Young franchisees are on the rise and proving they have just as much business savvy as their elders
Setting up one’s own business for the first time can be a daunting step. And without signs of a successful business model in place, most banks won’t be too inclined to throw wads of cash at you. But entering into a successful franchise can prove to be an excellent way for young people to get a taste of ownership while having the protection of a tried and tested business model.
For many graduates, leaving the squalor of their student digs and bidding farewell to a staple diet of beans on toast doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to walk right into their dream job. Or any job, considering the UK economy has sat in the doldrums since 2008 and is only now showing slight signs of recovery. For that reason, the idea of operating a franchise is becoming more and more appealing for the latest generation of young professionals.
One person who experienced how difficult it was to find work post-degree is Matt Woodall, franchisee for Revive! Auto Innovations, a franchise providing high-quality minor paint repairs to retail, trade and fleet customers.
“I graduated at a time when there were very few jobs available with hundreds of people applying for every vacancy,” Woodall begins. “I had read about the franchise model as part of my studies so decided to look into it further. Just before my 22nd birthday, when most of my friends were planning gap years or staying on at university for further studies, I used all of my savings, borrowed some money from my parents and the bank and bought the Revive! franchise in Bath.”
Quite an investment to make at such a tender age but Woodall thinks the sooner the better. “The fact that I started my business young can only benefit me in the long run,” he continues. “By the time I decide to settle down and have a family, the company will be well established and hopefully I will be able to enjoy life without the work demands I am facing now.”
And he’s not the only one whose professional aspirations started young. Phylly Jones, franchisee for Pyjama Drama, the child drama franchise, has always had her eye on owning her own business.
“Subconsciously, I think the groundwork had begun when I was as young as six and tried to sell stories I’d written to the general public by putting up hand-drawn posters on the fence and watching out the window for passersby,” the drama graduate begins. “Throughout my childhood, I developed a branded theatre company and directed amateur family productions for my mum’s large family featuring younger members.”
Choosing to franchise wasn’t exactly a difficult decision to make. “I fell into franchising because I wanted to start a small business,” Jones continues. Working with an established brand meant she was able to take on her own business without the risks and restrictions that come with starting from scratch. “As a graduate in lots of student debt, it was far more realistic to buy a franchise, in terms of being able to receive a business loan.”
But the security net of a tried and tested brand isn’t the only reason young people enter into franchises. The additional time involved in setting up a new enterprise from scratch compared with taking on a ready-made business model can prove a significant factor.
“I was aware that time was precious,” Jones continues. “It was taking me an awful long time just to research and come up with my own product, let alone the time it would then take to test it and market it. Why wouldn’t I take the option that allowed you to operate under a fantastic programme and brand a franchise had already created?”
Jones isn’t alone in buying into a franchise because of the additional structure it provides, as Aaron Stewart, franchisee in the Marston’s pub chain, reveals.
“I was encouraged by all the advantages and benefits of franchising: the training, operations manual, encouragement and on-going support are all excellent, covering every aspect of the business,” Stewart begins. “If you need to know more, there is a highly specialised team at Marston’s head office to offer guidance. You can have confidence in a business that has operated in its sector for 130 years.”
Like Jones, Stewart also expressed a strong entrepreneurial flair from an early age. “I always wanted to run my own business, and from a very young age I struck out for what I wanted,” he says. “I have always been ambitious; while I left school without qualifications, I was determined to do something worthwhile and make money.”
Having a strong work ethic, as well as high expectations of himself or others, Stewart had no doubt that he was suited for running his own business. “As an employee, I always treated every business I worked for as my own,” Stewart says. “By the time I had acquired knowledge and experience of the licensed trade, I knew I could make it work for me as my own boss. Franchising seemed the most likely and quickest way to succeed.”
This work ethic definitely seems to be paying off for Revive! Auto Innovations, with its operations already growing significantly. Woodall is looking to recruit another technician later this year. “By the time I’m 40, I’d like to be employing a number of technicians with a fleet of vans and have an indoor unit to work from,” Woodall says. “I would like to take a more back-seat approach and enjoy the fruits of all the hard work I have been putting in.”
Jones has already started to expand her franchise by employing an additional member of staff. “The demand is such that it has grown too large for the one person,” she says. “It’s a big step and I have my concerns but it’s time I took another dive and started swimming towards more success. The product is a proven success in my territory but it can only go backwards if I carry on trying to hold the fort single-handedly, so necessary action has been taken. It is ultimately teamwork that makes the dream work.”
For any other upcoming graduates looking to follow in the footsteps of these budding franchisees and venture into the world of franchising, Stewart offers some stellar advice. “Find out as much as you can about the sector you want to join, and make sure you are really ready for the commitment and responsibility of being self-employed, and are sufficiently motivated to run your own business. In practice, that means long hours, little free time and hard work,” he says. “The rewards, which can be considerable, come later.”