Robin Rapaport has spent a lifetime being a teacher, motivator, and entrepreneur. Today she shares her story, and the lessons she’s learned over a lifetime of experience, in the hopes that it will provide valuable perspective for anyone looking to be their own boss and interested in owning a franchise.
A native Californian and single mom of three, she spent nine years running a non-profit organization, the El Dustberry Ranch. The mission was focused on offering therapeutic activities to heal rescue horses, cancer patients, youth at risk and people with special needs.
Then, unexpectedly, the economy changed and funding dried up. She was unable to make a living at it anymore.
She didn’t know what to do. The non-profit organization was such big part of her life and gave her tremendous purpose. “It was a hard time. I felt lost and depressed and I just didn’t know what to do. Then a friend of mine, who was an attorney who worked with franchise brokers, said you need to make a change. You really need to consider buying a franchise.”
Lesson #1: Work with a trusted franchise consultant
At first, Robin was not convinced that buying a franchise was the answer for her. She had a preconceived notion of what a franchise was. To her, she didn’t want to spend her time working on a “business in a box” or something generic. Coming from a background in the non-profit arena, she got a lot of her ambition from helping and being around others.
Whatever she did, it had to have purpose and meaning. Eventually, her friend convinced her to give it a chance and passed along a referral of a franchise consultant who they trusted.
When Robin first started working with the franchise consultant she was amazed at the amount of incredible concepts that were out there. The consultant had done a wonderful job at interviewing her and presenting her with concepts that really fit her skills. “Honestly, I didn’t know that working with a franchise consultant was really an option! I found great value in their expertise and recommendations.”
Lesson #2: Understand and analyze your options of owning a franchise, but always listen to your heart.
One franchise stood out over the others, though. It really resonated with her and when she read their mission statement it felt like it was something she would have written. That franchise was Tutor Doctor, a concept that focused on education, working one-to-one with people and effecting positive changes in their lives.
When Robin was introduced to the franchisor she was very impressed in how they presented and packaged themselves. To her, it felt like they understood her entrepreneurial nature. The culture was also one where she could fit well within as a franchisee. One aspect of the business she really enjoyed was the idea of being able to work from home and have more control of her schedule.
The presentation, mission, and culture all gave her the confidence needed to make her final decision. Robin was in Tutor Doctor’s 16th training group. They now have over 450+ units!
“I am fortunate enough to be able to understand myself. I know that I have to believe in something before I can be passionate about it. That’s when I make the best of my situation. Tutor Doctor in particular is a concept that works best when you lead with your heart. You can make good money with this business, but your heart and your head must be in the right place.”
I asked her if she was afraid at all about making the investment and starting up a whole new business. “Not at all. I was so motivated by the business and was blinded by my passion. Perhaps I should have had more fear, but I didn’t. I was on fire with enthusiasm and I knew that I could make it. Pedal to the metal!”
She was also not afraid of the competition. “Competition means there are customers. Tutor Doctor is so inspirational and I was confident that I’d blow it out of the water.”
Lesson 3: Starting the business and knowing when to grow
Looking back, Robin says she was a poster child for the concept right from the beginning. She would always be marketing and promoting her business wherever she went – whether that meant advertising on her car, carrying tote bags, backpacks, pens – you name it, she did it.
In her first year, Robin worked hard and managed to earn her investment back. Her commitment started to develop a reputation within the franchise and within her community.
In her second year, she had grown to a point where she had to hire an additional person, but that quickly grew to four people all working out of her home. With the amount of accounts they had acquired they had a choice: play it safe and continue working out of her home meeting their tutors and clients out at coffee shops or expand into a new building. Robin decided to take the chance and they moved into the new office.
It made the difference and year after year her business continued to grow. Every year she was invited to the franchise’s Presidents Circle, an annual celebration of the top performers. She developed several custom curricula, mentored, and grew as a businesswoman. In her final year before selling her business and retiring, she had been awarded Tutor Doctor’s top award – Franchisee of the Year.
Looking back she says that she loves her story. “Sure, running your own business has lots of ups and downs, but figuring out better and new marketing ideas, curricula, is so rewarding. I loved the CHALLENGE of being an entrepreneur.”
Lesson #4: Take advantage of the lessons learned by the group
She attributes a lot of her success to lessons she learned from her fellow Tutor Doctor franchisees and their mentoring system. “You have to plant the seeds and collaborate with your fellow zees. Put in the work and follow the system. I was fortunate because the Tutor Doctor group as a whole is very collaborative and they share and develop resources constantly. When one franchisee develops something innovative they’ll share it. Over the years this has contributed greatly to the advancements and resources available to all Tutor Doctor franchisees.”
This type of culture is right in line with Robin’s desire to be an entrepreneur and work with people. She embraced the system, and the system embraced her. She herself became a mentor and always enjoyed working with the newer franchisees and helping them to develop their business.
“In franchising you have to take advantage of the group! There is nobody out there who has professionalized tutoring as Tutor Doctor has. This franchise comes with so many amenities that no one else comes with.”
Lesson 5: Love your franchise
“No matter what franchise or business you go with you have to love it. I am not a sales person, but when I would meet with potential clients they could feel my energy. It really took me a long way.”
After retiring, Robin settled down to write a book she’s been wanting to get down. However, her retirement didn’t last long. The president of Tutor Doctor reached out to her about coming back to the system – this time to join the corporation on the franchise development side. She had loved the business so much and made herself such an integral part of the culture that they just couldn’t let her go.
Robin’s story illustrates the passion that entrepreneurs need. It’s that passion that keeps them going when things get tough, and it’s the sparkle in your eye when you talk about your business that will get your clients excited.
I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but I’ll say it again. “Life isn’t about avoiding risks, it’s about making calculations and going all in with the things you love.”