Atlanta has become the global capital of franchising and @ GSU we are doing our best to connect students with leaders in the industry. Below you will find past participants in my franchising entrepreneurship class.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Charles Watson serves as CEO for Tropical Smoothie Cafe. In this role, he is responsible for the brand’s strategic vision and overall franchise performance. He was previously the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Chief Development Officer since 2016 after serving as VP of Franchise Development since 2010. In these roles, Charles was responsible for all development of the Tropical Smoothie Cafe brand. A veteran hospitality professional, Charles has worked for several hospitality-related companies, including Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Intercontinental Hotels Group, US Franchise Systems, Inc., and Hospitality Real Estate Counselors. Charles is a graduate of The Hotel School at Cornell University and also holds a Masters of Business Administration from The Terry School of Business at The University of Georgia.
Employed with Chick-fil-A, Inc., in Atlanta, Dr. Blount serves as the Senior Principal, Learning Architecture. She is responsible for casting the vision and developing the high-level learning strategy that meets the needs of a versatile, diverse, and remote Support Now staff audience. Additionally, functioning as the Agile team lead, she manages a portfolio of learning offerings suited for these audiences. Dr. Blount has been at Chick-fil-A in a full-time capacity for over 7 years, but consulted Chick-fil-A as a client along with many other companies since 2000. She holds a B.A. in History and International Studies from Elizabethtown College and both a MBA and Doctorate of Business from Georgia State University's Robinson College of Business.
Ms. Bradstock has served as a VP of Client Services, COO, VP of Operations and CEO of both private and publicly held organizations. She has extensive experience with healthcare related organizations focused on physicians, insurance carriers, nursing professionals and dental practices. In addition to managing operations, she has also served as a senior executive managing the acquisition and integration of over 30 companies within an 18 month period. From 2007 to 2014, Ms. Bradstock served as Chief Operating Officer for Any Test Franchising, Inc., and then became CEO in April 2014.
Russell Weiner has served as chief operating officer and president –Domino's U.S. since July 2020. In this role, Weiner oversees the global centers of excellence teams responsible for marketing, operations, store growth and development, franchise relations, analytics and insights, and e-commerce in the U.S. Weiner was first named to the newly-created position of chief operating officer and president of the Americas in July 2018. Prior to becoming chief operating officer, Weiner served as president of Domino's USA from October 2014 to July 2018, after joining the company as executive vice president – chief marketing officer in 2008. Weiner also serves on the board of directors of The Clorox Co. Prior to joining Domino's in 2008, Weiner led the marketing for Pepsi's North American cola business. He has both Emmy and Effie award-winning television commercials to his credit. He was named one of Brandweek's 2008 Top 10 Marketers of the Next Generation and was listed in Ad Age magazine's Top 40 Under 40 in 2007. Weiner earned a Bachelor of Arts in government from Cornell University, and an MBA in marketing and international business from New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Beto Guajardo was named President of Focus Brands International in early 2020. Beto brings extensive global experience in corporate and brand strategy, new business development, mergers and acquisitions and organizational structure. Beto joined Focus Brands from Starbucks Coffee, where he served as Senior Vice President, Global Strategy. Beto built the Global Strategy team that was responsible for developing the company’s five-year strategic plan and operated as a coordinating body, creating and implementing strategies to succeed corporate goals. His teams worked extensively on executing Starbucks Delivery, acquiring technology to power Starbucks CRM, and developing new go-to-market processes to streamline store development innovation. Prior to his tenure with Starbucks, Beto held senior leadership positions in corporate strategy as Global Vice President of Brand Strategy for Levi’s Strauss & Co and Vice President of Strategy for Avon Cosmetics. Earlier in his career, Beto spent eight years in professional services consulting with McKinsey, Inc. and Deloitte Consulting, LLP. He received an MBA from Northwestern University and a BS from the University of Illinois.
Dr. Cheikh Mboup was named President & COO of Edible Brands in December 2019. In this role, he is responsible for the strategic vision and overall franchise performance of Edible Arrangements, Berry Direct, Netsolace and Incredible Edibles. He was previously the founder of various franchise restaurant brands which operated across the north and southeast United States. Mboup is recognized as a business transformer and was recently highlighted by Forbes as a pioneer for business pivots due to how he led Edible’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mboup holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics from Lehigh University, an MBA in economics from Jacksonville University and a PhD in economics and international business from Argosy University.
Sharmeen Hawkins is Co-Founder, President and Chief Operating Officer of Atlanta-based, Paragon Pinnacle Restaurant Group, LLC which owns and operates national restaurant brands. She is a business leader who has held many executive positions with national brands including McDonalds, Starbucks, Limited Brands, and Sodexo. Ms. Hawkins served on various committees of the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and is a Leadership Atlanta Alumnus of the 2009 class. Her previous board service includes Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Hosea Feed the Hungry & Homeless and Kenny Leon’s True Colors. She has chaired The Board of Trustees at Cascade United Methodist Church and The Commerce Club’s Women in Leadership Committee. Ms. Hawkins is currently on the board of the Robinson College of Business School of Hospitality at GSU, member of Board of Directors and Program Chair of the Rotary Club of Buckhead, and a member of NCCHR Women’s Solidarity Society. She also serves on the board of directors of BCM and GSU Honors’ College. Ms. Hawkins holds a BS in Marketing from Northwestern University.
Currently Vice President, International Development & Franchisee Profitability at Church's Chicken, Russ has more than 40 years of restaurant leadership experience. He is currently responsible for the international growth of both Church's and Texas Chicken brands. He previously served as chief operations and development officer for the Saudi Arabia based Kudu Company for Food and Catering. Russ started with Popeyes as a cook at the age of 16 and retired 40 years later serving in many roles from operations, training, supply chain, human resources and business development. Russ holds a BS in International Trade and Finance from Louisiana State University and a Master of Global Hospitality Management from Georgia State University.
Sharon Duke Estroff is the Founder and CEO of Challenge Island®, the world’s #1 STEAM Education Franchise with over 100 locations in the US and internationally. Challenge Island is ranked #151 on Entrepreneur’s 2021 Franchise 500 and #13 in Entrepreneur’s 2021 Top Low Cost Franchises Lists, among many other accolades. Voted best teacher in Atlanta by a major Atlanta publication, Sharon created Challenge Island in her 2nd grade classroom before launching it as her own business. She sold her first Challenge Island franchise in 2013 and has been growing the company by leaps and bounds ever since. Sharon is also a Random House parenting author and educational journalist for numerous publications including Scholastic Parent and Child, Parents, Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping Magazines. She is co-author of the upcoming Challenge Island children’s book series which was purchased at auction by West Margin Press and will be on store shelves in Fall 2021. Sharon received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, four children and three miniature goldendoodles.