Since 2006, Leeward has been a co-owner of Dream Niche, LLC, now doing business as Big Frog Custom T-Shirts, headquartered in Dunedin, Florida. Leeward is primarily responsible for overseeing high level activities including franchise development, legal and compliance issues and public relations.
Prior to starting the Big Frog Franchise, Leeward founded a highly successful company. From 1991 to 2004 he was a founder & Vice President, Sales & Marketing of Ocean Optics, Inc. located in Dunedin. Ocean Optics, Inc. is a world leader in fiber optic spectrometers. Prior to his involvement with Ocean Optics, Inc. he worked for 17 years for Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts as Director Worldwide Business Imaging.
Leeward is heavily involved in the community and is actively involved with a number of philanthropic organizations and presently sits on the Board of Trustees for the UPARC Foundation for the Developmentally Challenged. Leeward also enjoys mentoring young entrepreneurs.
1. Tell us about the BIG FROG concept.
BIG FROG is a unique high technology, light manufacturing retail garment decorating boutique with no minimum quantities, no set-up fees and no artwork charges and delivery within 24 hours. BIG FROG prides itself in creating a value-added experience for our customers by offering exceptional customer service and support in a warm, friendly boutique atmosphere.
2. How and when did you become involved with BIG FROG?
I got involved in 2006 when two former colleagues wanted to start their own business. We started with an internet concept to sell Geek Novelties to science nerds. We want to sell “Geek T-shirts”; and found screen printers wanted high minimum quantities, artwork charges and set-up fees. So we purchased a Direct to Garment printer and we started printing geek T-shirts in-house. In an effort to augment our income we sent out direct mail to private schools, charities and trades and the business took off. In September 2007 we opened a retail store in Clearwater Florida to sell custom T-shirts emphasizing: no minimum quantities, no set-up fees, no artwork charges and 24 hour turn-around and the business really took off! In March of 2008, one of our customers said he wanted to buy a franchise for what we were doing. By October of 2008 we had our Franchise Disclosure Documents done and we awarded our first Franchise. To date we have awarded 84 Franchises with 70 locations open and operational.
3. What was your background prior to joining BIG FROG?
I have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and spent 20 years working for Fortune 500 companies in Sales, Marketing and Management. In 1990 I became a partner in an analytical instruments start-up company selling and manufacturing miniature fiber optic-based spectrophotometers. The business was sold in 2004. The combination of my corporate background and the experience of being involved with an entrepreneurial start-up was the prefect background for starting a franchise company.
4. What are some of the advantages in being a BIG FROG franchisee?
BIG FROG has the best Franchisee/Franchisor relations in the industry. We truly believe, “if it is good for the Franchisee, it will be good for the Franchisor”. We also believe the key to a successful Franchise is the success of the Franchisees.
- Small Retail Footprint
- Daylight Hours (Mon –Fri 9:00 to 6:00, Sat 9:00 to1:00)
- Minimum Employees
- No Accounts Receivables
- Minimum Inventory
- Great Vendor Partners and Buying Power
- And a VERY FUN business
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
- Outgoing and friendly
- Someone that wants to be involved in their community
- Someone who will follow a system
- Someone that wants to have fun
6. Tell us a little about the Garment Decorating Market?
- The garment decorating industry is a $54 billion industry
- The garment decorating industry has been steadily growing for the past 10 years
- There is no strong retail brand associated with the garment decorating industry
- Our goal is to open 300 retail locations by the end of 2020.
7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
- It is all about the Franchisees
- If the Franchisees are happy and making money, the franchise brand will do well
- Training, coaching and implementation are the keys to success
- And, it’s all about the Franchisees, if it’s good for the Franchisee, it will be good for the Franchisor.
8. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
My father was my mentor and my best friend. Now I look to our outstanding Board members and other great people in the franchise industry for mentoring
9. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
- Do your homework
- Be prepared
- Find a concept that feels right
- Look strongly at the senior management team
- Validate with existing franchisees
- If something doesn’t feel right – walk away
10. In your opinion, why do you think that BIG FROG would be a great opportunity for someone?
- It has to be the right fit; for the franchisee and the franchisor
- Big Frog is really a lifestyle business
- We stress “work, life, balance” with all our Franchisees
- We train and support our franchisees at the pinnacle of franchising
- WE HAVE FUN!