Ab Igram MBA’96 got his first taste of franchising on the Babson College campus.
Working as a graduate assistant under Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD, he learned how the current Babson president co-founded Jiffy Lube International and later became the service center chain’s largest franchisee, merging entrepreneurship and franchising as the company grew to more than 1,000 locations.
Igram was hooked. Inspired by Spinelli, he has since made a career out of it, and all these years later, he returns to Babson College as the new executive director of the Tariq Farid Franchise Institute at Babson College’s Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
“It’s like coming full circle,” Igram said. “I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do something that leaves an impact. The team here at Babson, the vision, the commitment, it gives me a perfect opportunity to make that next step.
“I have a lot of love, energy, and passion for what this can be.”
Experience Optimal for Franchising Education
Babson students know this. Problems breed opportunity. The problem is that few institutions have programs dedicated to franchising.
But, the opportunity? Franchising accounts for more than $674 billion of business conducted each year in the United States.
The solution lies in franchising education. As executive director, Igram is spearheading that charge, and with a résumé like his, helping entrepreneurial leaders build a foundation of knowledge that they can’t get anywhere else.
While earning his MBA at Babson, in addition to working under Spinelli, the two conducted franchising research and Igram consulted for a Babson-alumni owned franchise, experiences which in part spurred him to launch an advisory/consulting and investment firm, and later serve as a founding member of a pet services company as it evaluated franchising as a vehicle to scale.
“(Being part of the founding team) gave me valuable entrepreneurial experience that I plan to leverage as we provide aspiring entrepreneurs with a new avenue to launch brands and use franchising to scale and access capital,” Igram says.
Later in his career, at GE Capital, Igram developed strategies, closed deals, and managed franchise retailer customers, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Popeye’s. And, at Webster Bank, Igram developed a private equity sponsor coverage business for the franchise, food, and beverage team.
“I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do something that leaves an impact. The team here at Babson, the vision, the commitment, it gives me a perfect opportunity to make that next step.”
Ab Igram MBA'96, Executive Director of the Tariq Farid Franchising Institute
All of these professional stops are ones he hopes to leverage through education.
“My network and relationships with franchise brands can provide opportunities for students seeking to join companies with a more intimate knowledge of the franchise model, and can also prove to be a pathway to franchise ownership and wealth creation,” Igram says.
Educating Entrepreneurs Through Franchising
Made possible by Tariq Farid P’15, CEO of Edible Brands, the Tariq Farid Franchise Institute will provide franchising education at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels, delivered both in person and remotely, with a major focus on case studies.
“Given that franchising spans multiple disciplines, there is an opportunity to increase awareness about its ability to scale ventures and reduce risk, by weaving it into current courses,” Igram said.
Cross-disciplinary programming draws on Babson’s business and entrepreneurial expertise, combined with the experience and knowledge of franchising experts, to advance students’ understanding of franchising and the opportunities it can create.
“It perfectly embodies all of entrepreneurship and epitomizes entrepreneurial leadership,” Igram said. “We hope to train and teach business leaders and existing entrepreneurs. How do you get from one unit, to 20, 30, 40, or 50? How do you scale from 50 to 100? To me, that’s huge potential for the market.”
Combined with educating entrepreneurial leaders, it also can offer a new perspective for venture founders just getting off the ground. “If you have an understanding of the inner workings of a corporate brand, what better way to get a launching pad into a brand?” he said. “Can franchising education help me launch that business, scale it, and achieve growth? That can be pretty powerful.”