Jonathan Barnett launched his first company while he was in college selling fireworks. He got into the franchise business by following his love of basketball into purchasing a basketball franchise in 2006.  Then later in 2006 he started Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning which is one of the fastest growing franchises today.

Through it all he says the most important parts have been the learning. Sure he made a few bucks in college with the fireworks business but it was the experience that led him into a much bigger venture today…

You have done so much; briefly tell us about your successful business ventures.  Your inspiration for beginning each and the moment when you decided it was time to move on and begin the next.

I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, like my grandpa, who was an inventor and owned several businesses throughout his life. My first business venture was Johnny B’s Fireworks (2000-2003). I started this fireworks stand, while attending Oral Roberts University. I remember driving home from the gym and seeing a firework stand off in a field somewhere.  I said to myself, “If someone else can run a firework business, why can’t I?” It became a promising little start-up.

At the same time Johnny B’s was underway, I also had another project in the works. In 2001, while attending and playing basketball for Oral Roberts University, I founded Crossover International.  The mission of Crossover International is to use basketball as a platform to share my faith and build solid relationships with youth around the world.  Every year, Crossover takes collegiate Christian athletes on tours around the world.  On these tours, we have camps for kids in the daytime, where we teach them about basketball, but also take time to share our faith through testimonies, dramas, and songs.  At night, our team plays against pro club teams.  During game half times, our team testifies to the crowd through dramas and song.

I had the fireworks business for four years, adding an additional location every year before selling it in 2003.  While it provided an income through college, what was more valuable was the entrepreneurial experience.  Having multiple locations taught me how important it is to create effective systems and a business that is easy to duplicate.  The fireworks venture gave me the confidence that I would use later to launch Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning.

I purchased my first franchise in 2006-2007.  It was a minor league basketball team in the International Basketball League (IBL) and we named it the Colorado Crossover.  My original goal was to have the Colorado Crossover to be an extension of Crossover International, but for people in the States, rather than overseas.  It was a great experience, and helped get my foot in the door of the franchising world.

In 2006, after finishing my MBA, I started Oxi Fresh Franchising Co.  In graduate school, I had studied service businesses, where I determined that carpet cleaning was a service that was not being performed at the highest level. Carpet cleaners were using up to 60 gallons of water to clean a home and left customers with soaked carpets. Such an ineffective system was practically begging for innovation. Therefore, I created an environmentally green system that primarily uses oxygen, instead of water. Where other carpet cleaning companies use multiple gallons of water, we only need two. An Oxi Fresh carpet gets dry in approximately one hour, as opposed to up to 24 with steam cleaning. With 200 units sold nationwide in less than four years, Oxi Fresh Franchising Co is one of the fastest growing new franchises in North America.

How much of your success can you attribute to your education or is your business savvy a natural instinct?

I am a big believer in education and think it is very important.  However, I also believe that education alone is not what has allowed me the opportunities that I have been fortunate to have in the business world.  A large part of it is determination, a willingness to take risks and the ability to take advantage of networking opportunities.

What is the best piece of advice you would give a young entrepreneur who is just starting out?

So many people have great ideas, but are waiting until everything is lined up perfectly before they take that first step of faith.  I would say, “Don’t let what you think you can’t do, keep you from trying to do it.”

Your college career is pretty amazing tell us about how you juggled classes, exams, D1 Basketball and a successful business all at once.

It wasn’t easy to juggle all of my interests and responsibilities. However, I just had to work hard, stay organized, and keep focused. I guarantee that my friends probably had way more fun than I did did in college. Looking back at that time in my life, and wondering how I did all of it at once gives me the confidence, I need to tackle the challenges in my life today.  Those three years in college were some of the toughest years of my life, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

How in the world did you manage to own a basketball franchise in your 20’s?

There are so many moving parts to owning a basketball franchise: securing sponsors, attracting fans, finding a good coach and recruiting a team doctor. I made the investment to purchase the franchise and learned to delegate the many tasks involved in owning a basketball franchise to others around me. I put together a great team of managers that ran the organization.  I had to let other people lead, which was challenging, but necessary.

Your profile seems impeccable but no one is perfect. What were the biggest mistakes you made along the way and the lessons you learned from them?

As I alluded to earlier, allocating responsibilities was challenging for me, at first. Over time, I have learned to surround myself with talented people I can trust. In everything I have done, I can think of mistakes that I have made, but I truly believe that nothing is a failure if you learn from it.

How did you get the word out about Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning?

When I first launched Oxi Fresh, I actually gave the first four franchises away to get the ball rolling. It was a risk, but I knew that would be a powerful way to jumpstart the business and help spread the word.  I also attended a conference in Atlanta that focused on best practices of both how to develop a franchise brand and how to award franchises.  There were many things that I learned at that conference that we still use to this day.  I realize that we are very fortunate to be in the place we are despite this economy.

When did you know it was time to franchise?

I had studied franchising, while pursuing my degree and had already run one by the time I started Oxi Fresh. My experiences had taught me that the franchise model is one of the best business models.  So, from the time I started Oxi Fresh, I had the goal to make it a success in franchising. When you first launch a business already determined to make it a franchise, you make the business easy to duplicate and build it on systems, rather than on personnel.  Starting Oxi Fresh with that mindset, one focused on franchising, meant we were able to franchise very quickly.

Do you have any advice for a young entrepreneur looking to start a business and possibly become franchisors as well?

I would say that you turn your thoughts into your actions, your actions into your habits, your habits into your character, and your character into your destiny. Dream big and then take action.

Roy Roca is an intern at Under30CEO. Follow him on twitter @roy_roca

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