Profiles on Two Diverse Franchisees
By Miriam L. Brewer, CFE
CruiseOne Franchise Owner Ralph Santisteban
CruiseOne is a home-based travel franchise that is committed to being “Rich in Diversity” and it empowers all owners, agents and employees to reach their highest potential by leveraging their broad range of talent, experiences, personalities, viewpoints and ideas to generate business growth. Here is an interview with one of CruiseOne’s top-producing franchisees, Ralph Santisteban.
Name: Ralph Santisteban
Business Location: Miami, Fla.
How long have you been a CruiseOne owner?
How many people work at your franchise?
What did you do before joining CruiseOne and why did you join?
Before joining, I was a family practitioner / obstetrical surgeon. I love to travel and owning a cruise franchise seemed like a cool way to make a living doing what I love, without the stress and unpredictable schedule often found in the medical field. At the time, home-based travel agencies were a relatively new concept in travel. It sounded promising.
Where did you hear about CruiseOne?
Franchise search on Internet. This sounds like an obvious way to hear about CruiseOne; however, when I did my search, it was in the early days of the Internet before Google even existed.
Why did you decide to go into franchising?
There was no need to reinvent the wheel. Someone had a formula that was working for others; I liked that.
What is the best thing about franchising?
As an independent business owner, you are working without a net. As a franchise owner, you have the support and guidance of the franchisor, as well as all the other franchisees in the system. There is strength in numbers. You really are in business for yourself, but not by yourself.
Do you have any niches or specialties?
My franchise specializes in Company Cruises / Member Cruises. This means we are the official travel agency for more than 25 large corporations and organizations in South Florida and throughout the country. Their members and employees have access to our exclusive cruise perk club.
Is there anything unique about your CruiseOne franchise?
We participate in leading more consumer ship tours than most any other agency nationwide. This is possible as a result of being part of the CruiseOne franchise and our parent company World Travel Holdings, which is the largest cruise agency in the world. Their relationships with the cruise lines opened the doors for me to this opportunity. These tours are a fantastic way to introduce cruising to people who have never been on a cruise, and gets them in the vacation state-of-mind without ever leaving home. After attending one of my ship tours, most people are ready to book a cruise vacation.
Advice for others interested in franchising?
I believe people interested in purchasing a franchise should follow these four key steps before joining:
- Do all your homework before choosing a franchisor.
- Read contracts carefully as they can come back to bite you.
- Speak to other franchisees in an organization before joining.
- Have a business plan before you start.
What are your hobbies?
Travel! This is very important since I am in the travel business and I get to do what I love every day.
What is on your bucket list?
A river cruise in China. The Far East has always been a place where I have wanted to venture. Having the opportunity to go there someday, visit the Great Wall and experience the culture is high on my list.
Most exotic place you’ve visited? St. Bart’s in the Caribbean. It is a volcanic island that blends natural beauty and wilderness with the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the rich and famous. n
Karim Webb: More Than Meets the Eye
Karim Webb is a 25-year veteran of the restaurant industry. Today, he is co-owner and operations partner of PCF Restaurant Management, a franchisee of Buffalo Wild Wings.
The world of franchising was second nature to Karim Webb. As a teen, he worked in one of his parents’ 14 McDonald’s restaurants, where he was trained on all aspects of operations.
Later, while attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, he worked for McDonald’s Corp. graduating from assistant manager to multi-unit supervisor. He successfully completed the McDonald’s training program and became approved as a McDonald’s franchisee.
In 2007, looking to apply his restaurant expertise to another brand and being up to the challenge, he became the operating partner for PCF Restaurant Management. With his leadership, the group has successfully opened three restaurants in the Los Angeles area, with three more in development.
“I started my own (co-owned) business because being an employee didn’t appeal to me. Plus, my experience as the child of a successful restaurant franchisee spoke to me and enlightened my understanding of the opportunities afforded within the restaurant industry,” said Webb.
Both his Torrance and Baldwin Hills, Calif. restaurants have consistently outpaced regional and national sales trends within the industry and have produced double-digit sales increases. The Baldwin Hills location was recognized for achieving the highest sales percentage increase of any Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and his newest location in Carson is on pace to do the same. Webb is successful because he believes and employs the following best practice as a franchisee: “Engage your team’s/staff’s sense of purpose in addition to focusing on their development. People need to know leaders care about what’s important to them, before they’re willing to genuinely and consistently embrace the objectives of leadership.”
In opening the business, Webb and his partner were looking to provide training and employment opportunities for the young people in the communities they serve. He is one of a handful of African-Americans from his generation who actually are owners/operators of a national restaurant brand. He stays to take this platform to the next level and to hopefully inspire his generation (and the next) to see the importance of ownership and the positive effects it will have on the community as a whole.
Preparing the Next Generation
Webb and his business partner, Ed Barnett, allied with L.A.’s Dorsey High School’s School of Business and Entrepreneurship to create a restaurant training program which offered each of its students hands-on, individual experience that will carry over into adulthood, as well as providing each with new opportunities they might otherwise not have had.
From financing and marketing to operations, the students learned the ins and outs of running a successful restaurant, gaining valuable skills in the process. The 16-week program, which was launched in spring, taught 29 senior SBE students how to run a restaurant effectively. The final test, a fully functional pop-up restaurant, Ruff Dog, was developed and operated by the students at Dorsey. The program has been a huge success among the students and parents alike. More than 400 community members have been served by Ruff Dog, which has raised more than $4,000.
Webb’s greatest inspiration is “underserved African American youth.” In many cases the young people have gotten a raw deal. They are born into undesirable circumstances and have more obstacles to overcome than most, making them less likely to enjoy success as adults.
Active in the community, Webb is an advisor to the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance. He also serves as chairman of Los Angeles Southwest College, is a board member for the Southern California/Nevada Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, is on the transition team for Los Angeles City Councilman-Elect Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and is vice-chairman of the Greater Los Angeles African-American Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, Webb is a spokesperson for BLOOM, an initiative of the California Community Foundation which seeks to create a more positive and productive future for a specific population of the L.A. community: 14- to 18-year old black males living in South L.A. who are or have been under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
Webb says the best small-business advice he received comes from his father who often says, “More is not better, better is better,” meaning that adding more units is not the goal of the business, rather, more profitable units is the goal.
While Webb’s inspiration is underserved African-American youth, he is an inspiration to all and certainly more than meets the eye.
Miriam L. Brewer, CFE, is senior director of education and diversity for the International Franchise Association. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org