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How Two Single Moms are Giving Felons a Second Chance

Jimmy John’s franchise owners, Mary Jo Smallman and Angie Daniels know the power of second chances and starting over. These two single moms met when they were both at a crossroads, professionally and personally. As part of Jimmy John’s new Freak Yeah! campaign, the sandwich giant is spreading the word about some of their favorite freaks.

Smallman and Daniels are two of those freaks. As single moms, they wanted to start a business that would allow them to raise their kids while also setting themselves up for financial independence. They now own four Jimmy John’s stores in the Seattle metropolitan area and are spreading the wealth to those who are less fortunate through their work with the Washington State Department of Corrections program called “Work Release.” Smallman and Daniels help felons transition back into society.

What are some of the challenges of opening your own franchise?
MJ: For me, the first big hurdle was gaining confidence that I could do this. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for over two decades, so taking on this adventure was huge! Securing financing, applying for permits, properly registering with state and federal agencies, working with construction crews, building relationships with professionals, setting up accounts with vendors, and interviewing potential employees, were all new to me. I quickly understood that every day was going to present a new challenge, which I decided to look at as a new opportunity to learn. I am still learning, all the time!

What advice would you give to a mom who wants to open her own franchise?
Angie: Do it! Make a goal and strive to reach it. As moms we are strong and dependable! Why not put those skills to good use in the business world? Have faith in yourself to gain the ability and confidence to excel as an entrepreneur just like we all do as moms! Be ready to juggle a lot of work, unknowns, failures, and successes. Find the courage, drive, and desire to own and operate a successful business. Believing in yourself is the first step to success.

We love what you are doing through the Washington State Department of Corrections Work Release program. How have you seen the program impact your participating employees?
MJ: We believe strongly in second chances. A friend once gave me a gift that was inscribed with the quote, “It is never too late to start your life over.” Working with the WSDOC Work Release program allows us the ability to offer a second chance to people who are looking to start over. We see people who want to work hard and transition back into responsible, independent employees and members of society. We have seen Work Release employees go back to school while employed by us and move on to careers in their field of study. Some have reconnected with their children and families, saved enough to purchase a new car, and have made down payments on houses. Our Work Release employees often express their gratitude to us for being given this second chance. That makes it all worthwhile.

Other than time, what have been your greatest sacrifices as mom entrepreneurs?
MJ: Obviously time is the number one sacrifice, but I see it as a lesson for my daughters. I am showing them that hard work produces results, which over time, will benefit not just us as a family, but other people who we employ and interact with along the way. The one thing that I have “sacrificed” is giving up the ways I used to run the household. I don’t have the time to do everything with the attention to detail that I used to. My stores receive that level of attention now! The reality is my girls have learned how to better take care of their own things. They have learned to wash their own laundry and clean their own bathrooms. Their problem-solving skills have improved dramatically since I am no longer readily available at every minute. I consider this a positive “sacrifice”!

Angie: As a single mom of a kind, yet wild-hearted 10-year old son, I have learned to juggle the good with the bad. I do this by showing him that hard work, dedication, and striving to do your best pays off. We are freaks about providing top-notch customer service in our stores and making sandwiches fast. To do that, plus manage about 100 employees, connect with the community, and maintain positive relationships with vendors is hard, but I find a balance to manage them all because each plays a major role in running a successful franchise. I feel what I am teaching my son outweighs any sacrifices that are made within my work/home life balance. Every day is not going to turn out as planned, so you must have faith and grace that the next day will be a little easier. I’ve learned that setting short-term goals make each day a win for our business and my personal growth.


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