Cover Story Diversity in Franchising Cover March/April 2023 Previous Issues

All Around the World of Franchising

Meet the franchisees making business ownership dreams their reality

Franchising is all about providing opportunity with well-planned, established systems. These franchisees came from coast-to-coast and even from abroad to achieve their business dreams. Some came with advanced degrees, some came with a plan, and others came with nothing but a drive to succeed in business. Most of all, these franchisees’ stories represent the range of experiences, choices, and interests that franchising can support.

Veronica D’Silva, Allegra Marketing Print Mail

Before joining Allegra Marketing Print Mail, Veronica D’Silva earned her stripes in a variety of marketing roles in the early 2000s, from art director to marketing manager.

After graduating with a fine arts and graphic design degree, she went into business school, “because I wanted to have that mix of skill sets.” Today, as the vice president, operations for Allegra Toronto Downtown, she handles both creative and executive duties.

“As I got my foot in the door in my career, I also kind of shifted between doing design and art direction onto media sales and planning and things like that,” says D’Silva. “So, a lot of marketing, planning on the client side, but also on the agency side.”

D’Silva’s Allegra Toronto Downtown is a family business, as well. Her brother, now the vice president of sales and marketing, opened the franchise location in 2000, before she came on board in 2002.

The siblings moved to Canada from the U.S. in 1999 in search of business opportunities, eyeing franchising as an ideal way to break into the world of Canadian business. “We moved here, we didn’t really know anyone, we didn’t have a business network set up,” she notes. “So, a franchise was a great kind of shortcut to achieve that and kind of hit the ground running.”

D’Silva says franchising was a good way to gain a base of knowledge of the structural differences between businesses in the U.S. and Canada. “Learning that takes time and franchising is a good way to jumpstart some of that learning. There’s already systems, there’s already processes in place, there’s already relationships in place that you can tap into, and what would have taken two years took us six months.”

After 22 years, according to D’Silva, she still gets excited about coming into work. “We get excited about learning new things and discovering new challenges and solving those problems. We’re problem solvers, at the end of the day.”

For franchisees seeking the same long-term success as D’Silva, she sums up the steps to achieve those goals: “Find something that you are interested in and choose that. Focus on what you do best for the business. Build your team to complement your strongest skills.”

Mika Solway, THE TEN SPOT

When Mika Solway returned to her hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick in 2019, she did so with the anticipation of bringing back an exciting business that Maritimers would welcome with open arms. Having moved to Toronto in 1996 for school, she grew to love the downtown area and the small businesses that dotted its aisles and avenues. One brand stood out in particular: THE TEN SPOT.

As a loyal patron, Solway was already familiar with the brand’s services. “I originally started going to THE TEN SPOT in 2009, when I was pregnant with my first child, because we use creams that are natural, that are paraben-free, that are synthetic fragrance-free, and back then that was really unusual,” says Solway. “And even now, it’s really unusual.”

In addition, THE TEN SPOT’s house nail polish is free of the 10 worst toxins found in general release polishes. For Solway, who has a background in engineering and sustainability, the brand’s use of natural materials made it a good fit for her interests and lifestyle. “For all those reasons…everything we sell, I am comfortable putting on my body, which is a tall order.”

Solway opened her TEN SPOT location in November 2022. “We’ve built a great group of staff and the city is embracing us,” says Solway. A training team from Toronto came to her location in Fredericton for three weeks of training before the opening.

THE TEN SPOT provided Solway with spreadsheets outlining all the major steps on her path to opening, from financing and finding the space through to hiring and training. “That was so helpful, because it was kind of like a recipe,” says Solway. “I never would do this in a field that’s not my background, if it wasn’t for this kind of guidance.”

Of her Fredericton team, Solway is happy to employ a diverse swath of estheticians. “We really want to create a space that’s comfortable for everyone, and then that makes it comfortable for our guests.”

For estheticians and potential franchisees alike, Solway recommends THE TEN SPOT for their women-founded and -led teams. “I felt completely welcomed from the start and empowered to make it happen,” says Solway. “We’re also empowering our estheticians, who are mostly women. It’s great to see these leaders empowering all of us, and most of the franchise partners are women, as well.”

Of course, the challenges of starting a new business are present. Namely, introducing the benefits of the brand to a new, smaller market. Part of the solution is growing THE TEN SPOT’s online presence through social media.

“Every day we’re getting new customers, and hopefully they’ll turn into repeat customers, and they’ll tell their friends,” says Solway. “I’m impatient to have everyone on and [be] fully booked all the time.”

Jacqui Mazereeuw, UROSPOT

For Jacqui Mazereeuw, joining the franchise industry with a UROSPOT franchise was about realizing her dream of business ownership while modelling the characteristics of leadership for her children, “from working hard and creating boundaries to being flexible with priorities and having the courage to ask for help when needed.”

Mazereeuw started her career in public relations, focusing her representation on brands in the health and wellness sphere, including fashion, pharmaceuticals, and maternity brands.

In contrast to her executive status in the PR world, the first-time entrepreneur lacked the confidence and resources to design and execute a business model. “Purchasing a franchise provided training, support, and a network of mentors to teach and guide me through the business model,” says Mazereeuw.

Mazereeuw opened her UROSPOT clinic, becoming the fourth franchisee in the system, in September 2022 in Oakville. She says the brand’s trajectory and its positioning in the FemTech industry—applying technological developments to women’s health—make her excited for the future with the brand. “More than 40 per cent of women over 35 are struggling in silence with bladder leaks and urgency,” notes Mazereeuw. “I get to be a part of a movement to disrupt an outdated industry and amplify emerging conversations about urological concerns that affect women.”

As for other assets, Mazereeuw says having a support team minding legal, financial, and ethical issues provided her “with the confidence and encouragement needed to continue through hurdles and celebrate our successes wholeheartedly throughout the process.”

UROSPOT provides comprehensive training for new franchisees. The training begins with a series of online modules, followed by four days of foundations training at the brand’s head office and a week of onsite training before launching. Mazereeuw adds that the “online training portal is updated almost weekly and includes videos, templates, educational materials, and best practices.” In addition, she’s looking forward to gleaning extra insights from fellow franchisees at UROSPOT’s first conference in September.

After six months in operation, UROSPOT Oakville has exceeded its revenue projections every month and Mazereeuw already has her sights set on a second location. “All of our goals are centred around expansion within UROSPOT to a second location in Mississauga, Ontario in early 2024!”

For women and people of diverse backgrounds looking to enter the franchise industry, Mazereeuw says UROSPOT is a good option “to make a difference in so many women’s lives, from the care providers you hire to staff your clinic to the clients that come to your clinic for care.”

Furthermore, having a network of purpose-driven female entrepreneurs helped Mazereeuw foster a team mentality. “In addition to the network of franchisees you also have ongoing operational support from a dedicated, experienced team who always pick up the phone,” says Mazereeuw. “Whether it’s troubleshooting, cheerleading, or brainstorming—the UROSPOT team has your back.”

Sarah Evans, WAXON Laser + Waxbar

With her background in media and communications, Sarah Evans was the quintessential picture of success for women in business. “We had one child, and we were planning on having another,” says Evans, “and I’d reached the top of my career in terms of where I wanted to be.” But as she considered more senior positions in her broadcast career, running out of work at 5:30 p.m. would become more difficult as they planned to bring another child into the mix.

“I wanted to have a more flexible lifestyle where I could work around the children, and I always wanted to have my own business,” says Evans. For someone like Evans, who always kept a list of potential business ideas in her head, franchising with WAXON Laser + Waxbar was the perfect way to satisfy the “entrepreneurial bug.”

Starting as a client in the business, Evans had personal experience with its model. She raised her desire to open a franchise with her husband, who recommended she approach the franchisor about the opportunity.

The stars aligned: when she went in for an appointment shortly after, there was a sign seeking franchise partners, prompting her to reach out. Now, she has a location in Vaughan, Ontario, with two other locations opening in Toronto and Mississauga later this year.

Evans’ drive for success aligns with WAXON’s focus on doing one thing very well. “We’re not your typical spa; we specialize in one thing and one thing only, and it’s hair removal,” says Evans. “Because we specialize in that, we’ve become masters of that craft.”

The benefits of franchising with WAXON are that it’s a small company. Evans, as one of the original franchise partners, has seen the head office team grow and become increasingly receptive to the feedback and suggestions of its network of franchisees. “It’s a collaborative effort,” she explains.

As for challenges, issues with staffing persist. “That seems to be the number one challenge, regardless of what industry you’re in,” says Evans.

Given that WAXON exists in the esthetics sphere, where 70 per cent of services are below the belt, female-centred workplaces are par for the course at WAXON franchise locations. But the excellent service that clients expect from their waxologists is less about their gender, according to Evans, and more about their discipline when seeing someone in a very vulnerable position, not dissimilar to a hairdresser or barber.

The approach to attracting and keeping clients is not unlike the initiatives the franchisor creates to attract new franchisees.

“It’s about creating a culture as well, within the stores,” says Evans. “We want to create a place that’s very uplifting for women, where it’s a team environment, where we’re empowering each other.” The impetus of team empowerment and shared success spreads to clients and potential owners alike.