How I got my first loan in franchising

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I graduated from the University of California at Irvine with an engineering degree. I was recruited by IT firms and got hired by a big company. My family was thrilled. But within a few weeks I knew the job and sitting in a cubicle just weren’t right for me.  It didn’t hold my interest. I missed the pace and excitement of the restaurant industry, which was where I worked through high school and college. I had worked in a Burger King. The pace excited me.

Because of my restaurant experience I was able to get approved as a franchisee to open a KFC.  But I still had to get financing, which wasn’t easy because banks were not doing loans without real estate collateral.  Luckily, I had a friend on the board of Summit Bank. Still, the bank normally didn’t do a lot of restaurant loans. My friend sent me to an SBA loan officer named Cheryl Beer. Apparently Cheryl and my friend had to work with the board to get the loan approved. Finally they did. I had to put 50% down, but I got the loan.  I started my franchise and created 20 jobs right away in downtown Atlanta. Then I opened a Subway.

I really loved what I was doing. Two years later my Mom moved to Atlanta from California. She had a career in the banking industry, but I encouraged her to try her hand at running a Subway. She applied and she was approved to be a franchisee. For the financing, I said, “You need to go see Cheryl.” My loans were performing well so it was easier for my Mom, and we didn’t need to go through the SBA process.  About four years later in 2002, my sister, a rising star in corporate America, got caught in the dot-com bust.  Her company was scaling back.  My Mom and I encouraged her to try franchising as well.  Of course, we sent her to Cheryl.  By that time, I had about 15 restaurants.

Today, I own 54 restaurants and four retail stores, employing over 1,200 people. I love people and I try to help them succeed. I have an attorney, finance, real estate and a full accounting department as well as top-notch managers on my team.  We create jobs. We like to do that. It makes me proud to help others and help our economy.  It’s the American Dream and my family has benefited, too.  It is all because of franchising, and a great country. And it all started with an SBA loan.

By: Aziz Hashim President and CEO, National Restaurant Development Inc.

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