Former Carolina Panther to speak at our ShopTalk breakfast on ‘Franchises: Picking the right one for you’

Have you considered buying into a franchise business, but you’re not sure where to start? Or perhaps you’re a new franchise owner, and you’re looking for tips on how to run a successful business – from hiring the right people, to securing funds to run your enterprise.

Then come to “Franchises: Picking the right one for you,”a breakfast event on May 20. Franchise owners and experts will discuss what’s involved in taking this route to small-business ownership – from where to begin, to startup costs, to working with a corporate parent. Ask questions and get advice from our panel of speakers.

The event is sponsored by ShopTalk, the Observer’s weekly section and website for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Speakers are successful local franchisees. They include:

• Former Carolina Panther

Everette Brown

, who opened Charlotte’s first Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchise in November. The fast-casual restaurant is located at the Metropolitan Ccenter.


Sue Gilbert

, owner of the area’s first Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise at Birkdale Village in Huntersville. Gilbert opened her store earlier this year.

The company started in Las Vegas in 1997, and Gilbert learned of the franchise last year when she lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, she told ShopTalk in March.

Gilbert heard employees praise the nearby bakery’s moist Bundt cakes with cream-cheese frosting, and whenever people bought one as a treat, “nobody would ever share them with (anyone),” Gilbert said.

“I fell in love with the brand,” Gilbert said, after purchasing hundreds for an employee gathering. She started talking to the shop owner, and later considered what it would be like to run her own business.


Ben Knight

, local FASTSIGNS franchisee with locations on South Tryon Street and in Ballantyne and Rock Hill. His South Tryon location was recently named one of the top 1 percent of franchises in sales among the companies’ more than 500 locations worldwide.

FASTSIGNS makes everything from “for sale” signs on manicured front lawns, to way-finding signs for universities and corporations, to “coming soon” wall wraps for retailers at shopping malls. Knight told ShopTalk last month that when he bought FASTSIGNS South Tryon in 2007, it was after considering more than 150 businesses, from restaurants to tourism companies.


Samuel Batt

, who opened his first TCBY franchise in 2010 and now owns 16 locations in the Charlotte market. He has opened 29 locations in all, including a mobile franchise. Executives with the frozen-yogurt giant credit Batt with pushing the company to embrace the self-serve model – a move that has reinvigorated the company and led to exponential growth.

In a Observer story last June, Batt explained how he opened the company’s self-serve location in April 2010 in south Charlotte’s Colony Place shopping center.

Within three weeks, his location was one of the top five most profitable TCBY franchises in the country.

“It was incredible,” Brian Mooney, TCBY’s director of operations for the Eastern U.S. told the Observer then.

“Of course when that happens that gets the attention of everybody in the corporate office.


Randy Mitchell

of The Entrepreneur’s Source, a company that offers business coaching and guidance in franchise options to owners and prospective business owners. Mitchell has spent 12 years working with clients on business ownership.

On his website, Mitchell describes The Entrepreneur’s Source as “a global leader in business and franchise coaching.”

“We help people build rewarding careers, take control of their lives and create financial freedom. Our unique discovery and education process empowers our clients to explore alternative career options outside of the traditional job market in franchising and business ownership.”

Cost is $20 and will include a hot breakfast, a ShopTalk travel mug for every attendee and entry into a drawing for an iPad mini. The event runs 7:30-9 a.m. in the Observer’s auditorium, on the third floor of the Charlotte Observer building at South Tryon and Stonewall streets.

Space is limited. For more information and to register, go to or call Jen Rothacker, 704-358-5081.