Multi-unit franchise co-owner shares his journey from a corporate layoff to the ice cream counter
A self-described former “suit and tie guy,” Numaan Shah worked for three years in corporate America in the business and finance sector. Because of the devastating recession a decade ago, Shah lost his job in 2009 and was unemployed for about a year.
That’s when he and his brother-in-law started looking at different opportunities. They had a checklist for the ideal business to buy: an existing business that was family-oriented with relatable, premium products and a great potential for growth.
When they discovered a Cold Stone Creamery® franchise for sale in Maryland, only about 35 minutes from home, they knew that was the business for them.
Today, Shah is a multi-unit co-owner with his brother-in-law. He took a few minutes with us to discuss how he’s grown his business, what he wants potential franchisees to know, and what he loves most about Cold Stone Creamery.
Tell us about your Cold Stone Creamery franchises.
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 got 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. The most we’ve had at one time were five. Right now, we have three stores in Maryland and Virginia. We also have two in development that will hopefully be open within the next six to nine months.
What makes your Cold Stone Creamery franchise a solid business to own?
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 customers and look for ways to acquire new ones. We are active in the community and get a lot of new customers 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.
What do prospective franchisees need to know about running a Cold Stone Creamery?
It’s a great business and we love it, but they need to know that 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 stores, I always go through the front door so I can really take in what our customers see as they enter. I’m looking at the staff. Are they acknowledging customers 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 I go in.
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 that 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 core customers’ experience.
What does Cold Stone do as a company to help you succeed?
They have an incredible marketing team. About every six to eight 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 make requests for creative designs and mock-ups and then the marketing department puts items together for us. We use their beautiful artwork to print flyers and coupons. It’s nice to have premium, high-quality promotional items.
Each region has a Regional Director of Operations (RDO for short) who comes to the stores to help with training, opening new stores, and operations. My RDO always says, “I work for you,” and I know that if I have a question or problem, I can get help right away from my RDO.
That’s the great thing about being a part of a franchise system. Franchisees get corporate support, which includes marketing and the RDOs, 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 serve us.
What have your Cold Stone Creamery franchises meant to you?
They have 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 customers are there and are excited about what we have to offer.
Find out more about franchising with Cold Stone Creamery
If you are interested in opening a Cold Stone Creamery franchise in your community, we’d love to talk with you. For more details, visit the research pages on our franchise website, request a copy of our free Franchise Information Report or call us at 1-615-392-1179.