Friday, September 20, 2013

Franchisee Spotlight: Mike DeCerbo, Stafford Township, New Jersey

Mike DeCerbo grew up in Attica, N.J., graduated from Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., and worked for his father in the heating and air conditioning industry for 20 years before Mike decided he wanted to open his own business.

“I started looking for a business opportunity, shopping around, comparing different franchise opportunities,” said Mike. Unexpectedly, that opportunity would present itself at his son’s soccer game, where he met a franchisee who was delivering pretzels as treats. He ended up talking to the franchisee about Philly Pretzel, and after doing some more research, Mike decided to move forward with the brand. Mike, along with his wife Marcy, opened their first location in Manahawkin, N.J. in 2007. Six years later, Mike will be adding another location to his business portfolio—a store inside Manahawkin’s Walmart.

For Mike, opening a Philly Pretzel Factory at Walmart presents a unique business opportunity. “I think that you have a captive audience at Walmart, “ he said. “We’ll be at the front of the store and the first thing you see when you walk in. Since we’re already in town, people can recognize the brand, but hopefully it will introduce our excellent product to people not familiar with PPF and get them interested.”

Why did you choose an opportunity with PPF?
I guess a lot of my decision was based on the cost and the ease of operations—it’s not a whole lot compared to opening restaurant or something like that. Overall, it’s a simple and straightforward concept. I liked the idea of a franchise as opposed to starting something on my own.  Also, I think corporate has been great to work with. Philly Pretzel Factory already had brand recognition and marketing strategies in place; that let us hit the ground running.

Are you involved with any charities or do any community outreach with your business?
We frequently work with different organizations that are doing fundraisers;, we give them gift cards and gift baskets and do discounts for high schools. After Hurricane Sandy, a lot of high schools were used as shelters, so we donated some products to first responders and shelters—basically any place that was collecting donations for people who were displaced and homeless we worked with them.

What challenges have you overcome to get where you are now?  / Are there any challenges that you have had, in either your professional career or personal life, in getting where you are today?
That’s hard to say. We opened in December 2007 and the economy started to get bad in 2008. We haven’t been open in a good economy, so hopefully business will just continue to go up from here.

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