New Jersey native-turned-Floridian David Olmo was one of the first to call Sloan’s Ice Cream when the brand began franchising in 2012. On the surface, Olmo’s construction background and blue-collar, hands-dirty approach might seem the antithesis of the Sloan’s look and feel; drawing on its West Palm Beach, Florida, roots, the brand serves ice cream, shakes, and smoothies within saccharine-styled stores. Sloan’s hot-pink walls are gilded with golden-framed menuboards, while cherubim dance on the ceilings and rainbow-colored chandeliers hover above the counter.
After opening his first store in 2013, it was clear that Olmo was all business, despite the frilly décor around him. With two units open—in Delray Beach and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida—and a third underway, he has taken his passion for ice cream and love for the brand to a new level.
Olmo explains how prospective franchisees can properly choose the right brand for them and how transferrable skills can go a long way in the franchise world, even when shifting from a completely different field.
1. Like the business you choose
I always liked the ice cream business. Coming down to Florida from New Jersey in 1999 put me in a great spot to continue my career in the construction industry. While it was profitable and challenging work, I remember being like a kid in a candy store when the announcement came that Sloan’s was franchising. I had wanted a career change, and, having visited the brand countless times before, I knew that this was my opportunity.
It’s an exciting atmosphere, and I had absolutely no doubt that it would be a brand I would like working for long-term. I remember asking myself, “How can I make a difference? How can I translate what I want to do into a reality?” Some people are built to sell pizzas, and other people are built to sell sandwiches; I knew I was built to sell ice cream. I knew I could make a difference with Sloan’s. There was never any gray area when it came to choosing a brand. There should be a sense of pride, and a willingness to represent the brand. Of course, it needs to be profitable and make sense in terms of numbers, but you have to like that particular business. It can’t just be a general like for quick service or fast casual. You have to like the particular business, and for me, there was never any doubt that my business would be ice cream. If it’s just something you pick randomly, it’s going to be a long road without passion for the product driving you.
There’s an energy I get from this brand, employees, and the guests who enjoy it. I wouldn’t be able to get that same feel with any other concept.
2. Follow the franchisor’s lead
The most helpful and beneficial resource for me, coming from a different industry, was developing the relationship with the franchisor. They are an amazing family, and I felt the support right from the start. Every time I called—and I called a lot—they were there and ready to help. It was clear that the more I invested in them and the brand, the more I would get back.
As soon as I sent the franchising paperwork over, I got a call within an hour from the franchise director, and we met a couple days after. It was a humbling experience to start off in such a positive way and for them to pay so close attention. For both of us, the brand aligned perfectly on a professional and personal level. It was a great marriage from the start. That has allowed me to pass along the same positivity, trust, and attention to my staff and team.
Most of our initial hired staff members are still with us because I continue to develop these relationships. It’s a family atmosphere that all starts at the top. The franchisor provides me with direction and trust, and I can then provide the same things to my staff.
3. Be ready for a lifestyle change
Coming from a different industry is, while difficult at times, not impossible. It’s about getting to know the industry and the people. I had some familiarity with quick service and fast food, but nothing to the capacity of one day owning my own business within the industry. My approach with regard to construction was to always be on point and fix what needs to be fixed right there and then. Sloan’s didn’t need fixing, but my approach needed to be on point and direct. It was about learning and retention.
If you take pride in what you do, read and learn. It doesn’t matter what industry you came from in the past. I wish I had done this 15 years ago. This business continues to be rewarding both personally and professionally. Seeing guests come in and take pictures of our unique style, or try our product for the first time, is continually rewarding. It’s a great perspective from the other side of the counter.
Anyone thinking about entering this industry should prepare not for a career change, but a lifestyle change. Ask yourself, “What do I really want to do?” You have to have the distinction and discernment to decide if this is for you on every level, because it is more than a career change.