How does an international brand enter the United States? It’s a question that many franchises ask — and for laundry service brand Mr Jeff, which was founded in Spain and has sold more than 2,000 locations globally, its entry into America came via an unlikely source: a humble aspiring franchisee named Sergio Aguirre.
Aguirre lives in Miami and spent years working in hotels. He considered opening his own restaurant, but his aspirations changed after visiting Mexico to see friends. That’s where he learned about Mr Jeff. He asked if the company was expanding into the U.S., and at the time, it wasn’t — but a few years later, in 2021, he got the call. “We’re ready if you’re ready,” a brand representative told him.
Now Aguirre’s storefront is open, and he’s helping introduce Mr Jeff to America. (The brand does its customers’ laundry, with pickups and delivery scheduled through an app.) Here, he talks about what it’s like to be a pioneer, and the importance of connecting with customers.
How does it feel to be the first Mr Jeff franchisee in the U.S.?
All the feelings are there. I have a big challenge, which is trying something here that doesn’t really have proof yet. The first months were crazy, and I started thinking, Why did I do this? But through help from mentors, I know it’s going to be a year of growth. I need to take it slow and not stress myself out.
What was the beginning like?
It’s important for new franchisees to know that opening a business doesn’t mean it just starts running right away. You need to be there every single day for the first year and constantly make sure that you’re growing. I’ve never opened something alone, and I’ve hit the wall a couple of times, but I’m like, OK, what do I need to do now? Because from there, I’m the one who needs to make the decision. Some people are very scared about that, and it can be very stressful. As the first franchisee, I’m taking in all those little details and learning. I still have a long way to go, and just need to make sure I don’t get lost.
You worked in hospitality before. Did your hotel experience help you with Mr Jeff?
At the hotel brand I worked at before, the idea was to maintain standards and quality across its 300 locations. It wasn’t a franchise, but it’s the same idea. It’s all about getting to know your customers and maintaining that communication.
It’s important with customer service to find out what went wrong and figure out how to make it right. People like to talk and know that you’re on top of things. Like, there is this one woman who is very consistent — she downloaded the app and subscribed to a plan, but she doesn’t use the app to order. She relies on me to do everything. I can’t tell her that she must use the app, because yes, that would make my life easier, but sometimes it’s more important to adapt to them. In the end, I am offering a service.
How do you manage the stress of this big challenge?
It’s a question of maintaining my daily routine. One of the most important things is just having my coffee, or having a good lunch and enjoying those little moments to keep thinking and stay motivated. If you’re stressed from morning to night, then you cannot sleep and then you can’t rest. And if you don’t rest, then you cannot perform well the next day. Even if there’s a huge storm coming, you just need to stay cool and decide on a strategy.