ST. PAUL, Minn. — Toni Amenrud was a middle-aged worker with a lost job and a head full of self-doubt.
But she flipped her future. She connected with a franchise consultant, who helped her start up her own business — Kitchen Tune-Up, a remodeling franchise.
Now she works 55 hours a week, is hiring more workers, and moving out of her home office — because, she tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press, business is booming.
“It’s time to own my own destiny,” said Amenrud, of Maplewood. “It’s stressful at times, but I love it.”
Becoming their own boss
As thousands of Minnesotans struggle to find new careers, some are turning to franchises. Those who can afford to buy a small business — prices usually start at $50,000 — can become their own boss.
The Coronavirus pandemic has only increased the interest in franchises, according to those in the business. “I am blessed to be a busy guy,” said Wes Roper, a consultant with the franchise brokerage FranNet, who helped Amenrud.
Scott Hislop, owner of the Minnesota office of Transworld Business Advisors, said he has seen an uptick in interest in buying small businesses, including franchises.
Employees in the corporate world are worried about layoffs, he said, and some are making plans to make a leap into a new business opportunity. He sees strong interest in businesses related to RVs and recreational boats. While the pandemic limits some business activity, it can boost other areas.
“People can’t go to travel destinations, so they do this,” he said. “And all sorts of cleaning businesses, obviously.”
FranNet’s Roper has brokered career-shifts that would be unthinkable in normal times — turning a professional fundraiser into drug-tester of employees, a banker to a senior-care provider, a finance expert to a storage-rental owner.
Amenrud was a marketing consultant for large corporations who left her job in January. She was unemployed, 50, and nostalgic over her 25-year career.
She contacted FranNet, and the coaching began. Roper explained that he tries to salvage skills from past careers of his clients. “Then we match that with a franchise,” he said.
Amenrud, he said, had skills in marketing, management and building relationships quickly.
At first, she wanted an ice-cream franchise. “There is no Cold Stone Creamery in Maplewood,” she said.
Roper talked her out of that idea. “Food is a tough and low-margin business,” she said.
Her options become more clear when Coronavirus crippled the nation’s economy. Overnight, restaurants, salons and travel agencies became some of the toughest businesses. But others started looking better.
“It could be any essential business — roofing, drug testing, logistics and shipping,” said Roper.
Amenrud knew that people spending more time at home did more cooking. “They discovered they had a restaurant right in their house,” she said.
The logical option? Kitchen Tune-Up, a remodeling franchise.
Proficiency in every part of the business
Amenrud had two weeks of training in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in March, just as the virus was hitting Minnesota. Then she had a 12-week online course.
She quickly learned that owners had be proficient in every part of the business. “A classmate said, ‘I am the HR director. I am the marketing director. I am the finance guy.’ “
Her first customer was in April — and she never looked back.