Sponsored What I learned from my appearance on Franchise Hot Seat

The Connection Exchange has been exploring franchising as an option for expansion since almost the beginning of our business 6 years ago. As a business based on making local connections within communities, it was logical that franchising would be a way for our brand to expand nationally to other communities. We started proving the model a year into our business by opening a second location in St. Charles County (St. Louis area). Soon after, a location in West St. Louis was opened as well. Franchising has been something we dream of and work towards with capital being the main obstacle in making that dream a reality.

In late 2020, a connection we had made through our research forwarded us an opportunity to sit in the hot seat on “Franchise Hot Seat,” a web series that gives rising and hopeful franchisors the opportunity to seek the mentorship, advice or financial support of established franchise industry leaders. We would get to tell our story to a Franchise Dream Team, get feedback on our idea and potentially get a financial infusion and mentorship and advice. We jumped at the opportunity and submitted our video application. We were excited to accept an invitation to present our business idea on the show in late March as a part of Season 2. It was a nerve wracking, exhilarating and eye-opening hour and we’ve learned a lot through the process!


The Connection Exchange Co-Chief Connector Jennifer Schenck recently appeared on an episode of “The Francise Hot Seat.” Watch the full episode above.


1. Do it scared!

I was really nervous going into this. My business partner was out of town on vacation and it was all up to me – from the prep work to the follow-up Q&A. While I am passionate about presenting and talking to people about our business, this felt different. First, it was a big deal that we got selected to present our business to this elite group of franchise “who’s who” judges. The more I told people about the opportunity, the more the nerves got to me.

But being stretched out of your comfort zone is where the growth happens in a business, so I moved forward towards presentation day. I felt prepared that morning, but then I decided to completely change my background in an effort to get better lighting in my home office. In hindsight, I think that helped take my mind off the nervousness. I could have run my script over and over, but I prefer to prepare and run with things. The wait is what makes me nervous. Adrenaline took over and I had very little time to stress and overthink things. I did it scared…and I did it!

2. Decide what really matters in your business plan and what you are willing to be flexible with.

It’s the whole “start with why” thing. No one gets or cares about your business like you do. At the end of the day, it’s your business. If some piece of feedback does not fit within your framework or meet your why, does it matter who passes it along to you? If the feedback is valid and there is flexibility within the framework, go for it! Or at least spend some time evaluating it. We’ve had some framework enlightening conversations post the Hot Seat appearance that has strengthened our “why”.

3. Unpack the feedback in small chunks.

What an overwhelming day it was to appear on the Hot Seat! I remember feeling emotionally and physically drained afterwards. On my end, I wanted to be completely engaged with the judges, so I did not take notes. When we got the edited version, it took several playbacks to unpack the feedback and even at that, it again felt overwhelming. So unpacking each piece of feedback in small pieces was crucial to our internal conversations. What did we agree with? What could we answer with a better response next time? What were our real takeaways and how could we improve our business idea going forward?

4. Be authentic and true to yourself and your business.

I think it’s rare to find someone that likes the way they appear on camera and the way their voice sounds as a recording. I am definitely not one of those people! But in the end, I know I was authentic, ethical, and true to myself and my business. I think it’s difficult to ask more of a business owner and I’m proud of the way I presented myself and our business.

5. It’s always about connections!

As we’ve gone through the processes of applying, preparing, presenting, and follow-up conversations with the judges, I’m amused to be reminded of our core value of “connection”. It’s truly at the heart of everything we do as business owners. From someone thinking of us and encouraging us to apply, to the mentorship we sought as we prepared, to having these world-class franchise executives now know our name, connection is the reason we had this opportunity as well as what is to come. New doors have been opened, new conversations started, new relationships formed. It’s exciting, mind-blowing and intimidating all at the same time. Entrepreneurship is truly a roller-coaster. Ride it with others; it makes for a better ride!


The Connection Exchange is a membership-based lead generation welcome service that welcomes new businesses and new residents on behalf of their membership. They provide a free welcome gift to connect these new consumers to the products and services they need to launch, explore and thrive. The Connection Exchange is a valuable economic development resource with four locations (Columbia/Mid-Missouri, St. Charles County, West County St. Louis, and a virtual location serving digital businesses operating nationally).

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