with Franchise Businesses

Grand Slam tennis pro and four-time Olympic gold medalist Venus Williams is looking to ace the field of franchising. In 2011, Williams, 33, signed a joint venture deal with Emeryville, California-based Jamba Juice to open five stores in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland area in the next two years. Williams opened her first Jamba Juice store at the Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland, and a second and third store last summer in the District’s Dupont Circle and Union Station. Williams is a long-time philanthropist and supporter of academic enrichment and sports programs for youth and adults in the D.C. community. “My partnership with Jamba Juice is an extension of my commitment to fight against obesity and to promote a healthy, active lifestyle,” says Williams, who also serves as a spokeswoman for Jamba’s Team Up for a Healthy America initiative and for the company as a whole. It was Chairman, President and CEO James D. White who was instrumental in bringing the tennis star onboard as a multi-unit area franchisee and partner in the company’s expansion into the D.C. metropolitan area. “Our entry not only brings our healthy living brand to more customers, it also contributes to the economic growth of the city by hiring local residents,” he says. Since 2008, White—one of the nation’s top African American executives—has led the charge to transform the fruit smoothie-centric and fresh juice company into a full-fledged healthy, active lifestyle brand of beverages and complementary food items. Jamba Juice boasts more than 800 locations globally, which account for sales of $450 million. Williams is a good fit as a storeowner not only because of her passion for healthy living and her love of the brand, but also because Jamba Juice has been signing up entrepreneurs who can operate at least three to five locations, either occupying stand-alone buildings or a single unit in a strip mall. In order to qualify, a potential franchisee must show a net worth of $1 million and liquid assets of $350,000 or more. The initial investment for a traditional unit is between $353,100 and $639,800, including a $25,000 franchise fee. Royalty fees are 5.5% for four or more stores. A Palm Beach Gardens, Florida resident, Williams doesn’t handle the day-to-day operations of her stores, but she does work hand in hand with Jamba Juice and store operating managers. “They have the expertise. For me as a franchise owner, there is a learning curve. I have to be open to learning not only the whole philosophy of Jamba Juice, but how the business works,” says Williams, whose entrepreneurial experience running the fashion line EleVen and the design firm V*Starr has helped her in understanding, managing, and motivating others. Franchising continues to be an integral part of the American economy with more people like Williams starting businesses with a trusted brand. Today, more than 3,500 different brands offer franchise options in the U.S. More than 725,000 franchise units operate nationwide generating about $781 billion in revenues and employing more than 8 million people. Coaching Athletes as Champion Franchisees “There is a whole squad of active and retired athletes entering the franchising arena. Among them: Jamal Mashburn, Keyshawn Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neal. Professional athletes are becoming more conscious about the longevity of their careers and are placing more efforts toward planning for a life beyond sports,” says Michael Stone, founder and executive director of the Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative. Launched in 2011, PAFI, in partnership with the International Franchise Association , helps prepare athletes for a second career in franchising by hosting an annual summit and providing educational certificate training workshops. There are also mentorship and apprenticeship programs. PAFI has charter membership and alliance partnerships with franchisors, suppliers, and organizations such as the National Basketball Retired Players Association. Some 40 PAFI charter members include such brands as Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, 7-Eleven, and Jersey Mike’s Subs. A retired NFL player, Stone saw an immediate need for resources for athletes transitioning from professional sports. The idea came to him after a meeting with Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, CEO of Manna Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky (No. 5 on the  be industrial/service companies list with $551.8 million in revenues). “I heard his story and felt it was something that could be duplicated by other athletes,” Stone says. A former NBA shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, Bridgeman bought his first five Wendy’s franchises to generate income while he planned his next career move. He turned his athletic fortitude into a fast-food empire that today boasts 165 Wendy’s and 126 Chili’s restaurants in 11 states. Stone notes that there are more than 40 active and retired athletes involved in franchising. PAFI strives to educate players about franchising opportunities once they enter the league since their income immediately stops at retirement. The biggest challenge is getting them to manage their expectations. “There are a lot of perceived quick upsides,” Stone says. “We explain that this is a franchise, you are not going to double your money in year one. You are going to grow your wealth very slowly.” PAFI also stresses to athletes the need to be actively involved in the early stages of the business. This requires finding the right people to operate the franchise. “The biggest failures happen when you don’t find the right partners and you just put people in place because they are closest to you, like family members,” Stone says. “You have to select good operating partners that have experience.”

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Venus Williams, Shaq, and Other Star Athletes Scoring with Franchise Businesses

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