What is it like to be the first American franchisee of a successful international franchise? This Miami entrepreneur finds out.

How does an international brand enter the United States? It’s a question many franchisees ask — and for laundry service brand Mr Jeff, which was founded in Spain and has sold more than 2,000 locations globally, its entry into America came via an unlikely source: a humble aspiring franchisee named Sergio Aguirre.

Courtesy of Mr Jeff

Aguirre lives in Miami and worked for years in hotels. He considered opening his own restaurant, but his ambitions changed after visiting Mexico to see friends. It was there that he learned about Mr Jeff. He asked if the company was expanding to the US, and at the time it wasn’t – but a few years later, in 2021, he got the call. “We’re ready if you’re ready,” a brand representative told him.

Related: How franchisees and franchisors can master their relationship

Now Aguirre’s storefront is open and he’s helping introduce Mr Jeff to America. (The brand washes its customers, with pick-up and delivery scheduled through an app.) Here he talks about what it’s like to be a pioneer, and the importance of getting in touch with customers.

How does it feel to be the first Mr Jeff franchisee in the US?

All the feelings are there. I have a big challenge, which is to try something here that doesn’t really have proof yet. The first few months were crazy and I started thinking: Why did I do this? But through the help of mentors, I know it’s going to be a year of growth. I have to take it easy and not stress myself out.

How was the beginning?

It’s important for new franchisees to know that opening a business doesn’t mean it just starts running right away. You have to be there every single day for the first year and constantly make sure you are growing. I’ve never opened anything by myself, and I’ve hit the wall a few times, but I’m like: OK, what should I do now? Because from there I am the one who has to make the decision. Some people are very afraid of it and it can be very stressful. As the first franchisee, I take in all the little details and learn. I still have a long way to go and just have to be careful not to get lost.

Related: The key to working well with franchisees

You worked in hospitality before. Has your hotel experience helped you with Mr Jeff?

At the hotel brand I worked for before, the idea was to maintain standards and quality across its 300 locations. It wasn’t a franchise, but it’s the same idea. It’s about getting to know your customers and maintaining that communication.

It is important with customer service to find out what went wrong and find out how to make it right. People like to talk and know you’re on top. Like, there’s this one woman who’s very consistent — she downloaded the app and subscribed to a plan, but she doesn’t use the app to order. She depends on me to do everything. I can’t tell her she has to use the app because yes, it would make my life easier, but sometimes it’s more important to adapt them. Finally, I offer a service.

How do you cope with the stress of this big challenge?

It’s a matter of maintaining my daily routine. One of the most important things is just having my coffee, or having a good lunch and enjoying the little moments to keep thinking and keep my motivation up. If you’re stressed from morning to night, you can’t sleep and then you can’t rest. And if you don’t rest, you can’t perform well the next day. Even if a huge storm is coming, just keep your cool and decide on a strategy.

Related: When This Couple Opened a MassageLuxe in an Underserved Black Community, They Realized Their Business Was About Self-Care in More Ways Than One

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