From the outside looking in, owning a franchise might look like a perfectly painted picture of entrepreneurial bliss, but a franchise owner in Oklahoma City is opening up about his challenges and the responsibility he has to his community.
LIME Painting opened its first location in Oklahoma City, with one of its newest franchisees, R.L. Hunnicutt. The Black-owned establishment is the city’s only high-end painting franchise.
LIME Painting has set itself apart as the first and only residential and commercial high-end painting franchise that provides coating and other restoration services to luxury properties nationwide . Hunnicutt provides over 40 painting and restoration services in Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs.
Hunnicutt’s humble beginnings in the small town of Wellington, Texas, helped him connect with people. After 17 years working at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Hunnicutt left corporate America in search of that same connection to focus on giving back to the community and leaving a legacy for his children.
The support that came with franchise ownership interested Hunnicutt, and he reached out to a franchise consultant who informed him about LIME Painting. Being family-oriented and community-driven, Hunnicutt discovered that his values aligned perfectly with LIME Painting’s philosophy of love, integrity, mission, and excellence.
As Hunnicutt approaches his first full year in business he shares, “Things are going well. I’m on course to do $500,000 in my first year of sales. Overall, it has been a nice experience. I really needed this challenge in my life, as I was getting burnt out with the corporate grind, but this has really been a blessing for me. I’m loving it and regretting that I didn’t do it sooner!”
Like most new businesses, particularly in year one, there are always surprises.
“The thing that has surprised me the most about owning this business has been the importance of marketing,” Hunnicutt says. “To date, all the marketing that I have spent has paid for itself. I tried to monitor my spending on marketing by being somewhat frugal, but I’m really glad that I took some chances and spent more. They have really paid off for me, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.”
As a Certified Franchise Consultant and owner of a local marketing franchise, I concur with Hunnicutt. Too often, business owners see marketing as an optional or nice-to-have investment, but, what successful franchisors know and do well is marketing. Most franchises require a certain level of marketing spending monthly by owners. In fact, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends small businesses (revenue < $5M) should allocate 7%-8% of revenues to marketing.
While Hunnicutt was surprised by how important marketing is, he says his biggest challenge has been trying to stay balanced.
“I have three kids at home and a wife which requires a lot of my time. You want to make sure that you give everything its due time. I take pride in being successful in my business, but I am just as passionate as being a great father and a great husband.”
Owning your own business may offer a more favorable work-life balance than being an employee, however, it’s important to recognize that business ownership garners a completely different mentality. Even if your business hours are Monday through Friday, you’re thinking about and planning for your business 24/7.
Franchises can help with planning by providing a model/playbook, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t still have to do additional work. “The other challenges have been within the franchise itself,” Hunnicutt explains. “There are just things that I feel we need to really make this system grow. The business model is definitely a good one, but it needs some tweaking like everything else does at times, in order to help it reach its full potential.”
If the typical challenges of starting and building a successful franchise aren’t enough, additional stressors from being a Black owner can weigh heavy on BIPOC business owners.
“I live in Oklahoma City, which is a predominantly a Red state. I’m 6’2 and I weigh 240 pounds (I blame the extra 40 on my wife’s cooking). For me to get business, I have to go door to door. I was really afraid to do this because you just hear so many horror stories about how black men are being killed for nothing, e.g. Ahmaud Arbery.”
“To date, this has worked and one of my biggest contracts came from a Trump supporter who was wearing his hat throughout the entire negotiation. I closed the deal, but I still keep my guard up and I will never relax.
“Next, I sought out the counsel of the wise. I asked local Black business owners what type of experiences they had in Oklahoma. One comment really stood out. A gentleman said that his skin color never got in the way of him getting business; instead, what stopped him was himself.”
“Next, use someone else’s money as much as you can, e.g., bank, and save your own. Lastly, pray and keep positive people in your circle. Being an entrepreneur sounds sexy on paper and is a cool title, but there are some hard days. You will need a strong support system in place to make it through.”
While Hunnicutt is enjoying his new business, he takes time to give back to his community. From purchasing football uniforms for poverty-stricken kids in his childhood neighborhood to speaking at Juneteenth Celebrations about entrepreneurship, and hiring painting contractors of color to give them the opportunity to grow their business, he truly believes in leaving the door open behind you.