Franchising is a popular business model in Australia – and is becoming even more popular with women. The latest Franchising Australia 2008 Survey shows female franchisees who independently own their franchise unit account for 17 per cent of all franchisees. This figure has risen from 11 per cent in 2006 and means there are more than 12,000 female franchisees in Australia.
This increase over the past few years can be attributed to a number of factors: many women consider self-employment as a way to balance the needs of career and family, franchising is flexible and allows creativity within the bounds of the franchise agreement, many franchises can be started with minimal investment and the model encourages franchisees to grow their small business with franchisor support.
Karmen Wakelin and Kylie Leopold started as endota spa franchisees in Adelaide CBD, South Australia, just over four years ago. They recently opened their third unit in Hyde Park after the success of their second, which opened in the state’s renowned Barossa Valley wine region in October 2006. Accolades continue for the pair, who won the coveted title of SA Franchisee of the Year 2008 in the FCA MYOB Excellence in Franchising Awards. With an annual turnover of AU$1.7 million in 2008 from two spas and approaching AU$2.5 million for 2009 with the third spa, this duo is certainly dynamic.
As newcomers to franchising in 2004, Karmen and Kylie brought with them corporate marketing experience at global wine and spirits company Orlando Wyndham and other brands Coke, ANZ and Gandel Retail Trust. Franchisor support was a big drawcard for both women when they considered going into business together, Karmen said.
“We decided to join a franchise as we were new to the wellness and beauty industry and we felt the support of a franchise would be beneficial,” she said.
“Plus we recognised that we would be able to open the business a lot faster, rather than opening an independent business,” she added.
Once deciding to become franchisees, Karmen and Kylie set about researching the brands that suited their values and interests.
“We decided to join endota spa as the brand values and business culture resonated with both Kylie and I,” Karmen explained.
“We have a fantastic partnership, which is imperative in any successful business. We both have strong business backgrounds and work ethic and we also have a good relationship with our franchisor,” she said.
Their positive relationship with their franchisor works both ways. Karmen said her franchisor helped her and Kylie find a site to open their business, gave fit-out guidelines and recommended suppliers to undertake the work. The franchisor also offers marketing support, runs a national gift voucher program, distributes key supplies, negotiates supplier discounts, developed its own product range and provided training and operational support. “When we first joined the endota spa it was in its infancy and we received minimal support, however endota as a network has grown considerably over the past five years and the support has improved tenfold,” Karmen said.
With its female slant, the beauty industry is not an unusual place to find women business owners. Karmen said working with female founders and a majority of female franchisees has been beneficial for her business with Kylie. “We tend to be working with a network of like-minded young women who are at the same stage of life. We share similar goals and have young families so are attempting to achieve a quality work/life balance,” she explained.
Fellow first-time franchisee Stephanie Walls said female franchisees were treated differently in the printing industry, which is traditionally a male-dominated field. “Customer relations and relationship building have been a big part of my success, rather than just wanting order. I’ve just added a different aspect [to the business],” Stephanie, who owns Worldwide Online Printing at Hamilton, Queensland, explained. “All the men [in the network] respect my experience and some even call me for advice!”
Experience in the printing industry is something Stephanie can boast about. As a Worldwide Online Printing franchisee since July 2003 and 10 years working as a printing sales representative beforehand, Stephanie’s industry experience speaks for itself. “I grew up in a family business and always had aspirations to own my own,” she said. “I felt that I had the drive to be successful.”
When it came time to become a business owner herself, Stephanie chose Worldwide because of the brand’s “business model, low in-store capital requirements and excellent quality-driven products”. “I chose a franchise that had a ‘family’ feel, as it was my first time in business and I wanted to know that I would have the support from the franchisor and also from fellow franchisees,” Stephanie explained. The support mentioned includes mentoring programs, effective communication, franchisee meetings, problem solving, technical help and a sharing mentality.
With a 2007/08 financial year turnover of AU$1.3 million, Stephanie credits her success to her passion and drive and five full-time staff, which have “ensured the continued growth of my business”. “I have had the luxury of empowering my staff with my strong customer service beliefs and it shows – from first impressions on walking into my store, to when you receive your product. I have instilled a ‘nothing is ever too much trouble’ attitude. All of our clients love that and know we will get the job done no matter what. We get a lot of referrals because of our service ethic,” she said. Stephanie believes her team’s commitment and the Worldwide business model has helped her achieve a great work/life balance in which to bring up her three-year-old.
Like Stephanie, drive and motivation are two factors Irene Eboli credits as being key to her success as a franchisee. “Drive, motivation, work ethic, level of communication and that hunger to succeed,” she said. Irene owns five Shaver Shop units jointly with her husband Tino Eboli and sister-in-law Lorey Brown in Sydney, NSW. They started with an existing store in Chatswood in August 2000.
“After six months in partnership I started to think I needed a change from what I was doing and convinced my husband we should buy the Parramatta store and I would manage it,” Irene explained. “When you first go into business and you’re the one paying the bills, you realise you have to get as much from every customer who passes the store as possible.”
The family partnership has certainly paid dividends, turning over about AU$7 million across five stores last year. “It has grown through a combination of our work and the company marketing the business,” Irene explained. As well as marketing support, The Shaver Shop franchise provides price negotiation and sourcing for products, advertising and training for its franchisees.
With no previous experience as a business owner, but a solid background in HR and retail, Irene had a steep learning curve. Within eight years she has leant much about business, but also taught others. “I put a lot of selling systems in place that the whole group embraced. My store has been the most successful,” she said.
Lenore Miller’s previous business experience held her in good stead when she opened a new Contours gym at Maitland, NSW, in November 2005. Finance models she had used in a previous business venture were taken on by her franchisor and she quickly became one of the first members of Contours’ franchisee advisory council. Contours franchisees also benefit from a franchise development manager, marketing material, TV and radio advertising, initial and ongoing training and an annual franchisee conference.
Deciding to buy a new Contours unit after searching for a friendly gym for herself, Lenore now manages her franchise at arm’s length. “I found many gyms intimidating so I went to join [another female-only gym] and they were really rude. I thought if they can be that rude and still successful then I could blitz it. Contours had a superior product, better equipment and a master franchise in Australia so I could do training here. People find they can relate to me and we have created a non-judgmental environment so women feel comfortable and can be themselves. Being who I am has been a benefit,” Lenore said.
Initially working in her business for the first 18 months, the death of her eldest son forced Lenore to take some time out and fast-track her plans to appoint a manager. “I have a studio coordinator, Tina, so I can run the business at arm’s length. Tina started as a client and referred people to us. She’s so loyal and passionate about the business,” Lenore said. “I always planned on running it at arm’s length, but circumstances meant that process happened overnight, rather than over a longer time. My team had franchisor support while I wasn’t able to be there,” she explained.
Franchising was a new business model for Lenore after her previous experience with start-ups and existing companies. “I liked the idea of a recurring income. In the fitness industry you sell membership for a period of time and members pay monthly,” she said. “I would recommend franchising to other women, particularly if you’re not experienced in business. Franchising is a great way of having a business model without reinventing the wheel.”
With steadily increasing profits Lenore has made a success of her fitness business. In the 2007/08 financial year Contours Maitland turned over AU$358,000, up from AU$306,000 in 2006/07. “I am really determined and I never wanted to fail,” she explained. “I ask myself ‘What do I need to do today to grow my business?’ If you don’t grow you’re in trouble.”
- Franchising Australia 2008 Survey: http://www.franchise.org.au/content/index.cfm?action=getfile&id=1224
- Franchise Council of Australia: www.franchise.org.au
- endota spa: www.endota.com.au
- Worldwide Online Printing: www.worldwide.com.au
- The Shaver Shop: www.shavershop.com.au
- Contours: www.contours.net.au
Publication: Franchise Focus