The Profit's Marcus Lemonis is happy to invest his own money in struggling small businesses, but his one rule of thumb is he's always 100 percent in charge.
That arrangement did not sit well with Tonnie Rozier, founder of New York-based cupcake shop Tonnie's Minis. Though Rozier was in desperate need of help, having borrowed $250,000 from his wife Erenisse while still losing money on his business, handing over the keys to his company to Lemonis felt like a shot in the stomach.
Like many entrepreneurs, Rozier thrived on his own persistence and tenacity, but stubbornness had been clouding his judgment for years, letting him sell a product that cost too much to make to just break even. Even with help from friends and family, Rozier refused to change his model.
"Tonnie doesn't listen to his wife, who's invested a ton of money, and he doesn't listen to his sister, who works there virtually for free," Lemonis said during Tuesday's episode.
Having previously invested in bankrupt gourmet cupcake chain Crumbs, Lemonis knows a thing or two about reviving pastry businesses. To help get Tonnie's back on its feet, he invested $125,000 for 25 percent of the company, wiping out most of the business's debt, and convinced Rozier to delay plans for a new store in Newark, New Jersey.
Some of the changes he made to Tonnie's included renovating the shop to implement an assembly line process where customers can choose their cupcake, frosting, and topping. He also reduced production costs by having a large scale bakery in the Bronx bake the cupcakes using Rozier's secret family recipe.
Most importantly, Lemonis got Rozier to trust other people and be willing to take advice. How? By starting a dialogue. When Rozier balked at ceding control of the company, Lemonis asked the founder's wife and sister to weigh in. After they expressed their support for Lemonis's process, Rozier quickly got on board.
"For me it was just about letting go," Rozier said in an interview with Inc. "I've been doing this business for 20 years and I've always had my own say and my own way. The one thing I have done since [Marcus invested] is allow others around me to speak and actually listen to them."
After re-opening Tonnie's Minis, the business went from losing close to $100 per day to generating a gross profit of $400 per day, equivalent to $140,000 annually. By the end of the year, Rozier expects gross profit to exceed that figure.
"Not long ago, I was focusing on just opening stores," Rozier said. "Now I'm focusing on building an empire that is built to last."
Stay tuned for more recaps every week.