From Fireman to Startup Entrepreneur to Franchisee, Rodney Hinson’s Story

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. Atlanta Franchise Today is dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for their franchise goals.

Today, Leslie is joined in the studio by an entrepreneur who started and grew his own business from scratch and then decided to buy a franchise in a completely different industry. Rodney Hinson is the founder and CEO of Hinson Security Services, a full-service contract security company operating in Florida and Georgia. Recently, he opened his first location of Chick’nCone, a unique, fast-casual restaurant franchise.

Transcription:

Leslie Kuban:
Today we’re going to learn all about Rodney’s journey. Welcome.

Rodney Hinson:
Hey, Leslie, how are you?

Leslie Kuban:
Welcome to the program. Doing great.

Rodney Hinson:
All right. That’s good. You’re looking good today.

Leslie Kuban:
Really excited for our conversation today.

Rodney Hinson:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, you have quite the background. You were a fireman.

Rodney Hinson:
Yep. I was a fireman for 10 years in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Leslie Kuban:
And then you worked in the security industry.

Rodney Hinson:
Yep. Well, I’ve always worked in the industry one way or the other, even when I was a fireman. So I’ve worked in the industry now going on probably 25 years. So it’s been good.

Leslie Kuban:
And then you started your own security company from the ground up. We’re going to compare that to a franchise type of business, but you’re a startup entrepreneur from scratch, so how was that experience for you?

Rodney Hinson:
It’s been a great experience. We’re actually celebrated 10 years this month of being a business, which was great. I didn’t leave my regular job until five years ago. So I started my business while I was actually working a business, so it was a 24/7, holidays, weekends experience, but I’m glad I did it. I am where I am now because of that so it’s been a great experience.

Leslie Kuban:
And tell us a little bit about the security business. Who are your customers and who you cater to?

Rodney Hinson:
We have a variety of customers. Like I said, we was talking earlier, 2018, we did the Super Bowl for Anheuser-Busch. We was their security. We just completed doing security for the Hamilton play. We do a lot of contract security, apartment buildings, grocery stores, hotels. We do a variety of security. So we are very wide broad on the kind of security we do.

Leslie Kuban:
And now you’re in a completely different business as well, and Chick’nCone is such a fun brand, but tell our viewers a little bit about your restaurant.

Rodney Hinson:
Well, Chick’nCone Atlanta located at 780 Memorial Drive Atlanta, Georgia. Actually what we do is we take a hand roll waffle cone and put fried chicken in it. The best concept ever. Chicken and waffle is a new twist. Can’t get no better than that.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s right. It’s delicious too.

Rodney Hinson:
Absolutely. Yes, it is. Seven different sauces. Come through and check us out. It is great.

Leslie Kuban:
Tell us about that story. So you’re an entrepreneur, you started a business from scratch, but a franchise is a totally different kind of business. You’ve got systems to follow, there’s some rules you have to comply with, you pay fees, how do you work that out in your mind having done everything yourself before?

Rodney Hinson:
It was totally different, because I’m used to being the boss, I’m used to making all the decisions saying I’m going to go here, I’m going to go do this. And being a part of a franchise, I learned a lot, but there was a lot of stuff we did not know going into the franchise, which there was able to help with. I’ve never owned a restaurant before. And as me and Marisol, my business partner, went into it. We was almost like we have no idea what to do with this restaurant, and that’s where the franchise came in handy. We could call somebody, ask them what’s going on, what’s this, but even still we had to build a restaurant from scratch. When we first got the space we have, it was bricks and gravel and dirt and we had to build it from the bottom. So that was the difference. It still had

Leslie Kuban:
… a lot of help with that?

Rodney Hinson:
We did need a lot of help, but on the other hand, we had to grow the business as well just like building it from scratch, because even though you buy into a franchise, you are your business, you are your brand, you still got to grow the brand regardless. You know what I mean? So we just had to get in and we just had to dig deep and grow the business.

Leslie Kuban:
So tell us a little bit about why you chose the Chick’nCone franchise. Tell the story of how you landed on it, because it’s so different from the kind of business you’re in.

Rodney Hinson:
It was crazy. At that time we had an office in Miami. Marisol was living in Miami. I went down, I said, “We need to figure out how to get another stream of revenue outside of security,” because COVID happened. And when COVID happened, we lost 60% of the business. We said, “We can’t let this happen again. What else can we get into?” And she said, “I got this place called Chick’nCone.” And I was like, “What the crap is a Chick’nCone?” So then she took me there, we tried, it was amazing. That was the first time. Then went back the second time to ask him, “How can we get into the franchise?” And the owner who created Chick’nCone was there, and we don’t believe in coincidences, we tried it, we said, “We are in, let’s go.” And I begged him. I said, “You got to let me bring this to Atlanta.” Chicken and waffles in Atlanta, it was a no brainer.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s so interesting. So you were looking for another opportunity, but you weren’t looking for food, you weren’t looking for a certain kind of food, universe put you in a certain place?

Rodney Hinson:
Put us right there in the middle of it. The concept was so easy and so catchy. And we was like, “This is going to make a killing in Atlanta. Let’s take it to Atlanta.” But we had to make sure we were in Atlanta. We said, “We can’t be outside. We got to be in Atlanta,” because the concept of chicken and waffles was just amazing. The way they did it, it was just amazing.

Leslie Kuban:
So what are you finding the biggest differences, pros and cons, of being a franchisee of a brand and having your own company?

Rodney Hinson:
Having my own company, I’m 100% the boss. Being in a franchise, I have to answer to other people. And that’s not really answering, it’s more we have to keep on brand standards. So we can’t just go out and say, “Hey, we want to go do this.” And they be like, “No, we sell these kind of French fries.” So then we got to step back and say, “Okay, now we understand.” And so that’s a good part about being part of a franchise. The bad part is you can’t really make a decision on doing something without contacting the corporate office. That’s the only thing. Even coming to this interview, I had to get permission come do the interview, but that’s fine. It’s part of the brand and it’s a great brand. We just had to figure out how to work around and make things happen for us the same way.

Leslie Kuban:
And I think that’s something that people have to be comfortable with, especially if you’re used to being in business for yourself and doing everything your way, that you give up some freedom in return for systems or branding or supply chain or the things that make franchising work, so that’s something people have to be comfortable with. Well, one thing you are really known for within your brand, they talk about you is how good you are at the ground game, the social media marketing, and you’re very active in that. You’re all over your Instagram. And it’s really cool to watch. I love following your Instagram page.

Rodney Hinson:
Thank you.

Leslie Kuban:
It seems like that’s above and beyond what the franchise marketing game plan is. So you find that’s important, do you find that’s a key piece to growing your business is your social media involvement?

Rodney Hinson:
Absolutely. I tell people all the time, “If you have a business and you put it on the shelf in the closet and you shut the door, who knows you have a business, how can they support you? They can’t.” You got to pull your business out of the closet, take it off the shelf and put it out there for the world to know. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, you can all make those pages for free. It depends on how much you want to get out there and let people know you have a business. If you don’t want people to know your business, keep it in the closet and put it on the shelf.

Leslie Kuban:
What do you say to that guy though that is like, “I just don’t have time for that. I’m busy with other things, running my business. I don’t want to be on the camera myself.” What do you say to that?

Rodney Hinson:
He don’t want to run a business. He don’t want to have a business. There’s no way. You don’t have to be on camera, but you got to promote your business. You got to figure it out. Social media, it’s free basically, unless you pay to get it boosted or get seen around the world, but it’s one of the most free platforms you have to promote your business. Now, I know I’m a little older, but promoting your business back in the day, you either had to do it in the magazine or newspaper, or them five by seven flyers and stick it on the car. Social media, all you got to do is go on there and post something. That’s one of the easiest things in the world to do if you want your business. Three or four times a day, what are you doing? You can’t spend 15 minutes, then you don’t want to be in business. You don’t want to be in business.

Leslie Kuban:
So you just opened in February?

Rodney Hinson:
February 19th.

Leslie Kuban:
Very recently. Do you think back, what did you do, before you opened, to market your business? Did you do some of the stuff to get some buzz out for the opening?

Rodney Hinson:
The day I signed, I went to Instagram and created a page and it was two years before we opened. So I promoted it for two years on social media, every platform. Everybody was like, “It’s crazy, why you promoting so far out?” So when you go to the movies and the movie say, “Coming next summer,” do you complain? No. You just be like, “I’m waiting on that thing to open next summer.” So that’s what we did. It was 18 months from the time we signed to the time we opened and I promoted it every day, two or three times a day, because you had to. You had to get people excited about this opening, and if you didn’t want to do it, then why be in business?

Leslie Kuban:
I think what’s so important about your example here of hitting the ground game long before your opening is that is what really makes the difference between a strong start and a lackluster start. And I have seen this over and over again with people that if they treat the pre-marketing as a I’ll get to it when I get to it, they wonder why they don’t have a strong start to the launch of their business. Many of our viewers are people aspiring to be a business owner, they might be looking at franchising or their own business, but regardless, I think this is a really important message for aspiring entrepreneurs to hear is that you got to get out there and hit it long before you actually open your business.

Rodney Hinson:
During our grand opening, I think we was only open five hours before we shut down because it was so many people, it was an hour wait to get in, and we was like, “Listen, we can’t keep going or we going to run out of chicken and we got to open up tomorrow.” So I made the decision five hours in, let’s cut it off. That’s how big the promotional part was for social media. I didn’t promote it nowhere but on social media, and that’s how crucial it is to promote your business. Even now when we show up someplace like at the beer fest or someplace else, it’s people there waiting on us. They said, “We seen you on Instagram. We seen you on TikTok. We seen you on Facebook.” And it’s really just free advertisement. You just got to get out there and do it. If you don’t want to be in front of the camera, find somebody else who do and make your business happen.

Leslie Kuban:
So you’re a food truck as well?

Rodney Hinson:
Not yet. We’re working on it. That’s one of the things we pacing ourselves into, because once we know we do the food truck, we don’t want to take away from the brick and mortar at the same time. So we go out and we do events and we let people know where our location. The food truck, this past weekend let us know that our concept is working. It is really working. So it’s just a matter of staying on your ground game. And no business profits the first year. None. I don’t know none that can say, “I opened up and the same year I made money,” so we are still staying on the ground game, just trying to keep our finances in order and just keep on promoting, keep on promoting, keep on promoting.

Leslie Kuban:
What do you say, Rodney to that guy or gal who they’re working in a job, you were working in a job and you started your business at the same time, and they’re afraid, they’re scared about taking a risk and doing something that’s new and different. You’ve done it here. What kind of advice would you have for that person who dreams of it, loves of it, but is just having a hard time taking that final step to actually do it?

Rodney Hinson:
Dream bigger. If your dreams don’t scare you, then you ain’t dreaming big enough. That’s my whole goal. That’s what I tell everybody. You either going to go to work and leave work and go do something for yourself and eventually be able to let your full-time job go, because that’s exactly what I did. I worked eight, 10 hours a day, I would go home, take a nap, do whatever, and then at night I would go out and do my security business. And I lost holidays, lost family events, but to go back and say, “Would I do it again the same way?” Absolutely. That’s how I got here.
It’s not because of luck. It’s because I got out there and I said, “No, this is…” Believe me, I only eat what I kill. And by that I mean I got to go out there and work every day and go make it happen. There is no fallback plan from this point. It’s just I got to make it happen. So that’s my mentality. And I just be like, “We got to get up. We got to get up at six in the morning.” If we don’t sleep, we just don’t get no sleep tonight. And it’s tough, but if that’s what you want to do and that’s your passion, then you’ll make it happen.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, it sure looks like you’re having fun with your Chick’nCone business. I see the live entertainment that you have at your location and you’re so engaged in your communities. So I hope you’re having fun because it sure looks like you are.

Rodney Hinson:
We’re having fun. It’s a lot of work, but we are definitely having a ball. It’s definitely having fun. Live entertainment. And again, you can open a restaurant and it’s still hard work. People get into franchises and think I’m going to just open the doors and it’s going to happen, especially if you get into a young franchise like Chick’nCone, you still got to come in like a regular business. It’s not Chick-fil-A or McDonald’s where they got the grand national marketing plan, you have to really go in and make this thing work. And that falls back on you promoting your business on social media. You can’t just depend on them to do it too. It’s still your business. It’s still your name. So you got to get out there and promote, promote, market, market, advertise, advertise, do whatever you got to do, like being here, which I really appreciate, is a big deal. It’s a big deal.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, I’m so glad to have you.

Rodney Hinson:
I’m glad you invited me. Thank you.

Leslie Kuban:
Just as we start to wrap up, what are your plans for your Chick’nCone business?

Rodney Hinson:
Well, the whole thing is we want to do another brick and mortar probably a few years down the road. Right now we got different plans. We might want to try to get into the airport, get into the stadium, continue to do events. We just want to make Chick’nCone Atlanta a staple in Atlanta, a place people want to come visit when they come to Atlanta for years to come. So that’s our main objective right now.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, you’re certainly off to a good start.

Rodney Hinson:
Thank you. I appreciate that.

Leslie Kuban:
I love watching your Instagram channel.

Rodney Hinson:
I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, thank you so much for joining today. Really appreciate you coming and look forward to catching up with you again in the future.

Rodney Hinson:
You better stop by Chick’nCone.

Leslie Kuban:
Oh, I have. And I’ll come again.

Rodney Hinson:
Come on back there again now. 780 Memorial Drive, Atlanta, Georgia. Stop by and see us.

Leslie Kuban:
And if you will, share that again where your store is located.

Rodney Hinson:
780 Memorial Drive, Atlanta, Georgia. And if you want to check us out on Instagram, it’s Chick’nCone Atlanta on Instagram and TikTok and Facebook.

Leslie Kuban:
So definitely follow his page on Instagram and TikTok.

Rodney Hinson:
Absolutely. Thank you, Leslie, so much.

Leslie Kuban:
Thank you.

Rodney Hinson:
All right.

Leslie Kuban:
And folks, I hope you enjoyed our episode of Atlanta Franchise Today. My name is Leslie Kuban and I really look forward to seeing you again next week.


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