Embrace setbacks, ask for help and immerse yourself in your industry. Michigan State University alumni and entrepreneurs delivered powerful messages at an event hosted by the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, appropriately titled “Franchising 101.”

Bob Fish, co-founder and CEO of Biggby Coffee, graduated from the Broad College of BusinessSchool of Hospitality Business and opened its first café in 1995 in the heart of East Lansing. Today, Biggby has more than 130 cafes throughout 15 states.

Chris McCuiston, Ken Szymusiak, Bob Fish and Randy Shacka

The three entrepreneurs held a panel discussion hosted by Burgess Institute Managing Director Ken Szymusiak (From left: McCuiston, Szymusiak, Fish and Shacka)

Chris McCuiston graduated with from the Broad College with a degree in finance, and started Goldfish Swim School with his wife in 2006. Goldfish offers toddler and youth swim lessons in a vibrant space that appeals to young children: brightly colored walls, warm water, and a tropical-themed environment. Goldfish’s first school opened in Farmington Hills, and now has 65 schools teaching 50,000 students.

Randy Shacka graduated from MSU with a degree in applied engineering sciences, and began his career with Two Men and a Truck as an intern in the moving company’s corporate headquarters office in Lansing. Today, Shacka serves as the company president and oversees franchises in 41 U.S. states, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland. Two Men and a Truck is the largest franchised moving company in the United States with more than 410 locations.

While franchising takes a tremendous amount of responsibility and business acumen, the speakers all agreed that failure is an option because it provides for learning experiences and opportunities for improvement.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” they said. The speakers individually expressed gratitude for mentors and business partners who helped them along the way, and told students that if they ask for help, rare is it that they won’t receive it.

 The panel advised students to look franchising as an alternative career to either taking a “traditional job,” or starting their own company. The discussed how, if one decides to franchise their next big idea or concept, training becomes the key to success. “You need your franchisors to be well-trained to ensure they protect the brand by operating at thigh standards and follow the proven protocol that will lead to success,” the entrepreneurs said.