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Women in Foodservice
Daintry McFadden opened her first store at the end of 2023.

Wetzel’s Pretzels’ first Access to Equity program graduate finds success with her own store

Daintry McFadden is a Black entrepreneur who had SBA loans denied 15 times before opening her first Wetzel’s store inside a Chicago-area Macy’s

If founders, chefs and other creatives are the beating heart of the restaurant industry, then franchisees are the veins delivering their ideas to all corners of the globe. Franchising is critical to the success of the industry, allowing brands to quickly scale their big ideas using other people’s capital. And whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant owner with one or two franchised restaurants or a seasoned veteran whose influence in the industry is well-known, franchisees — with all their individual attributes, styles and personalities — make a huge impact on the success of a business.

In this installment of Franchisee Spotlight, adapted from the regular series on, we spoke with first-time franchisee Daintry McFadden, a Black entrepreneur and one of the first graduates of the Wetzel’s Pretzels Access to Equity program. The program launched last year with the goal of increasing franchise ownership for women and minorities through financial assistance, as well as educational and mentorship opportunities.

Store count: 1 that opened at the end of 2023 inside the Macy’s  at Oakbrook Mall in Oak Brook, Ill. just outside Chicago

A long journey to ownership

I graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BS in finance and I worked in corporate America for over 25 years. I always had a passion to one day own my own business, and I left corporate America a few times to do other ventures a couple of times. I was introduced to franchising through the Airport Minority Advisory Council. In 2019, I attended their conference in Los Angeles, where I was introduced to the Wetzel’s brand.

I tried to win a bid to open a Wetzel’s inside O’Hare airport, and I did not win that bid but I did get an interview… I was already Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise-certified, and also Minority Business Enterprise-certified. My first RFP with O’Hare Airport, I did win that with Wetzel’s, and we were able to present. They were very impressed with my presentation. They afforded me the opportunity to open a location inside the Macy’s Oakbrook, and that started a year ago. I just opened on Dec. 20, 2023. It was a long journey.

Never give up

I have a motto: “I don't know what no means.” When I was 25, I began looking into franchising. I had presented at Baskin-Robbins in the Chicago Heights area, and I was rejected. I was young, but I was rejected 15 times after that for an SBA loan. Finally, I did get an acceptance, but unfortunately, I didn't get that deal because I didn't meet their net worth requirements at that time. I was young, I had just purchased my house, but I knew what it meant to be resilient and persistent. I did finally get that acceptance from the SBA… One thing I can say about entrepreneurship, is when you have that tenacity, and that drive, you keep going. Now look where I am with Wetzel’s. It was my dream to own a franchise.

Why Wetzel’s Pretzels

I love the culture: It’s fun, it’s exciting, and I’m fun. Also, I loved the product. Our mission statement is the Wetzel’s experience: amazing customer service with quality product in a clean bakery atmosphere. I was drawn to the mission… We’re fresh, we’re fun, and we’re fast. Even as an owner, I want to present that culture to our customers.

Becoming an Access to Equity recipient

I get totally emotional because this has been a 30-year journey for me. My grand opening was Jan. 15, on Dr. Matin Luther King’s birthday. He had a dream and I always tell people now I have the dream of ownership that has come to pass. I am overjoyed with a major accomplishment that I was able to perform with all of the obstacles that were before me.

Opening weeks

We have six positions, including a position called a sampler, where we’re able to sample our products to the guests. Since I’m always out, I’m physically presenting this great product I samples of our product to potential customers. Then I also have a great staff that support me to present a quality product.

Bumps in the road

I’m learning about product selection and inventory ordering and staffing. One of the challenges was opening during the holiday season. You are inundated with customers and the holiday crowd, but now we’re after the holidays, so we have to make those adjustments in scheduling and product ordering, and be creative… We have 20%-off flyers for all mall employees, and now we’re going to solicit to our all of the mall employees to get them to experience Wetzel’s.

Future goals

I would like to go back to O’Hare Airport and open there, or try out the new Wetzel’s Twisted concept.

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