Sometimes the best way to test the waters of a new venture is to dive right in. That’s exactly what Lisa Fullerton did when the opportunity to become an entrepreneur presented itself. After building a career directing operations for a corporate entity, Lisa switched gears, cashed in her retirement and took a chance on herself as a franchisee with Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon.
Her new journey as a business owner started in 2000 with one location in Texas. Today, Lisa is the owner of A Novel Idea, LLC, which consists of seven franchise locations and approximately 80 employees. She started her business working 70-plus-hour weeks with a “heads down, elbows up” approach, which has clearly paid off in many ways. Case in point: Her business’ lifecycle is two times the industry standard, and many of her employees have been with the company for 17 years. That loyalty is not lost on Lisa, who works hard to motivate and give back to her team. “In retail, to have people stick around that long is unheard of. I’m in a good lifecycle right now, so I’m explaining to our leadership team that, at the beginning, we have to do every task to understand what’s required,” she says. “Then we bring people in to run it, then we have to give back to those people who let us sleep at night.”
As a four-year member of the NAWBO San Antonio chapter, Lisa frequently turns to her NAWBO sisters for support as she continues to grow her business. “In a competitive world, it gets lonely when you’re running your business,” she says. “With NAWBO, it’s a group of professional women who edify each other and build each other up. We are there to elevate and encourage one another. It turns the isolation of running your own business into more of a community.”
Lisa currently serves as her chapter’s Public Policy Chair and has taken a leadership role in driving positive change when it comes to regulation and compliance issues for small businesses. For example, she’s visited the State Capitol five times in the last three years to advocate against overregulation on behalf of small businesses. She brought her voice as a small business owner to point out the complex, punitive and nonsensical nature that regulations have taken.
“Becoming a board member for NAWBO has been illuminating for me,” says Lisa. “I used to think that public policy was for other people. I felt like I didn’t know enough or I’d be notified when it’s important to pay attention. Now, I feel like it’s my turn to pay it forward and become that voice, because I have been fortunate in the longevity of my business. Don’t ever think that you’re not qualified. You’ll know when it’s your turn to start getting engaged and advocating for your business and others. I give NAWBO 100 percent credit for helping me think I could get involved.”
What should other business owners keep in mind when it comes to regulations and compliance?
“There’s nothing more valuable than protecting your interests, staying connected and understanding the changes that could affect you. If you think regulatory compliance is a hobby or small component, you need to hire someone to handle what you don’t know. It’s important to hire people who are able to fill our voids in business knowledge. It’s critical to surround yourself with people who can protect your interests and your business. You have to learn from others to stay engaged. You must hear about what they do so you can learn from their mistakes. We must share what we each know to protect each other.”