By Frank Witsil
Detroit Free Press.
Nicole Wilski, a fast-food franchise owner, is one of the fastest — if not the fastest — growing Checkers Drive-In Restaurants operators in the country.
Wilski, who grew up working in her mom’s flower shop, said she always wanted to own her own business and also loved the food. So, she invested in what she liked.
At 27, she used her savings to opened her first store in Clinton Township.
“I enjoyed the food, and this seemed like a good idea. It’s a company I could grow within,” Wilski said. “So I opened it. I worked it. I was there day and night and I saw opportunity there and I enjoyed doing it. From that one, I grew to my second one.”
Now, 32, she has nine stores in metro Detroit. (The privately held Tampa-based company also owns Rally’s). Next month, she’s opening a third store in Detroit, and has plans to open eight more stores after that. She puts the profits back into the company.
But, she said, she has allowed herself one indulgence, the car she wanted: a 2014 Porsche Panamera.
We talked to her about what it takes to run a business — and what advice she has for others:
Question: When did you start eating the food?
Answer: I started eating Rally’s when I was a kid. I grew up in Warren. That’s what it was back then, Rally’s. But, actually it’s pretty much the same menu. They’ve added some sandwiches, and taken some off, but it’s pretty much the same.
Q: How did you go from “I really like this burger” to “I’m going to own my own franchise?”
A: You know what? I figured, I’d start with one, see how it does. I was looking to get into something, and that was something I liked? I looked at other franchises, but I didn’t really like their food as much. I can’t really sell something I don’t like. So that’s what sold me. There was opportunity for growth, and I thought, OK, I’ll try this, see how it goes. And start with one.
Q: Did you always want to own your own business?
A: I did. Being a franchisee you have the support from corporate. That kinda helps. They give you all the training and materials. That makes it a little easier.
Q: Did you work in fast food before you opened a franchise?
A: I didn’t.
Q: What advice do you have for folks thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
A: It’s a lot of hard work. I’m in my restaurants, still, at least five days a week, and then I’m in my office the other days. I’m working almost every day doing something for the business. And it takes money to do it. Money and work.
Q: Any advice specifically for women?
A: I’d love to see more women opening businesses. I think it’s great. Really, anything men can do, women can do just as well. I encourage women to get out there and pursue their dreams.
Q: Where do you want to take this business?
A: Oh my gosh. The sky’s the limit. Everyone asks me, like, how much more are you going to grow? And you know what? I have a great team behind me. I’m finally at a place where I have really great people and I can continue to grow with great people. As long as the right opportunity comes up, we’re taking it.