From Nurse to Franchisee – Why I Made the Biggest Pivot in My Career
By: Kristine Ellis, Owner/Operator, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill Bend, Oregon
After working as a registered nurse for almost 30 years my husband, Brian, a contractor, and I began to play with the desire to begin a new journey together. This spurred lots of dreaming and brainstorming about something we could buy or start with the goal of being in business as a couple. It was important to us that we find something that would be a good fit for our family and lifestyle. We enlisted the help of Transworld Business Advisors, a brand in the United Franchise Group (UFG) family, to help us explore options for this dream. We filed through several kinds of businesses that were available and carefully considered all the ins and outs of each one. While this sometimes felt defeating it helped us to fine-tune our vision.
In one conversation our Transworld advisor asked us, “What do you really want to do but you’re afraid to say?” The answer to that was “A restaurant, but we don’t have any experience.” The conversation quickly led to a meeting with Big Flavor Brands, UFG’s food service division and The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill became the clear winner. United Franchise Group and The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill would provide the structure, training, and support we needed to successfully launch and maintain a restaurant – making this a gigantic decision we could make with confidence. Of course, the delicious fresh food helped sway our decision too.
It’s All Greek to Me
We built our first restaurant from the ground up and got to watch the entire construction process. We fervently addressed every detail we could think of until we finally opened our doors on September 4, 2023. Almost everything in this process was a new learning experience, it was quite literally “all Greek to me”, but proves that learning is lifelong and arguably more exciting and meaningful when it is developing a new direction in life.
Today, I manage the business banking, contracts with vendors and suppliers, local marketing, business growth planning, staff training, and culture building. Like most small-business owners, I am fully trained to perform every aspect of the daily functions of our restaurant. Fortunately, Brian and I both love being fully immersed in our work because that is what it takes! I can honestly say there is not a part of this business that I don’t find exciting.
Almost every step, from financing to ordering hand soap, has been a new path and a new experience, and getting to this point has given us a “can do” attitude as we continue to learn and grow. Going through this process with franchise leaders at our side who are full of support, encouragement, and experience has been priceless. There have been many delights and trials along the way, but some moments stand out as true landmarks. For some reason opening our boxes of dining dishes and silverware brought the reality home to me. We were almost there, the dream was about to come true, and soon people would be eating our delicious food off these plates, in our restaurant. That still makes me tear up.
The Secret to Our Success
Being ready to learn is one of the secrets of success in franchising, and if someone asked me for advice, I would tell them to first put their thinking cap on and then take every bit of the support and wisdom that will come their way from those who have gone before. Our advisors have been so eager to help, not out of ego, but because they believe in the continued growth and development of the brand.
I’ve found it to be a very valuable community. I’ve had so many people helping me, but if I could thank just one person it would have to be Nan Silva. Nan has been an amazing and exciting woman to work with because she fully abides with the brand and is a wealth of advice, encouragement, and absolute joy and friendliness.
The Future of Franchising
As I go about my days, I tend to look at a lot of businesses and wonder if they could or should be franchised, now that I have a broader understanding of what franchising means. I think because franchising can be done on a small or large scale it is an excellent way to provide a variety of services to all kinds of communities. It really is a far-reaching and consistent way of doing business that provides a strong structure for business owners and consumers alike.
More and more women are discovering the benefits of franchising every day, which is a wonderful thing. Men and women each bring unique skill sets to franchising and there’s no inherent advantage women have in the industry, but UFG really celebrates women. As a woman, I think we often have strengths that are multifaceted, and our brains integrate information and ideas in unique ways. We are often creative and able to think outside the box, which are essential skills in franchising.
While I am new to owning, I come from a franchising family so you could say I grew up in the industry. It is rewarding to be your own boss while having a support system to lift you up and keep you going. To anyone thinking of going into franchising, I have just two words: Do it!
Kristine Ellis and her husband, Brian, became Great Greek franchisees in early 2021. They opened the first store in Oregon in September of 2023. The road to opening seemed like a long one, but in the end, they ended up with a perfect location, great staff, and an enthusiastic community! Business has been great!
Kristine has been a registered nurse since 1995 and spent her career working in pediatrics, surgery, oncology, and several other arenas and was ready for a career change as was her husband who had spent his career in construction.
Opening and running a fast-casual restaurant is a challenge in management, consistency, and customer service. It plays on her nursing skills of thinking and being productive under tremendous pressure and her need for some chaos from time to time making this a great career transition.
Brian and Kristine are working tirelessly to maintain a successful business with no end of growth opportunities. Kristine focuses on training new staff, maintaining contracts and finances, and is
very focused on building up catering as a strong revenue stream
Read more inspiring stories from Women in Franchising
According to research by Guidant Financial, it’s estimated that women account for approximately 31% of all small businesses and franchise ownership in the U.S. A third of these have successfully owned and operated their businesses for 10 years or longer. Get to know some inspiring women in franchising on She Owns It: The Franchising Craze – Entrepreneurship Made Accessible for Women with Lindsey Coffelt, Owner, Graze Craze Okemos, Michigan and Why Women Should JUMP into Franchise Ownership – The Benefits of Joining a Franchise with Wendy Graves – Franchise Co-owner, Signarama Louisville East, Kentucky and From Nurse to Franchisee – Why I Made the Biggest Pivot in My Career from Kristine Ellis, Owner/Operator, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill Bend, Oregon.