By Abdul Uzair Fasihi
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be in business—and I’ve always loved ice cream. After graduating from university and spending a year managing a pizza franchise, I knew I had what it takes to branch out on my own. Today, at 27 years old, I’m Baskin-Robbins’ youngest franchisee. I own and operate a well-establised franchise location in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood.
Born for business
I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and moved to Doha, Qatar, with my family when I was three years old. At the age of six, my parents decided to move our family to Canada. My father felt it would provide me, my brother Ubair and my sister Maha with more opportunities and better education, health care and safety, in comparison to Qatar. We arrived in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2006.
Keen for school, sports and adventure, I was a curious little boy who enjoyed building contraptions and figurines with Popsicle sticks and liked seeing how things were assembled. Taking toys apart and figuring out how to put them back together was certainly one of my favourite hobbies.
On track for success
After high school, I attended Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., for my undergraduate degree and studied economics. I received my Bachelor of Business in Economics (BBE), which is a program unique to Brock. Not entirely sure what I wanted to do with my degree after I graduated, I decided to take a year off and figure out my next step.
I had always wanted to have a business career and knew my strengths were in operations management. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. My father is a chartered accountant (CA) and I’d always looked up to him. From an early age, he taught me about business and financial literacy, including how to save and use money properly. Funnily enough, the last place I thought I’d end up was in the food industry.
I joined the management team of a Mississauga, Ont., Pizza Hut in 2013 and worked there for a year. I got my first taste of franchising. I saw firsthand the work that is required of a franchisee, how the food service industry works and, better yet, what can be done to improve the customer experience through exceptional management. It was a great learning experience.
Finding the right franchise system
After working as a restaurant manager, I wanted more responsibility and to turn my food service job into a career. With a franchise system, I knew I’d be able to use my BBE and work experience, while having the flexibility of owning my own business.
I sought my father’s advice, as I’ve always respected his business savvy, and we both concluded joining a franchise system offered me the best opportunity to grow professionally. The next step was to find the perfect franchise.
We enlisted the assistance of a franchise broker. I wanted to be part of a system that had a strong brand reputation for quality, service and supporting its franchisees. Shortly after, the broker told us Baskin-Robbins had a franchised location for sale. I’d been a patron and Baskin-Robbins lover since I was a kid, so my interest was piqued. In fact, I’d been visiting the particular location for years. It had been in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood for 40 years, and was open concept with seating and great light. The store had potential, and with a bit of help, could be a great success. My father and I began looking into the system and were impressed with what the franchisor had to offer. Baskin-Robbins has been serving its famous ice cream to Canadians for 45 years and is dedicated to helping its franchisees succeed. I could see where the operational holes were and why the franchisor was looking for new management. Customer service was lacking and the store was dirty. With my experience as a manager, I knew I could turn the location around with the franchisor’s help. So, with that in mind, we decided to take the plunge and I began the franchisee application process on Nov. 16, 2016.
Going into my first business deal was intimidating, but the franchisor walked me through everything step by step. I felt prepared for this new adventure before I even had the keys to the store! The franchisor taught me about what was expected in terms of running it and what would be needed to make this particular location successful.
After learning the ins and outs of my new location, I went to Los Angeles for my training. Here, I was able to learn more about the company, its rich history in California and how it started. Plus, we were able see first-hand by working in a mock store how they wanted franchisees to manage their staff.