Following the IFA Convention, we officially set off on the Open for Opportunity road show — starting with an incredible event in Miami, focused on workforce development and diversity, equity, and inclusion in South Florida hosted by Restaurant Brands International. What follows is a detailed recap of how the International Franchise Association and our members helped decisionmakers and opinion leaders understand firsthand the value and opportunity of franchising. I hope all of our members will consider getting involved in Open for Opportunity.
Open for Opportunity is a broad-based reputation campaign for franchising. It is designed to benefit us all—every franchise format in every community—as we tell the story of the American Dream achieved through franchising. Our local events are designed to ignite the spark of understanding in a way that empowers opinion leaders to promote our business format.
At the culminating event of the Miami roadshow, I saw firsthand how that spark can catch fire. It happened through the story of Elena Dolinski. After I led an hour-long conversation hosted by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce about the positive impacts of franchising on people and communities alongside Au Bon Pain President Ericka Garza, CareerSource South Florida Executive Director Rick Beasley and local BrightStar Care franchise owner Sonia Castillejos Montes, Elena stood up and took the microphone. Ericka Garza had just offered closing remarks about the importance of making proactive investments in multicultural communities sharing that someone had taken a chance on her and that it was incumbent on her to pay it forward. It was as if Elena was in a house of worship bearing witness. In that moment, she felt called to speak:
Thirty-six years ago, Elena started her career as a team member at McDonald’s in Caracas, Venezuela. Over time, she worked her way up and had the opportunity to own McDonald’s franchises in her home country. As the economic situation changed in Venezuela, Elena saw an opportunity to exit the territory and seek a new opportunity in South Florida. Upon her arrival to the United States and because of her experience in the McDonald’s system, someone took a chance on her and helped her become a McDonald’s franchise owner in South Florida. Elena has always been grateful for the gift of opportunity—for the gift of local business ownership, and she attributes all her success to the chance she was given to be an entry level team member at McDonald’s.
In that moment, full of gratitude, Elena produced from her purse a daily reminder she carries with her everywhere she goes. For 36 years, she has carried her original McDonald’s name tag to remind her of HER opportunity in franchising and how that job led to a career that changed the course of her life. I assure you none of this was planned. Elena’s extemporaneous testimony brought the room to tears and truly embodies how we all benefit when we share the value of franchising under the mantel of Open for Opportunity.
Underpinned by data, Open for Opportunity highlights the value of franchising through the eyes and stories of franchise business owners like Elena in the areas of workforce development, community and veteran engagement, and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Over the next two days in Miami, we hosted a series of events that engaged three members of congress, Burger King U.S. and Canada President Tom Curtis, Au Bon Pain President Ericka Garza, the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Leadership, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce membership, leaders from institutions of higher learning that serve multicultural communities, more than 20 local IFA members and countless others in Open for Opportunity.
Open for Opportunity events ranged from an executive roundtable discussion hosted by Restaurant Brands International and IFA Board Member Steve Danon; a diversity-focused influencer dinner with regional leaders; back-of-house tours with Members of Congress, Burger King franchise owner Marianela Aran and McDonald’s franchise owner Anthony Greenwood; and, a luncheon and panel discussion with the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce where more than 120 local business leaders learned that franchising is Open for Opportunity and saw that opportunity in action through the story of Elena Dolinski.
The conversation was lively at the Restaurant Brands International-hosted executive roundtable where Burger King U.S. and Canada President Tom Curtis set the table by talking about the upward mobility in franchising. He shared that “There is no better place to create the American dream than within franchising.” The opportunity is to build a culture in which people see franchising as a viable career path, not just a job. FASTSIGNS Franchisee Alberto Reyes was in firm agreement. He shared: “When I came here from Venezuela, I didn’t know anything about franchising. Now as a franchise owner, I tell all my team members that they can grow within my franchise business. It’s a proven concept and you can make a career out of it.” And, on growing that culture and mindset, PuroClean President and COO Steve White remarked, “We go to really good people in our business and ask ‘who do you know that could be part of the team?’ They identify great folks, and it builds our internal culture.” It also didn’t hurt that after the roundtable, the group toured the Popeyes test kitchen and met the chef that invented their chicken sandwich recipe.
The back-of-house tours afforded IFA staff and local franchise owners the opportunity to educate Members of Congress and their staff on franchise ownership, the benefits of the Paycheck Protection Program and challenges with the supply chain and labor market. First, Burger King franchise owner Marianela Aran met with representatives from the office of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) office, and later McDonald’s franchise owner Anthony Greenwood met with representatives from the office of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-24). Later in the day at the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce discussion, I had the opportunity on stage to discuss the value of franchising with Representative Carlos Gimenez (FL-26). He is a true advocate for local business owners and acknowledged that franchising is the American dream. As a humors aside, when asked what franchise he would take with him to a deserted island, he deftly responded, “a whole mall.”
The IFA team will make ten more stops like this on the Open for Opportunity Road Show over the course of 2022. We will be in Atlanta at the end of the month, in Dallas and Denver during the first week of April and in other communities across the country throughout the remainder of the year.
This event was a resounding success because of the engagement of our members. IFA can develop the plan and deliver the data and messaging, but Open for Opportunity doesn’t come to life without our members. There’s no support or offer that’s too small. What matters is your desire to show how your brand, and franchising, is Open for Opportunity.