M2 Properties, LLC
Bringing a Special Family to Southwest Michigan
The road to starting your own business can have a lot of twists and turns. For Michael Miller, owner of M2 Properties LLC, this is especially true. From working in a large corporate environment to owning his own restaurant, Miller has learned much about starting a small business. “I found myself saying, ‘Well I can do that…and I guess I can do that too.” After 2 years of research and planning and countless hours writing and re-writing, Miller’s hard work is about to pay-off as his company is going to open its first Culver’s franchise in Battle Creek.
Miller’s journey to entrepreneurship began in Chicago where he was the president of a large consumer electronics company. After helping the company complete a turnaround, Miller and his family decided that they wanted to move back to Battle Creek. He began to look for other opportunities to expand his career. “I had considered a lot of different opportunities including looking for other companies to join but I was also considering starting my own business,” Miller stated.
Miller started considering opening his own franchise. He recalls the first time he heard about the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development (SBTDC), “I was talking with the director of a solid waste removal company about franchising opportunities and she recommended the SBTDC.” The director suggested the SBTDC as a way for Miller to get assistance on researching and starting his own small business. He contacted John Schmitt, a business consultant for the SBTDC Kalamazoo regional office. Schmitt was excited about Miller’s idea and started helping him conduct research on starting a franchise in Battle Creek. Along with regulation break-downs, they performed data and traffic flow analysis to get a better understanding of the local market. “While we did a lot of research, I am from the area so I already had a lot of knowledge about the market as well,” Miller recalled.
However, the more research they performed, the more the data did not match up. Miller recalled, “I felt like the moment we had to start making the data fit the plan, it just wasn’t the right one.” They began to consider other ideas. A Culver’s franchise never really arose as a possibility until Schmitt brought up the idea to Miller and Miller decided to look them up on the internet. “I thought for sure that someone must have bought the rights for this area, but when I talked to Gary Rudsinski, the franchise development manager for Culver’s, he said that there was no agreements for franchising in the area.” Miller wondered if Southwest Michigan could sustain such a restaurant, but being from the area, he had a good feeling about it. They did even more research on the market potential of such a franchise and the numbers seemed to fit. “I realized that in food service, you have to deliver a great product and exceptional service, which is the same thing that we did in consumer electronics.” Miller was still a little unsure about starting a restaurant. Eventually, he pitched the idea to his wife who thought it would be a great opportunity.
Miller, with the help of Schmitt and the SBTDC, began the process of securing financing for the project. “If I had one piece of advice for someone looking to start a small business, it would be to secure funding before you start,” he stated. “We had to go to 26 different banks before we found one who would finance our project.” He eventually found a financier in the form of a local credit union who was willing to work with other institutions in order to come up with a solution. With financing secure and with Culver’s franchise rights, Miller had to travel to Sauk City, Wisconsin to Culver’s headquarters to participate in Culver’s extensive training program where potential owner-operators are able to meet everyone in the organization. “I have spent a lot of time in different companies and I can say that there is no other business like Culver’s. They really live ‘Do the right thing” and they have created a very special family.” explained Miller.
After starting the project in March 2008, Miller’s company is ready to open the doors to their Battle Creek location in December. “All the people involved in this project have been great.” Miller exclaimed. He was grateful for all the services the SBTDC was able to offer. “John was always saying ‘How can I help? What can I do?’ He is one of those people that I respect the most.” Miller has plans to begin expanding into other locations and hopes the experience will help him grow his company, but he offers some valuable advice to people looking to start a business. “I would encourage people to not give up on your goal of starting your own business…keep knocking on doors until you find someone who will listen.”