Meet 5 Black Franchise Founders Who Are Making a Difference

Black Franchisor- Ruth Abjabi

These Trailblazing Entrepreneurs Share Their Hopes for the Future of Black Franchise Ownership

In honor of Black History Month, we feature five trailblazing African American founders and the franchise brands they created. They share their inspiration for their franchises and their hopes for the future of Black-owned businesses. The franchise model has enabled these innovators to scale their businesses effectively while empowering hopeful entrepreneurs with an opportunity for financial freedom.

These five leaders understand that franchising offers a refuge for women and minorities who have faced discrimination in the workplace. Franchising has given these entrepreneurs — plus countless others — equal opportunities regardless of age, ethnicity, race or gender. And the franchise industry works hard to foster these ideals. To increase access to and awareness of franchise business opportunities for Black entrepreneurs, the International Franchise Association (IFA) launched the Black Franchise Leadership Council (BFLC) as part of its Diversity Institute. One of its founding members, Code Wiz CEO Ruth Agbaji, starts off our interviews by recounting her remarkable journey into entrepreneurship. Her story of overcoming adversity can inspire any entrepreneur to never give up on their dreams.

Ruth Agbaji

CEO/Founder, Code Wiz Franchising

Black franchise - Ruth Agbaji

Opening a business is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding!

Ruth Agbaji

When was Code Wiz founded, and when did it begin franchising?

Code Wiz was founded in 2017, and we started franchising in 2019. 

What was the inspiration behind Code Wiz?

Growing up in Nigeria, I was looking to escape religious violence, so I taught myself how to code. Learning to code opened up an opportunity to get a scholarship here in the U.S. After graduating and working in the corporate world for a while, I realized that I needed to start my own business. Since coding changed my life, I wanted to pay that forward and use coding as a tool to impact the next generation. 

What advice do you have for those looking to open their own business?

Opening a business is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding! I encourage all aspiring business owners to self-reflect and understand their “why” for starting a business. Your “why” will drive you to succeed and keep you motivated through the challenges that come up.

What was a significant turning point in your career, and what did you learn from it?

When my son was born, he was always in and out of the doctor’s office. Upon returning to work after birthing him, I burned ten days of sick leave within a six-week period. I knew I needed a lot of flexibility, and it was time to do something different – something that would allow me to be there for him but also advance my career. I followed my gut and Code Wiz was born. 

Where do you see your franchise in the next five years?

In five years, I believe Code Wiz will be in the U.S., Canada, and the UK! I see Code Wiz emerging as the leader in coding for kids’ education, impacting thousands of kids across the world and prepping to scale and hit the milestone of 500 locations. 

Are you hopeful for the future growth of Black-owned franchises, and what can be done to ensure this growth?

I am very hopeful for the growth of Black-owned franchises! It’s great to see the growth of Black-owned franchises and to see them do well! We need a lot more education on what franchising is and how it can be used as a vehicle for creating generational wealth. There are a lot of people in our community who would benefit and thrive in a franchise environment but are unaware that these opportunities exist!

Micah Logan

CEO/Founder, MELD Fitness + Wellness franchise

Black Franchise Founder Micah Logan

It’s one thing to create a business that your customers enjoy patronizing, but it’s another thing to create a business that has fans.

Micah Logan

When was MELD founded, and when did it begin franchising?

MELD was founded in 2014. We began franchising in 2021.

What was the inspiration behind MELD?

My inspiration in creating MELD Fitness + Wellness was that I wanted to create a unique concept that appealed to the range of experiences of our members. It’s one thing to create a business that your customers enjoy patronizing, but it’s another thing to create a business that has fans. Our members engage at a high level in our studio activities. They buy merchandise, but, more importantly, we have relationships with them. They tag us when they’re on vacation looking good in a bathing suit or when they have life events that come to mind. My biggest inspiration is seeing people in the community come together to accomplish their goals, whether it’s to get in better shape to reduce their risk of disease, get married, or have kids.

What advice do you have for those looking to open their own business?

Make sure you have a business plan that includes plenty of marketing money. The No. 1 reason in my opinion businesses close is due to lack of capital, specifically marketing dollars. The other thing is, in my opinion, just “wanting to get away from your boss” or “being your own boss” is not a good enough reason to start your business. You need to be honest with yourself, identify a hole in the marketplace, and create a product or service that people want.

What was a significant turning point in your career, and what did you learn from it?

The biggest turning point in my career was when I had to close my first studio back in 2006. It was the first time I had experienced failure to that level. What did I do next?  As soon as I got home, I went to work by mapping out a strategy to open multiple studio locations. I learned primarily what my knowledge gap was when it came to business. I didn’t realize what I didn’t know. The brilliant economist Thomas Sowell said, “It takes an extraordinary amount of knowledge to understand the extent of one’s ignorance.” This is where I was, so I decided to get educated. I traveled to seminars, got coaching, and asked tons of questions to successful clients.  

Where do you see MELD in the next five years?

I see there being MELD Fitness + Wellness franchise locations across the east coast. Our goal is to work on both our backyard in the New England area, but also to include the southeastern part of the U.S. where fitness is growing by leaps and bounds. These states include the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and Texas.

Are you hopeful for the future growth of Black-owned franchises, and what can be done to ensure this growth?

I hope so. If I can be a conduit for educating black business owners with good businesses, then I will certainly use what I’ve learned to provide guidance. In addition to contributing to the discussion about gaining more black franchise owners, we are looking for more black franchisees as franchising is a great way to build wealth. We offer a discount for minorities to purchase our MELD Fitness + Wellness franchise because we believe in entrepreneurship for wealth creation. Being a Black fitness business owner is rare but being a Black fitness franchisor is practically unheard of. There is only a handful in the entire country. I think what we need to grow Black businesses into franchisors is more education around creating replicable systems and processes in the business that can be eventually scaled into a franchise. I would love to be a part of pioneering that effort.

Hakika Wise

Founder, Kika Stretch Studios franchise

Black franchise founder Hakika wise

Surround yourself with people who believe in you, and never give up.

Hakika Wise

When was Kika Stretch Studios founded, and when did it begin franchising? 

Kika Stretch Studios was founded in 2011. I franchised in 2018.

What was the inspiration behind Kika Stretch Studios?

My inspiration behind the Kika Stretch Studios franchise was to offer a service that would help local communities break free from the tension that their bodies created. I knew that I couldn’t expand with the speed I wanted to on my own, so I chose the franchise route and had others join me. I also knew that if I could make a living from a business like this, others could too. I wanted to provide a stress-free and fulfilling business opportunity to those who wanted to seek flexibility with their lives and schedules.

What advice do you have for those looking to open their own business?

I would say don’t listen to naysayers. Only you know your true potential. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, and never give up.

What was a significant turning point in your career, and what did you learn from it?

A significant turning point was when my first studio caught on fire. We had to relocate to the basement of a church for nine months. We never closed and kept operating until we could move back into our space. We were able to grow our clientele and maintain existing clientele. I learned that it wasn’t about me anymore; it was about me pushing forward so I could keep my community fulfilled with the stretch services we offered.

Where do you see Kika Stretch Studios franchise in the next five years?

We have a goal to scale significantly and continue to be leaders in the assisted stretching studio world.

Are you hopeful for the future growth of Black-owned franchises, and what can be done to ensure this growth?

I am hopeful for the future growth of Black-owned franchises. More education on how to turn your business into a franchise is needed. On my Instagram page, @the_school_of_franchising, I teach lessons on franchising and help inspire other Black-owned entrepreneurs to believe in their dreams and to keep pushing.

Chanay Walton

Founder/CEO, A Better Weigh franchise

Black franchise founder chanay walton

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. But if you stay focused and don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by fear, it can be the most rewarding experience of your life.

Chanay Walton

When was A Better Weigh founded, and when did it begin franchising?

I created A Better Weigh in 2009 and opened my first location in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago that same year. Another location was then opened in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. A Better Weigh began franchising in 2020 to help my ongoing mission to promote and support Black franchise ownership. We have successfully opened two franchise locations: Tinley Park, Ill., and Schererville, Ind.

What was the inspiration behind A Better Weigh?

Like many moms, I struggled with postpartum weight loss and decided to seek guidance from a medical professional. I achieved a 42-pound weight loss after consulting with a physician who provided me with a specialized plan that leveraged supplements. Through my work as a nurse, I also learned the importance of diet, nutrition, and weight management among my patients. A Better Weigh allows me to share my educational and personal insights on weight loss with others who are struggling.

What advice do you have for those looking to open their own business?

My advice is to make sure that you believe in yourself, as well as your business idea. When you decide to open a business, you’re taking a risk and there will be people who don’t see your vision, which can be discouraging. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. But if you stay focused and don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by fear, it can be the most rewarding experience of your life.

What was a significant turning point in your career, and what did you learn from it?

When I first opened A Better Weigh in 2009, the country was in an economic crisis. It was a challenging time to grow a business. I consider that a turning point in my career because the odds were definitely stacked against me at that time, but it forced me to think outside the box. I remember creating the ‘Stimulus Package,’ which was a low-cost option for our services to make our programs even more affordable. It still exists to this day. I also launched my franchise in the middle of the pandemic and immediately gained two franchisees, so I guess it’s safe to say that I learned how to survive when facing adversity.

Where do you see your franchise in the next five years?

By 2027, A Better Weigh will continue to expand its presence across the country and increase the number of opportunities to Black business owners everywhere. I am most excited to see the number of lives A Better Weigh helps improve with our approach to health and dieting.

Are you hopeful for the future growth of Black-owned franchises, and what can be done to ensure this growth?

I have such high hopes for the future growth of Black-owned franchises and am excited to see even more Black business owners enter the franchising space, particularly Black women franchisees. The fact is that there has never been a deficit of Black entrepreneurship and excellence. The challenges are systemic and rooted in the country’s long history of racism, which has resulted in a lack of access to capital and loans in underserved communities. By directly putting capital in the hands of Black business owners, we can then create effective and impactful solutions, such as hiring our community members, expanding our businesses, and creating launch pads for our ideas.

Waleed Shamsid-Deen

President/CEO, Supreme Foods Worldwide

Black Franchise Founders Ambassador Waleed Shamsid-Deen, and Dr. Quiana Shamsid-Deen

Though there are tremendous challenges, entrepreneurship gives you an opportunity to realize all of your dreams.

Ambassador Waleed Shamsid-Deen

When was Supreme Foods Worldwide founded, and when did it begin franchising?

Supreme Fish Delight (the first franchise concept) was founded in 1980 by my father, Lawrence Shamsid-Deen. He developed the quick-service seafood restaurant and began to slowly grow the concept during the ’80s and early ’90s. Around 1991, franchises became available and were sold throughout metro Atlanta, growing to 25 locations within the city prior to the 2008 recession.  Currently, there are nine metro-Atlanta locations, and our menu can be featured in a new joint franchise in Charleston, S.C. 

What was the inspiration behind Supreme Foods Worldwide?

In 2015, my wife and I launched Supreme Foods Worldwide to house Supreme Fish Delight and a new concept entitled Supreme Burger. Supreme Burger is a gourmet Halal burger concept that brings a burger for everyone. This includes beef, lamb, turkey, jerk, shrimp, vegan, and veggie options. We recently opened the first of six locations in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and have licensed two food trucks: one in Jacksonville, and the other is in Atlanta. Additionally, we have a Kiosk in the GICC/Gateway Center Arena with two more locations slated to open in 2022.

What advice do you have for those looking to open their own business?

Entrepreneurship is a way to create wealth, jobs, and freedom. Though there are tremendous challenges, entrepreneurship gives you an opportunity to realize all of your dreams. There is no one way to achieve success; however, through innovation, technology, solving problems, and creating new systems, success is inevitable. If it takes a lifetime to create a successful business, the generations to come would still benefit. Entrepreneurship should be a consideration in every family. 

What was a significant turning point in your career, and what did you learn from it?

In 1996, we had an opportunity to partner with the Olympics. Leveraging our workforce, experience, and management, we were able to operate 25 concession stands inside of the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies, track and field events, closing ceremonies, and the Paralympics. This was a life-changing experience and opened the doors for growth and expansion throughout Atlanta and built on our existing experience. Years later, we negotiated a contract with the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta as a minority contractor and provided over 5,000 Greek Lamb Burgers during the Official Tailgating Experience. Our corporate locations, coupled with franchising and large-scale operations, have positioned us for the next chapter of growth, including international markets. 

Where do you see your franchise in the next five years?

Both Supreme Fish Delight and Supreme Burger are positioned for growth and expansion. We are opening five additional locations in Mexico; we have identified two locations in Sierra Leone, West Africa; and we are looking for strategic partners in the Canadian market. Our growth plans include licensing over 100 locations in the next five years, expanding in Latin America, and entertaining additional joint venture opportunities, especially in U.S.-based airports. We are certified as an Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE). 

Are you hopeful for the future growth of Black-owned franchises, and what can be done to ensure this growth?

Though franchising is not a new concept, creating your own franchise model is new to most Black-owned entrepreneurs. There are tremendous startup costs, so systems needed to be successful. My hope is that more Black-owned businesses would consider franchising as a growth strategy for job creation and generational wealth. In addition to taking the leap into entrepreneurship, consideration should be given to accelerator programs, strategic partnerships with industry experts, consultants, and professionals. This is especially true in the planning stage, which increases the possibilities for success. With the globe as a marketplace, the opportunities are endless.

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Haley Cafarella is a passionate journalist and writer for IFPG. In her role as content and marketing specialist, she creates original articles for FranchiseWire and Franchise Consultant Magazine. Her specialties include educational articles about buying a franchise and franchise consulting. She also reports on franchise professionals who were recently promoted or hired through FranchiseWire’s popular HireWire series.

Haley has contributed to a variety of regional publications, including Quo Vadis, New Brunswick Today, and the Trenton Monitor. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Rutgers University.
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