Megan Lee-MacLean, Panago Pizza Franchisee
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Megan Lee-MacLean, Panago Pizza Franchisee

MelissaLeeMacLean

“The product and experience is on you – you need to own that.”

Owning a business has been a goal in the back of Megan Lee-MacLean’s mind since she started a candy-selling venture as part of a high school assignment with a group of classmates. “That was my first taste of entrepreneurship. I just found it so awesome and so fun,” she says.

In 2015, Megan and her husband David took the plunge and purchased a Panago franchise in Toronto’s Liberty Village. Lee-MacLean left her job at TELUS, where she’d worked for eight years, to run it.

They chose Panago because the company’s core values aligned with their own. The quality of the product was also important, so before finalizing their decision, the couple would invite co-workers to join them at Panago for lunches and noticed the food usually got rave reviews.

The third deciding factor was an opportunity for growth. “Panago is a national brand, but it’s much better known in the west,” she explains. “It seemed like the right time to get in, while they’re growing in the rest of the country.” Panago also offers more than one revenue stream, through selling to both walk-in and delivery customers.

Before taking ownership of the store in May, Lee-MacLean spent three weeks training at a store in Mississauga, Ontario and then flew to British Columbia for a month of leadership training and shifts with a Panago trainer at a corporate store in Abbotsford.

“In-store training is the best way to get your feet wet,” she says. “The most valuable thing is running a shift, being a part of a rush, and living through it. It really builds your confidence.”

When it came time to open the doors to her own store in May, Lee-MacLean worked closely with a regional Panago business development manager who helped her learn the ropes and make sure she was comfortable with daily operations.

One of the biggest adjustments for Lee-MacLean has been hiring and managing a team of more than 10 people. A high turnover rate is expected in the industry, but she’s found that it helps to communicate openly with prospective hires and current staff so that she’s aware of their personal goals and objectives.

Another challenge has been “balancing my family life with my pizza life,” she says. Lee-MacLean didn’t take a single day off the first month that she owned the store, but has gradually transitioned to taking two days off a week.

“You need to understand that the first couple of years are going to be long hours and hard work,” she says.
A new franchisee should also be detail-oriented. “This is a logistics-heavy business and there are a lot of moving parts,” she says.

But above all, she believes a successful franchisee will be “a passionate and genuine leader who truly cares about the customer and making it right,” she says. “The product and experience is on you – you need to own that.”

Despite any curveballs thrown at her during her first year, Lee-MacLean believes the experience is more than worth it. She’s already thinking about opening multiple Panago locations in the future and building what she calls “a mini pizza empire.”

Originally published in FranchiseCanada Magazine, March/April 2016

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