Guenevere Blanchard: Offering More With 3 Potato 4
Born and raised on the shoreline of Connecticut, Guenevere Blanchard grew up a curious child, inquisitive about the world and its ways. Looking today at her extensive list of culturing experiences and worldly travels, it’s no wonder 3 Potato 4 boasts such an intriguing, thoughtful menu.
Featuring a variety of organic potatoes, soups and beverages, 50 homemade dipping sauces, vegan bacon bits and banana rocket desserts, 3 Potato 4 products are 99 percent fat free, gluten free, and food friendly for every taste bud.
The Pre-Potato Days
Attending the University of San Francisco, Blanchard studied psychology and business before moving to Europe to continue studies in alternative medicines. In her spare time she seized the opportunity for adventure, taking a side job as a fire-eater in a travelling circus. Moving to Thailand to practice her medical studies, she later settled in the Netherlands. Then, after eight years over seas, it was time to go home to her family.
Upon returning home Blanchard opened a chain of wellness centers throughout the United States. As sole owner of the centers she implemented a blueprint for opening and operating each location. Although successful, the challenge came in running the national business alone, which eventually led to selling the centers. “Unlike franchising where you have someone committed to their own location, I had to constantly fly around the country to check in,” she explains, adding that had she been more familiar with franchising, she would have franchised the wellness centers. “Franchising is smart and low risk, it takes the guess work out of a new business, comes with a tested concept, marketed brand, vendor relationships, and developed research,” she says.
Joining the franchise industry four years ago, Blanchard purchased an ice cream shop. While in love with the concept of franchising and it’s backing support from a corporate office, unfortunately, this particular franchisor didn’t provide that support, and she wasn’t excited about the product.
Setting out to start her own streamline, affordable business that would provide the support a successful franchisee needs, Blanchard founded 3 Potato 4. Opening the first location in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2012, its first month of operating saw potatoes outselling ice cream. Deciding to sell her ice cream shop, this gave Blanchard the opportunity to focus solely on her new business and move forward with the potatoes.
Introducing, 4 Potato 4
The 3 Potato 4 concept originated out of necessity; a place where everyone could eat regardless of food allergies, medical needs, or personal beliefs. Today the United States’ population can be broken down into 40 percent with a gluten allergy, 20 percent with a peanut allergy, 38 percent vegetarians, 18 percent vegans and numerous others on diets. At 3 Potato 4 the organic baked not fried potatoes offer something for everyone from the energetic kid who loves fries to delicate digestive seniors who grew up on the crop.
Serving a widely loved, high-fiber food and turning it into an eco-wide, 99 percent fat free product with lots of specialty add-ons, the potato options include; russets, redskins, sweet potatoes, crinkle cut, purple potato medleys, or curly-Qs. The 50 dipping sauces available are unique concoctions with imaginative names such as Firecracker Ketchup, Sundried Tomato Pesto Mayo, Pineapple Jalapeño BBQ, and Rasta Rocket, to name a few.
3 Potato 4 restaurants are decked out in a 1950s sci-fi theme. Based on the notion that in the fifties people were eating organic, GMO-free potatoes, it speaks to how the idea of eating organic today seems futuristic. The sci-fi traits tie in to appeal to all generations. “When seniors see astronauts they think success and progress because they were alive in a time when we walked on the moon and explored space travel. Baby boomers grew up reading comic books with space characters similar to those found on our poster ads, the hipster crowd thinks everything retro is pretty cool, and little kids see spacemen and rocket ships and love it,” Blanchard explains. The brand’s yellow and blue color scheme represents calm, safety, and focus. “The product is energy packed, and since it’s quick food we wanted to help customers focus on menu.” Above all else the brand offers low-pressure advertising that is non-offensive and fun for everyone.
Despite Blanchard’s original plan to develop the business concept for two years before franchising, the high volume of interest in the restaurant resulted in franchising early on. “So many tourists, schools, medical institutions, veterans and independent business owners have expressed their love for the concept and desire to bring it to their areas,” she says. “Schools and hospitals especially like the idea of serving the organic take away food, mainly because of its appeal to children and concern for the high child obesity rates in the system.” Careful with the growth of her business to ensure her franchisees are a good fit for the concept, today 3 Potato 4 has five locations in Massachusetts, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and two in San Francisco. With an additional 20 applications currently under review, Blanchard is expecting to have 50 franchise locations operating by the end of next year.
One of the benefits of owning a 3 Potato 4 restaurant is the small space required to operate. The restaurants range from 300 to 1000 sq ft., resulting in low rent, low labor costs (typically only need one employee), and a streamline business model. “Customers are served their organic product in a bio-degradable paper cone, and our to-go containers, soup bowls and coffee cups are made out of potato starch. The entire business is biodynamic in that everything we’re serving our customer is consumable, compostable, recyclable or bio-degradable,” she explains, adding, “We’re using the potato from start to finish.”
The cost of purchasing a 3 Potato 4 restaurant ranges depending on location, and to date every location has successfully open for less than $70,000, including the franchise fee. Offering a “No Risk Bundle” for $50,000, this covers all fees and provides franchisees with everything they will need minus the build out and equipment. “We help franchisees choose locations that have a lot available on site and don’t require too much build out,” Blanchard says. “There are four different business models available so franchisees can find what meets their needs and design their space accordingly.
In addition to the restaurants quick growth and rising demand, the most rewarding experience for Blanchard has been the happy customers. “They are the joy and driving force behind expanding,” she says, and with both new and regular customers thrilled to find somewhere they can indulge in everything on the menu, Blanchard is pleased to be serving a product she is proud of. “Running the ice cream shop I would see so many obese children come in and I didn’t feel good about serving the fatty product,” she explains, adding, “On the other hand, one organic potato has more potassium than a banana and 37 percent of your daily vitamin C.” Studies have also shown that 30 minutes after eating an organic potato, the equal parts amino acids and minerals in it cause the brain to release serotonin, making people 54 percent happier.”
Women in Franchising
When discussing the roles of women and men in the franchise industry, Blanchard says the difference is “everything and nothing.” “I see just as many women as men [in franchising] which makes me think franchising is for everyone,” she says, noting one key difference: passion. “Women love what they are doing and take a role of integrity, ingenuity, and are passionate about what they are doing. They are easy to work with, motivated as a team player, see their goal and work towards it,” she says.
Recognizing franchisee Jehan Strouse, owner of the New Orleans 3 Potato 4 restaurant, Blanchard is thrilled with Strouse’s creative media advertising ideas. In particular she speaks to “Two Wheel Tuesdays,” a promotion encouraging customers to show up on their bikes to get a free dipping sauce. Strouse has also arranged a bicycle valet. “She comes up with such great ideas and is passionate about the concept. She is ahead of the curve in what she’s doing, and that’s the difference.”
Blanchard feels women in franchising are important because the more women involved the larger a pool of franchises can exist and develop. “Women franchisors are an asset to the franchise industry because they are so involved with their franchisees. They are not motivated by money, are quick to respond, and enjoy developing new ideas,” Blanchard says. “Women franchisees are excited about their products and concepts, and are always thinking of new and exciting things to do. Having more women involved in the industry means quicker growth all around; in sales, ideas, and expansion.”
Finding inspiration in good food and her love to eat out, Blanchard stays motivated by trying new concepts, discovering new products, and watching the process of the organic movement. She sees the future of franchising as a smart, new, eco-conscious model. In a market that’s currently saturated with yogurt and sandwich franchises, she believes that rather than reinventing a common concept with a different name, newer innovative concepts are drawing a lot more attention and have larger group appeal than ones that are being done over and over.
Blanchard’s advice to women interested in joining the franchise industry is to focus on confidence and teamwork. “Find a concept that you’re really passionate about and work as a franchise team. A healthy relationship between franchisors and franchisees is the key to success.”