September doesn’t merely mark the return to school causing a reshuffle of routines in households across the nation. No, this month is also notable in the franchise world, because franchising and parenting have proven to be quite a winning combo over the years.
This trend has profoundly impacted the life of Charlotte Headington, a mum of four and franchisee of World Options, the logistics franchise. “I think the reason I wanted to take a franchise as a single mum is that I can still be there for my children,” she says. Headington is positive being part of a home-based franchise, together with her sister Emma, was a good shout. The model maximises her time with the franchise and reduces the stress of being away from her parenting schedule. “I can sit here in my sweats if I need to and still work on my franchise,” she continues. “I don’t have to get up, put on a suit, sit in a car and waste an hour in traffic. I’m actually using that time to work on my franchise.”
Setting up a franchise is especially appealing since it allows parents to juggle family responsibilities, such as school drop-offs and pick-ups while growing a business at their own pace. As many franchisees will tell you though, the job isn’t child’s play. Parents still have to hit the books in order to fully develop their franchise’s potential. “It’s still education, it’s still hard work, it still takes a lot of effort because you only get what you put into it,” Headington explains. But at the same time, it undoubtedly grants parents the freedom to order priorities in a way favourable for them. “I think this is very inviting for single mums because they’re looking for opportunities to be the provider but still stay the nurturer of the home,” she believes.
Elsewhere, the back to school concept among franchises hasn’t gone unnoticed by Matt Fiddes, founder of MF Franchise, the martial arts and fitness franchise. “People normally look for a change of job or a new career around January, after Easter and September,” he says, detailing what he’s witnessed with his network. “As these are our biggest recruitment times of the year, I think it’s child-related.” This shouldn’t be a surprise – the flexibility of the franchising field has turned it into a family-friendly territory.
As a result, Fiddes keeps on good terms with all his franchisees and stays up-to-date with their family lives. “I know the people, how they’re doing, I know their kids,” he details. “We’ve grown up with them. So the whole franchise network is very much one big family.” As one can imagine, spreading the franchise to four continents – Europe, Asia, North America and Australia – has cost Fiddes over two decades. He even admits the business took over his personal life at some point. “I worked very hard,” he says. “I worked too hard that I even damaged my first marriage.” But acknowledging his mistakes and personal battles, he has learnt how to maintain a work-life balance and wants the same for his franchisees.
For that very reason, Fiddes advises parents make some important considerations before joining a franchise. “They need to decide what their main goal is – can they really throw themselves into it?” he says. “Then they can buy a franchise, work six days a week and have a full-time job. Or, as it is for MF Pilates, they can work twice a week at whatever pace they want it to be. It’s down to them.” He shares that many of his franchisees are mums and housewives who were looking to secure a reasonable income or people who joined in order to “earn extra money to support their full-time job”. Whatever their dreams and targets, franchising seems to be a parental promised land.
This was the dream for Samantha Acton, founder of Domestic Angels, the home-cleaning franchise, who set up the company with the intention to run a home-based business while being a mum. However, she wasn’t just looking for work for herself but she also wanted to solve the employment issue for other like-minded parents. “We’re able to offer recruitment to our angels that suits them as well, so they can be at the school gate just like we are,” she says proudly. Over the years, Acton has realised her routine as franchisor and parent hasn’t always been the same but the business has found its natural equilibrium. “When [the children] are small you might not have so much time during the day but when they get older and they’re teenagers, you have more time,” she explains. “And the teenagers want more money so it kind of balances itself out quite well.”
Having been there and done it, Acton realises the advantages for people willing to take over an already successful model rather than build one from scratch. “You’re not trying to invent things from a blank piece of paper or guess what the law might be,” she says. “You also have a full team, a business family who want you and need you to be successful.” But more than anything, what passionate franchisors will tell you is it’s not just about business – franchising is actually very personal. “This is about something that lasts longer and it takes a family to its lifespan so you grow your business with your kids with the time you’ve got available,” Acton continues. “There’s a really great future for those who want to have their own businesses but don’t want to be alone.”
Franchising proves learning comes in many different forms and embarking on a new career is not a closed road – especially for parents with childcare responsibilities. So if you’re looking to join a franchise this September, the bell is ringing and class is in session.