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Inside One Woman’s Journey From Seafood Buyer to Shuckin’ Shack Franchisee

Thirty-two percent of U.S. franchises are owned by women, and the number is growing fastMargaret Marcum owns two Shuckin’ Shack franchises with her husband, Don, in South Carolina. Her story of expanding the fast-casual oyster bar concept goes beyond business growth and into fostering female leadership in her restaurants.

This Women’s History Month, Margaret’s journey offers a real-time case study in overcoming industry challenges while championing women’s roles in the franchising world. Her dual role as a Shuckin’ Shack owner and real estate agent reflects a growing trend of women leading multi-faceted business ventures.

Though Margaret doesn’t personally feel she’s ever experienced discrimination as a woman leader, her transition from seafood buyer to owning two Shuckin’ Shack franchises showcases her adaptability and resilience. Intentionally or not, she’s created pathways for women to rise to managerial roles, setting a precedent in a traditionally male-dominated field.

As she continues to expand her footprint in the industry with Don, her journey spotlights the potential of women in overcoming business challenges and leading change.

Q&A with Marcum

1851: Frame your personal story for us. What did you do before franchising, and how did you decide franchising made sense for you?

Marcum: Both Don and I were in the food service industry. I worked as a buyer for 17 years at what is now US Foods and was then PYA/Monarch. By the time I left I was a seafood buyer. Don worked for a food-service equipment manufacturer. We lived in Atlanta initially and then moved to Greenville, South Carolina.

Don had an interest in franchising and, around 2013, we were introduced to Shuckin’ Shack. When we walked into the Carolina Beach, North Carolina, location, we loved the vibe of it and the simplicity of the menu. We loved the concept, and after finding a location, we opened our Greenville Shuckin’ Shack in December 2015. I am also a real estate agent in Greenville, a career I’ve had for over 20 years, and handle some of the social media and other aspects of our Shuckin’ Shack locations.

1851: What was your perception of franchising prior to becoming a franchisee, and what do you want people to know about franchising now that you are in it?

Marcum: We looked at various franchises, but Shuckin’ Shack stood out because of its beach vibe and simple menu. Our goal was to bring that beach vibe to the upstate area of South Carolina. Don, having worked with many franchises in his previous job, had a generally good perception of franchising, especially in the food service sector. We particularly appreciated the family atmosphere of Shuckin’ Shack.

1851: What made you pick this brand? What excites you most about this company?

Marcum: Shuckin’ Shack was a new concept. I think we were the No. 6 franchise to open. I’m not quite sure which one we were to sign. Some of the other stores opened a little quicker than we did.

The quality of the food and the training staff were significant factors in choosing Shuckin’ Shack. We attended Shuckin’ Shack University for training, which was instrumental. The interior design and overall concept provided by the franchise were appealing. What excites us most is getting to know our customers and employees. We’ve enjoyed building these relationships, despite challenges like COVID and being more passive owners.

Marcum during Shuckin’ Shacks Fresh & Raw Tour

1851: What do you hope to achieve with your business? What are your plans for growth?

Marcum: Our immediate goal is to return the business to its pre-COVID levels. We’re cautious about expanding due to our ages and the current economic climate, including supply chain issues and rising costs. However, we do have the opportunity to expand within our territory and are considering our options.

1851: Do you feel that you’ve faced any obstacles being a woman entrepreneur?

Marcum: I don’t believe in that. I mean I know it goes on in the business and I know it goes on in all kinds of businesses, but I’m a realtor, which is primarily a female position right now. So I don’t think I have faced any kind of discrimination as a realtor.

And I don’t feel that way as an owner of a restaurant, because when we go in there, people are very happy to see the owner is there. I know when I go into restaurants, and if I know the owner in particular, I love to see them there and love to talk to them so I don’t feel any discrimination in this business.

Both of our managers are women, and I don’t think that they would say that they felt discriminated against. They both started as servers. Amy, for example, when she started with us in Greenville eight or nine years ago, she had never even worked in a restaurant business. And I will say I would put her up against any manager in the Shuckin’ Shop franchise.

1851: What advice do you have for other people thinking about becoming a franchise owner?

Marcum: It’s essential to research the franchise thoroughly and ensure it’s a good financial and cultural fit. The family atmosphere of Shuckin’ Shack was a key factor for us. Prospective franchisees should find a brand that aligns with their values and financial capabilities.

Credit: Article written by Jonathan Rose of 1851 Franchise.