One time “suit and tie guy” finds his niche as a multi-unit owner with Cold Stone Creamery
When he lost his job in a corporate layoff, Numaan Shah wasn’t sure what was next. One thing he did know, though: it was time to look at something different. So he and his brother-in-law began looking at franchise opportunities and settled on Cold Stone Creamery®. Their reasoning was simple: it was family-oriented, fun, had a great product and was poised for growth.
Fast forward to a decade later, and Shah now presides over multiple franchise locations in Maryland and Virginia and couldn’t be more pleased with his decision to jump into franchising. Here he talks about what owning and operating Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop franchise locations has done for him and his goals of financial freedom and small-business ownership.
What does your Cold Stone Creamery portfolio look like?
My business partner is my sister’s husband, and so it truly is a family business. When we took over our first store it was a low-volume store, but we grew it year-over-year for several years. When we sold it, we were able to sell it for more than we bought it for. That means we created some business value, which is exciting. I love the idea that we were able to take something and improve it.
Over the years we have bought and sold several stores. Right now, we have five stores in Maryland and Virginia. We sold two stores in Pennsylvania, they were just too geographically challenging. Now we are focusing on growth in southern Maryland, where we are reinvesting the money from the Pennsylvania stores into building two new stores, which was a first for us. So now we have three stores in southern Maryland and two in Richmond, Virginia.
Over time, we may expand to additional locations. We love the brand, and now that we have owned and operated 10 locations over the years, we know when the time is right and a good situation comes up we can be ready.
Why has Cold Stone Creamery been a good business to own?
Cold Stone has strong brand power! People recognize the brand, and they love the products so much that they’re willing to stand in line for them. We focus on serving our existing guests and look for ways to acquire new ones. We are active in the community and get a lot of new guests through our involvement and connections outside our store. I personally love ice cream and Cold Stone’s ice cream, specifically, so it’s easy to get excited about our work and draw new people in.
Something else that has kept us engaged is the strength of our marketing and operational support. You get a model to follow, and as a new business owner that was very important for me. We have the opportunity to scale up and down; corporate is not going to come in and run your stores, but they give us guidance as we look to grow, or contract, or sell, or buy, or open a new location. It’s our responsibility to run a good store and drive sales, but they are very focused on the support we need to help with brand awareness and so much more.
Let’s talk more about marketing; what does that look like?
Kahala Brands has an incredible marketing team. About every 10 weeks, we have new promotions that come out company-wide. There’s one consistent message and one consistent promotion in every Cold Stone in the country. So if they promote it on social media or put it on TV, it’s the same promotional material and similar offers. They do a good job creating buzz about new promotions and limited-time-offer products.
As we do local marketing, we work with the marketing team on strategy and then submit requests for custom creative which is executed by the in-house design team. We use their beautiful artwork to print flyers and coupons. It’s nice to have premium, high-quality marketing materials.
That’s the great thing about being a part of a franchise system. Franchisees get corporate support, at no out-of-pocket cost to us. Our brand’s ice cream sales pay royalties to the company, which pays for the corporate staff, who are equally as invested in the success of the owners.
Who makes a good Cold Stone Creamery owner?
It’s a great business and we love it, but they need to know it’s not always easy and it’s not guaranteed. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type store, like a gas station. Our secret sauce is being active and involved owner-operators. We’re active in the management every day. Literally — every day.
We are always focused on our core customers and their experiences. Whenever I come into my store, I always go through the front door so I can really take in what our guests see as they enter. I’m looking at the staff. Are they acknowledging guests immediately? Are the counters clean? What’s the atmosphere like? I really always try and take it in with a fresh pair of eyes every time.
You can’t manage a store very well if you’re off-site or sitting in the back. We are very involved in our businesses and don’t want to be absentee or remote owners. I think for someone to make this work, they need to be hands-on, passionate about community involvement and hard-working problem solvers who are always focused on their guests’ experience.
What has being a Cold Stone Creamery franchise owner meant to you?
This brand has given us the opportunity to learn, to grow as business owners and to build our lives. I went from being unemployed to now building new stores and becoming a multi-unit franchise owner. I believe in the staying power of this brand, and despite any challenges (which all businesses face), I believe the guests are there and are excited about what we have to offer.
We have a large and loyal customer base. That makes it feel even more like an extended part of our family. We are able to give them great service, and a reason to want to come in. When we train employees, we talk to them about what Cold Stone Creamery means to the community. They may come in for a new thing, or their favorite, and giving them a great product and a good experience is what we are all about.
What’s your favorite part of the business?
I would say opening new stores, but also the fact that our stores are now running themselves really well. It’s not automated, we have to be there, but we have a good and empowered staff we have put into action. They know what to do to take care of guests and run the stores well. It’s rewarding to see our success, and also to see the people we have hired being successful. It’s a great payoff.
Cold Stone Creamery franchise now has more than 1,000 stores in the United States and a presence in nearly 30 international markets. We still have optimal territory available for new franchise expansion and development. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Cold Stone Creamery is owned by parent company Kahala Brands™, one of the world’s fastest-growing franchising companies with a portfolio of 28 quick-service restaurant concepts.
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