“You have to have a plan for where you’re going to go and how you’re going to get there.”
Aubrey Janik knew that university wasn’t right for her. With money she had saved in high school from working and investing in stocks, she made plan, dropped out of college, and opened a franchise sandwich shop in Plano, TX.
What were you like high school?
I played sports, but that was pretty much as involved as I got within the whole high school experience. I wasn’t interested in it. I wasn’t interested in school, and I wasn’t really interested in going to a university. For me, it was getting in and getting out as fast as possible. I spent a lot of my free time in high school trying to start up side businesses. That’s when I started investing in the stock market and cleaning cleaning pools and finding things on Craigslist to flip.
What gave you the idea to be entrepreneurial and start investing?
I always have been entrepreneurial since I was a kid. When I was young I would sell old toys and other things. As I got older that progressed to selling stuff on Craigslist and then mowing lawns. I don’t know what sparked it, but it was always an interest of mine. Anybody who is interested in entrepreneurship, money, and the super successful billionaires of the world, probably has an interest in the stock market. I became interested when I was 14, but my dad wouldn’t let me invest until I had a part-time job so I started investing when I was 16. I ended up being pretty lucky with a couple of really good stocks and that’s what kind of set the tone for the rest of my career so far.
I’m not in the market at all right now, it’s the first time since I was 16 that I haven’t been investing. As interesting as it is, it’s also super risky so unless you’re big money in the market that can predict what’s going to happen I think it’s very hard to be successful.
Were there successful people that you looked up to that influenced your desire to be an entrepreneur?
Oh yeah. There’s so many entrepreneurs that I look up to for different reasons. Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos. Elon Musk is probably one of my top 3 heroes. I was a big big Steve Jobs fan in high school. I was always reading the biographies of different entrepreneurs, always doing research. I’m also big fan of Warren Buffet and I love the fact that he’s so smart but that he doesn’t flaunt his wealth at all. I think it’s insane. While he wasn’t someone I following much in high school, Tim Ferriss is someone I look up to now.
Was your entrepreneurship nurtured by your parents?
I was really fortunate. I was raised by my dad — my mom is an alcoholic and has a lot of mental issues, so she hasn’t really been in our lives. My dad was really nurturing towards the idea of being an entrepreneur. Before I was born he put himself through university, went to SMU, and then graduated with a masters degree. He opened up a dry cleaners and ended up owning 4 by the time he was 28 years old. Due to a couple poor decisions he made they all went under. He describes it to me and my sisters that he was a millionaire by the time he was 28 and then bankrupt by the time he was 30. So he went through the entrepreneur phase himself — he didn’t like it and had no interest in doing it again.
Right now he’s the head of real estate for a company called Focus Brands — they own a bunch of different franchises like Moe’s Southwestern Grill, Schlotzsky’s, Cinnabon...they’re a big company. He’s the president of real estate for Moe’s.
When it came to me being an entrepreneur he understood that that was probably the right thing for me. So he really pushed me in that direction.
I knew I couldn’t just tell my dad “I’m dropping out of college.” I had to think of a viable plan for what I was going to do or else he would never get behind it.
What was your college experience like?
I graduated high school with the intention of going to college because the 3 closest people in my life all graduated from university. I went to 2 years at a community college here and was miserable. My freshman year was absolutely horrible. I was never very good at school so a part of me thought that maybe once I entered university it would “click” and I would do better than I did in high school. That didn’t happen at all, and I really struggled. I wasn’t happy. I had made money in the stock market and had saved a lot, so after my freshman year I knew I wasn’t going to make it 3 more years. That was when I started figuring out my plan for what I was going to do. I knew I couldn’t just tell my dad “I’m dropping out of college.” I had to think of a viable plan for what I was going to do or else he would never get behind it. I put together my plan and presented it to my dad. From there it ended up happening and I left college after my sophomore year.
And that plan was to open a franchise?
After my freshman year I decided I wasn’t going to do any more school, but I needed to do one more year to get my associates degree. That was the agreement that my dad and I came upon. While I was going into my sophomore year of college I would research franchising, try to find a brand I wanted to grow with, and figure out ways to save and make more money. My sophomore year was spent going to school but also trying to grow the business while still in school. Once I left college I got into full swing of becoming a franchisee.
How difficult is it to become a franchisee?
It’s not difficult, but for me it was surprisingly time consuming. I spent 6 months living in Chicago working with a guy who owned a lot of Popeyes, Checkers, and Circle K gas stations. Things like finding a good franchise concept, finding the real estate, getting the bank loan, are a surprisingly long and it’s tedious process.
…I don’t want to be successful at 50 or 60 years old. I want to be young and successful. In order to do that you have to get the ball rolling pretty quickly.
How did you stay motivated through that process?
I didn’t really have a plan B. I needed to get my business going as soon as possible in order to be where I wanted to be in the long run. A big goal of mine, and it’s still a goal of mine, is that I don’t want to be successful at 50 or 60 years old. I want to be young and successful. In order to do that you have to get the ball rolling pretty quickly. So I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to get the business running and I needed to stay motivated.
How did you learn how to open a franchise?
A lot of it was trial and error. It was hard. There’s not any resources for how to start franchising. There’s nothing really out there that points you in the right direction so you have to do a lot of research on what to do when you’re a new franchisee. I cold called a lot of franchisees — I had a list of different brands I wanted to go with. Whenever you contact a brand they have to give you a list of their current franchisees, so I would call everybody on that list. I would also do a lot of research by sitting in the restaurants. When I started calling franchisees I formed relationships with a few of them and they helped me out when I went through the process of becoming a franchisee.
For one, the safety of it. A big appeal of franchising for anybody is the fact that it’s a safer bet than starting something from scratch. I didn’t really have any solid ideas for a company or product idea. It was kind of “okay, I have this money, what do I want to do with it?” At the time my dad was getting started in Moe’s real estate, so he was just getting in contact with other franchisees who were really successful. I laid out my options and franchising seemed to be what works. It’s a lot of work, but it’s not nearly as much risk as starting your own brand.
I just like running my own business a lot. It’s the idea of going to the store everyday and knowing that’s my business and I’m growing it for me, not somebody else.
What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
I just like running my own business a lot. Going to the store everyday and knowing that’s my business and I’m growing it for me, not somebody else, is very fulfilling. That’s by far the best thing about it. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, so to be able to do it is pretty great.
What is something you didn’t anticipate that has been really challenging for you?
You never get to get away from your business — it’s very difficult for me to not separate myself. That’s probably the hardest challenge. I’ll be home and I will constantly be checking sales or looking at the cameras. We close at 9:00 at night so I’ll have my phone on me until 9:00 just in case one of my employees has to call me.
I’m around the same age as a lot of people that I’m the boss of. That’s something that has been kind of weird for me and it’s something that I still struggle with today. How are you going to tell your 40 year old employee what to do when you’re 23?
What is it like managing people?
Managing people is probably the hardest thing, just because I’m around the same age as a lot of people that I’m the boss of. That’s something that has been kind of weird for me and it’s something that I still struggle with today. How are you going to tell your 40 year old employee what to do when you’re 23? It’s something I struggle with even today. I’m getting better at it, but managing people was new to me. I’m better, I’d like to think I’m good at it, but I could be better.
What advice would you have for a high school students that are thinking about being an entrepreneur?
If you don’t want to go to school, or you’re thinking about leaving school, I would say if you want to do it, then do it. I know a lot of people who are at university right now because their parents want them to be or because they feel like it’s what they should be doing. They’re miserable. I think that there are so many other ways can make a career. It’s not a matter of what you want to do for a living, it’s a matter of which option are you going to take? The people that I’ve met since I’ve gotten my business up and running have really odd careers that I would never have thought would have been possible. A friend of mine makes a ton of money just managing social media accounts, which blows my mind. There’s so many options for a career. To block off your options on the basic 9–5, college educated route is just a waste. If you have in your mind that you don’t want to go to university, don’t. Find another route and go with that. Regardless of what you do, you have to be prepared. You have to have a plan. You can’t just drop out of school and say “okay, I’m done. What am I going to do now?” You have to have a plan for where you’re going to go and how you’re going to get there.
Regardless of what you do, you have to be prepared. You have to have a plan. You can’t just drop out of school and say “okay, I’m done. What am I going to do now?” You have to have a plan for where you’re going to go and how you’re going to get there.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in getting into franchising?
Do a lot of research. There’s a lot of brands out there and there’s a lot of different options you can go down with franchising. Franchising isn’t right for everybody, but it’s definitely a fulfilling career. It’s definitely a great route to go down for a first-time entrepreneur and I think it was a great choice for me but it’s not a great choice for everybody. I think there needs to be a lot of research done, but if you’re ready to grind everyday at your business, it’s a great career.
Are there any resources you recommend for anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur?
- The Tim Ferriss Show. I love the show, and I listen to it almost everyday. I think that’s a really good one. Right now I’m reading Tim’s book, Tools of Titans. Any book by him is a good book. Google Tim Ferriss and you’ll be set up for success.
- Entrepreneur on Fire, it’s another really good podcast.
- One of my favorite books is the Elon Musk biography. It’s really good.
- There’s a stock market book called Penny Stocks For Dummies. It’s really good if you’re trying to get a grasp of trading stocks. It doesn’t tell you exactly how to do it, but it gives you a background.
If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, or how to open a franchise, you can contact Aubrey: email@example.com
About College Opt Out
The mission of College Opt Out is the tell the stories of men and women who have forged their own path and enjoyed successful careers without a college degree. We want to inspire high school and college students to consider the alternatives and realize that a college education isn’t their only choice to establish a fulfilling career.
If you have any questions about College Opt Out, or know someone we should interview, please email firstname.lastname@example.org