Multi-Unit Franchisee Magazine Issue IV, 2016 - Page 30

D OM I N A T O R S the young ladies grow and become leaders. Someday they will own their own companies and I couldn’t be more proud to have had some type of influence on that path,” she says. As a mentor, she shares what she’s learned as an entrepreneur and business owner. For example, she says, “Being smart and capable is a plus in business, but it’s even better when one empowers and trains others who are equally capable.” And, “The best days of a business leader come when one actually practices the highly touted commitment to serve the company and its team members.” Her strong beliefs about the virtues and values of being a small-business owner and franchisee led her in September 2015 to testify before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about her concerns with the NLRB’s redefinition of joint employer. She also led a press conference of small-business owners who spoke to members of Congress on Capitol Hill on issues facing their businesses during the annual FAN meeting in Washington, D.C. Today she remains focused on advocacy—and on perfecting her bakeries and continuing to grow her company. “I love our product—it’s like Starbucks for cake. They make coffee, which is easy to make at home. But because they do it well and consistently and have a presence, people want to go there for the experience,” she says. “It’s the same with our bundt cakes. We do one product and we do it well over and over again. That’s why we’re able to be successful even in healthconscious San Diego.” Knowing her demographic and the role the cakes (many topped with thick cream-cheese icing) play in people’s lives has been integral to Fortin’s success. “I love talking to people and hearing how much the cakes have meant to them,” she says. “They tell me how our cakes have been used to brighten people’s days, to say thank-you, or to celebrate wedding or baby showers. I also clued in early to how important the cakes are as a community relations tool and a way to give back.” She regularly donates proceeds to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego and to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Also key in her company’s success has been the creation of the right company culture, says Fortin, daughter of a clergyman and one of four sisters. “We’ve built a culture that’s not just about teamwork, but like a family environment. I recently interviewed someone for a job who was clearly overqualified. I asked him why he wanted to work here and he said, ‘Because my wife works here and I know how great the company culture is.’ That’s important to people. They like us and feel comfortable and know that we have their best interests at heart.” When Fortin looks ahead, she sees a time when she might run for Congress or another elective office. But whether it’s baking cakes or passing laws, for Fortin it’s still all about people. “I’m not in the cake business,” she says. “I’m in the people business.” BOTTOM LINE Annual revenue: $8-plus million. 2016 goals: For each bakery to exceed $1 million in sales; three already are. Growth meter: How do you measure your growth? We compare sales year over year, of course, and also more specific measurable points to see if we are trending in the right direction, such as percentage of retail sales, addons, average ticket, etc. Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? Definitely, 5 years from now, I’ll be staying with my brand and growing. I love to grow, whether by owning my own units or partnering and building bakeries in different parts of the country. I also enjoy advising and coaching. In 10 years, I could see myself shifting to politics and advocacy, speaking on behalf of small-business owners, which seems to be a natural fit for me. How is the economy in your region affecting you, your employees, your customers? California is a very tough state and the costs of doing business continue to rise. We are trying not to raise prices, but it is difficult to maintain the quality we need and post strong financials. With the steady minimum wage increases, we are becoming more selective in our hiring, among other initiatives to attempt to control costs. Are you experiencing economic growth in your market? Absolutely. I am fortunate enough to be part of a successful, sought-after brand, and the growth overall has been remarkable. How do changes in the economy affect the way you do business? More than the economy per se, which hasn’t greatly affected us yet, we have adapted over the years to more regulations in California, which in turn affect the economy. We have a fully developed HR department, even though we are relatively small. We are very mindful of labor costs and we work on our efficiencies constantly, maybe more so than someone in another state. 28 How do you forecast for your business? We take historical sales data, growth trends, upcoming offers, seasonality, and we set weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly benchmarks. What are the best sources for capital expansion? I like to keep my cash flowing through my business. If I can get a low-interest loan, that’s how I’ve done it. Experience with private equity, local banks, national banks, other institutions? Why/why not? I work with a local bank out of Las Vegas that has a relationship with Nothing Bundt Cakes. We have also had luck with SBA loans, which are tough administratively, but the rates are relatively low. What are you doing to take care of your employees? We work on this constantly. We offered healthcare well before Obamacare was on the horizon, in order to keep our talent. We try our best to fit a person’s skill level with the correct position, and we’re willing to move them around with extra training so they can master new positions. We offer an expansive bonus program, a retail bonus program, and a referral fee program. If an A team member brings in another A team member, they get $200. If anyone on the team scores 100 percent on mystery shops or any type of review, they get $100. How are you handling rising employee costs (payroll, minimum wage, healthcare, etc