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Ahead of the Women in Business Expo in October, which has its own dedicated section where you can find out about franchising Caroline Carr talks to Charity Holden to find out more.

Caroline:
Welcome to Women in Business Expo on Key Women in Business Radio with me, your host, Caroline Carr! Today I’m very excited to be talking to one of our very own team members on the event, Charity Holden, who has been working on the event with us for well over a year and who has also become a real expert in the area of franchise businesses. Welcome, Charity, nice to have you here!

Charity:
It’s nice to be here Caroline!

Caroline:
So Charity, let’s really start at the beginning with the basics. For those that may not know what a franchise is, can you just explain a little more about what actually is a franchise?

Charity:
Sure. Franchising is based on a marketing concept and is adopted by businesses as a strategy to expand and grow their business. Essentially, the franchisee – the person who comes on board ­– pays an initial fee as well as potentially ongoing royalties to the franchisor which is the original business. In return, the franchisee gains the use of the trademark, ongoing support and the right to use the franchisor’s system of doing business to sell their services or products, whatever that may be.

Caroline:
Thank you Charity; that actually explains it really well and makes it very clear. Now one thing I do know is that there is a massive rise in the amount of women starting their own franchises. Do you have some sort of stats around that?

Charity:
Well, it’s purported that women are the fastest uptake in franchise with nearly 28%. So it suggests that female franchises is something of an untapped market but perhaps the growth comes about because it offers flexibility for women; perhaps those that have been in the corporate arena but need some flexibility after having a family and it’s an opportunity to work for a proven or successful business but to grow their own entity within that environment.

Caroline:
When you think about franchise models, are they all the same?

Charity:
No – very, very different. So you have different levels of initial investment. If I look at my exhibitors for example, I’ve got a franchise company called “My Waggy Tails” which is a dog walking franchise. The level of investment for initial set up is far less than perhaps one of our other exhibitors which is Vodaphone where you obviously have quite a lot of investment when it comes to setting up your shop, staffing, etc. All franchise models are different but they work on the same basic principles and, with the right consultancies, most businesses, if they want to expand, are ‘franchisable’.

Caroline:
Okay, great. In terms of sectors, can you franchise in just about any business sector?

Charity:
Well, I’ve said dog walking! Other exhibitors we have are Care Plus who are caring within the community. We have Daisy First Aid and Raider Group which is a property specialist recruitment company. We’ve got explorer travel all the way through to 4D baby scans which pretty much does what it says on the tin so, yes, franchisors cover most and all sectors of business and interest.

Caroline:
So actually, because it is so vast, you can really find a franchise in your ‘sweet spot’, something that you enjoy and are interested in?

Charity:
Absolutely! If you’re passionate about something, it’s a great opportunity to join a big brand and get the support and grow your own little empire with that support.

Caroline:
You talked a little earlier about financial investment. What sort of investment are you talking about? Do people have to go to the bank and get massive big loans or can you invest in a franchise with as little as £1,000? I really don’t know…

Charity:
Probably not £1,000 but there are franchises that offer low personal investments. There are financial institutions – HSBC and NatWest who are our sponsors in the franchise zone at the show – who offer funding for people who want to set up their own franchises as well as other independent companies like Hitachi Capital Finance who, again, look to provide finance for people who are interested in franchising.

A lot of these franchise models do expect personal investment as well as bank funding. You also need to be mindful that, for example, another one of our franchise exhibitors, Sandstone Yoga, gives yoga classes to adults, children, retreats etc but the principal is in a retail unit in the high street. So you need to consider all your costs, not only going into the franchise but also all your overheads, rates, costs of fitting out that commercial unit within the high street. There are different costs to consider but if you are working with a franchise company, then it’s their duty to hold your hand through that process to not only enable you to understand the financial commitment but also to give you support to fulfil that.

Caroline:
Okay. That’s brilliant – thank you. So we’ve talked about the initial set up fees but what about ongoing fees – royalties, things like liquid capital… what do you really need to consider and understand?

Charity:
Again, each franchise has its own model and if you’re interested in exploring franchise, then it’s always worthwhile sitting down with someone within that organisation at an expo for example and discussing what the level of commitment is. Most franchises expect royalties again, depending on the size of the company, determines how much and whether it is payable monthly or yearly. Often with franchises you see that don’t often get to see a return on your investment for a couple of years – sometimes two, three of four years – so it’s a long term process but with the support of an established brand.

I was talking to a lady this morning who is a franchisee for Vodaphone – they are one of our exhibitors. She said ‘it’s being your own boss but having the backing of a successful brand’. Whether that’s backing in a financial support terms or training terms, that’s the duty of the franchisor to enable you to run your own business, be a success at it but within the comfort and parameters of that big brand.

Caroline:
Great. You touched very briefly there on training and support, if I was a franchisee, what kind of level of training and support could I expect?

Charity:
Again, it depends on what you are doing. Say, for example, Explorer Travel, one of our exhibitors – they will provide you with the software, the understanding of how that software works; their business model in generating business and how to sell yourself and the travel opportunities. So that support is really dedicated.

Then you have other companies where, for example, if you look at Healthy Feet Clinic – another one of our exhibitors – you have to have the right skill set to open one of those franchise operations because it is what it says on the tin – Healthy Feet Clinic – you’ve got to have the right qualifications.

If you are passionate and if there is something that interests you and you have the skillset, not just to run a shop but to run a business, then it is always worthwhile exploring your options and seeing which franchise operations suit your skillset and suit your interest as you’ve got to be passionate about a business to run it, develop it and let it grow.

Caroline:
I guess from the franchisor’s point of view, the more they can support you, the more successful and the bigger their royalties will be. A win-win for them really?

Charity:
Absolutely and it’s in the franchisor’s interest to develop and grow that business with you because their brand is the brand that is being promoted. If you’ve got a brand on a high street where the shop has to shut, that doesn’t reflect well so joy of franchise is the support you get in starting your own business with a proven track record model that’s been done before.

Caroline:
One thing I was particularly interested in is the geographical territory. Do you tend to take an area that you own and then you don’t touch anybody else’s geographical area?

Charity:
Yes, so again, it depends on the franchise but it’s in the franchisor’s interest to let you grow your business and develop it. If they are going to give you a territory, then they don’t want to make it so small that there’s no future growth or development within your business. Each franchise will have its own territory but if, say, you look at London, for an area, that could be quite small locale. You might have SW1 to SW10 and then SW11 to… wherever but you might look at a different model where you have Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset broken up into different territories. It depends on how much a business can be gleaned from the area you serve and how well you can grow that business because what the franchisor doesn’t want is that you leave their business because it’s capped and you can’t grow it.

Caroline:
So a really important question to ask at the beginning?

Charity:
Absolutely.

Caroline:
One thing I’m very passionate about obviously is marketing. What marketing is important? It is so important for business growth for the franchisee, so how do they support you in your ongoing marketing efforts? I suppose what you do with your franchise but also what they do marketing the overall bigger brand?

Charity:
Most franchisors will have a bible, if you like, of what they would expect of their franchisees in respect of the type of marketing and the content which goes out. A lot of the larger, more recognised franchise operations like Vodaphone or Pro Medica 24 (another one of our exhibitors), they will probably have their own national marketing campaigns which the franchisee will benefit from by default. They will probably also suggest that each franchisee sets aside a certain budget for their own local marketing.

Again, I was speaking to this lady today – the Vodaphone franchisee – and she suggested that what Vodaphone like them to do is to obviously take advantage of the national campaign but also get within their local community. So to do things to promote their brand within their community which is not only supporting their business but spreading the message of what they do and where they are. That is generally what franchisors would expect and want from their franchisees.

Caroline:
If I was considering starting a franchisee business and I came along to Women in Business Expo, what support and advice would I get from going as it sounds like you have an amazing amount of franchisors already committed to taking part?

Charity:
Absolutely. I think the joy of Women in Business Expo is that not only have we dedicated a third of the show to franchise because we recognise that women are an important and untapped market, but we also recognise there will be incidental franchisees out there – those women who’ve had successful careers, perhaps in the corporate arena, who have money in the bank and want more flexibility and independence but who have never even heard of franchising. There is an additional market place for our franchisors to explore. I think often that, in my experience, the traditional franchise shows are quite “men in suits” and can be slightly prohibitive and frightening for women who are just dipping their toes in the water. So I think from that point of view, it is a great place for people to start.

What can you see? So, we have near on 100 exhibitors. Franchising operations of varying sizes and varying investments from cookery parties for children to the Creation Station which is an arts based kids show, Photography for Little People, Vodaphone franchise… I’ve mentioned quite a lot of them. So, really varied offerings and we have also got NatWest, HSBC and Hitachi Finance from a financial support point of view. We have also got experts in the legal field of franchising, Goldstein Legal, who will be there once you’ve had that chance to chat to the franchisor and want to take things further.

Caroline:
Talk me through so I understand these two particular features – so we have franchise matchmaking and we’ve also got a dedicated franchise theatre?

Charity:
Yes, that’s right. No other franchise show has a bespoke independent matchmaking service. Women can come along and be talking to independent consultants from Female Franchise which is an association not affiliated or tied to any of the franchise operations there. They can discuss their interests, their hobbies, level of investment that they want to spend and what they want to get out of it. They will then be taken to the stands and introduced to the companies so that they can have meaningful conversations to understand what that franchise operation can offer them. It essentially means that our exhibitors not only have warm leads brought to them but those that are interested in a franchise can cut out having to walk around every single stand and they bypass that process and be taken to the appropriate franchise operation.

Caroline:
That’s a great service! So that’s the franchise matchmaking service. And then the franchise theatre – what can we expect to see in there?

Charity:
The franchise theatre is fully booked! It’s two days of amazing seminars, panels, workshops of people who are in the franchise industry. Experts giving tips, guidance, advice and pitfalls… what to do and what not to do. People who’ve gone through that journey; how they’ve done that journey and what the expectations and returns that they’ve achieved as well as the more practical support of what you need to do, how you need to go about it. It’s a really important and exciting opportunity for anyone who is possibly thinking about starting their own business but doesn’t want to do it on their own; they want to do it with the support of a big brand.

Caroline:
Do you know Charity, listening to you today, I think I might be very tempted and I’m trying to think which one might float my boat. I think I might like Creation Station or Waggy Dog Tails… one of those might suit me. Thank you Charity, it’s been lovely to have you here and to get some really useful insights on setting up as a franchisee. Thank you!

Charity:
It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me!

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