Early opportunities
Ithacan Todd Fox, right, owner of Quiznos in Ithaca, stands with Paul Plocharczyk, senior franchise business coach, at Fox's newly-opened Salsarita's in Horeheads. (Photo Provided)

For young business entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to create a successful business. And, with the economy how it is today, running a business is a challenge for anyone.

So for Ithaca's Todd Fox, 26, being the owner of two businesses is a handful, especially considering his age.

"It's been a good experience and a tough journey for me," said Fox. "I've absorbed so much in the past year and it's made me a better person."

After graduating from Buffalo State University in 2005 as Business Management major Fox decided to follow his goal of being a small business owner.

"After school I was very ambitious and tenacious," Said Fox. "But my ambitions outweighed my ability and I ended up learning some things the hard way."

After graduating from college Fox pursued owning a Quiznos Sub Shop in Ithaca. But it turned out to be a drawn-out process.

"It took about two years before we could purchase the existing Quiznos," said Fox. "I think they were skeptical at first because I was so young. So I had to do a bunch of interviews to show them I had the intelligence and the will to make it work. At first it didn't look like it would happen. But after a few letters and a few interviews they were convinced enough that I was capable."

Fox had decided to look into owning a franchise restaurant at first because these businesses provided a lot of information and logistics for the restaurant owner. For instance, layout, menu and vendors are already in place under a franchise corporation.

"Any time you open up your own business you hit bumps," said Fox. "Franchises have been around for years so they make it easier for you right from the get go. It eliminates a lot of headaches you get with opening up your own business."

Quiznos finally agreed to let Fox purchase the existing restaurant in Ithaca and business got underway. After a few months, Fox decided to pursue his original goal of opening two restaurants. This time he set his eyes on a Salsarita's Fresh Cantina Mexican restaurant in Horseheads. He was able to get approved for ownership, financing and construction and everything seemed to be going smooth.

"We started construction and when I started to get the funds they told me I had to re-apply for financing," said Fox. "I had already been accepted and my credit hadn't changed since then, nothing had changed. I thought originally this happened because of my age and experience but I learned a little while later that the company was going out of business, they had gone bankrupt."

At that point Fox was already in the construction process and he scrambled to find financing for the project. He ultimately had to borrow money from his parents just to pay the contractors so they wouldn't stop construction. This was a challenging period for Fox.

"I had held my side of the bargain and they just kind of said 'Sorry we can't give you any money'," said Fox. "I absolutely have seen the troubles of the economy first hand."

Even after Fox found another funding stream and Salsarita's finally opened, he again saw the effects of the economy on his business.

"Since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy sales have dropped some and have been down a little since," said Fox. "It can be a hard time to be in the restaurant business."

Since graduating from college Fox has learned a lot. And he admits that higher education didn't give him everything he needed for the business world.

"School definitely helped me realize what I wanted to do and gave me some tools I needed to be successful," said Fox. "But you aren't going to learn this stuff in school, it's not until you enter the real world that you understand what it's really all about."

Having first hand experience with being a graduated business student and a business owner, Fox offered up some advice for anyone who is a Business major in school now: be patient.

"Try and figure out what you truly enjoy," said Fox. "You are going to invest a lot of money in a business so you are stuck if you like it or not. So work at difference places and find what you enjoy. Three months in you might learn you hate a job, but even If you bounce around for 5 years that's fine. Just find what you want to do. You might find your dreams change depending on the more experience and knowledge you get."

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