November/December 2020

Congratulating Outstanding Franchisees

Meet the inspiring winners of the CFA’s 2020 Franchisee of the Year Award

By Stefanie Ucci

Every year, the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) acknowledges the achievements and hard work of franchises through the CFA Awards of Excellence program. This year, more than 70 CFA members participated, and six franchisees were presented with the Franchisee of the Year award. They are recognized for their unique accomplishments and excellence in business performance, community service, and brand involvement.

Here, you’ll meet the two Gold winners in the Traditional and Non-Traditional categories, and the four Silver and Bronze Franchisee of the Year award winners.

Seema Ahluwalia – Oxford Learning Centres, Richmond, Kitsilano, and Steveston, British Columbia

Gold, Traditional 

For Seema Ahluwalia, the opportunity to become an Oxford Learning Centre franchisee came months after migrating to Canada with her husband and daughter. At the time, education was at the forefront of her family’s mind, with her eight-year-old daughter attending a new school in British Columbia. Faced with the task of learning the culture and systems of their new home, Ahluwalia adopted a “do or die” and “always ready to learn” attitude to overcome their many challenges.

With her husband Indar by her side, the dynamic duo owns three Oxford Learning franchises and she credits their “flawless” coordination for keeping business afloat. A team of extremely dedicated and sincere staff who always go the extra mile for their students, parents, and team members also helps the business succeed.

“It is a great honour to be the Franchisee of the Year Gold winner. There is an immense feeling of delight and pride when your hard work and dedication is acknowledged and appreciated,” Ahluwalia shares.

She adds that Oxford Learning was “the only educational franchise that taught kids HOW to learn. Owning this franchise with the best supplemental education in Canada meant that I could help my own daughter, along with all the children in the community, to reach their highest potential.”

Ahluwalia is an engineer by profession and worked for nearly a decade with multinational companies. She applied the knowledge and management skills gained there to start her own business, which she says greatly complements her education.

“Owning a franchise provides the best combination of running my own business in my management style while having the base work done, training for the business provided, as well as guidance and help readily available when needed,” says Ahluwalia. She recommends joining an already booming business, as franchisees are equipped with knowledge, experience, and industry insights that they would otherwise have to learn through their own trial and error.

Working with Oxford Learning has allowed Ahluwalia and her family to create their own “Canadian Dream” while getting firm footing in their new home. It even helped pave a path for their now grown-up daughter to become a doctor.

But that came with a lot of hard work and commitment. “One should pick the franchise with great care as this is a lifetime commitment. It is just like a marriage,” Ahluwalia says. “You need to identify and follow your passion and pick the right partner whose values and principles are in line with yours.”

Simon & Stephanie Jones –, Central and West Kootenays, British Columbia

Gold, Non-Traditional 

Simon and Stephanie Jones turned their extensive backgrounds in sales and education into an opportunity to educate and empower homeowners. The couple, who immigrated to Canada 15 years ago, were initially drawn to buying a franchise with since they’ve always had a passion for real estate. That paired well with a drive for being part of a system that challenges the traditional beliefs of selling homes. helps homeowners privately sell their homes to save on paying big commissions they normally would in traditional real estate transactions. The Canadian-owned company is operated by franchisees who directly interact and provide support to customers while also teaming up with third-party providers.

The Joneses faced various challenges early on in their business, and Stephanie says that the biggest one was “being the David to the Goliath of the real estate business.”

She adds, “At first it was difficult for other businesses to accept that we were offering a new way to sell real estate. We were able to grow our market share of trail blazers who saw the advantages of selling privately and saving money whilst still getting the support they needed. I think staying power and tenacity was our superpower.”

Those same skills are what helped the couple become a Franchisee of the Year Gold winner.

“To be recognized for all the effort and determination and long hours is fabulous,” shares Stephanie. “We have worked so hard in our location and faced many challenges. We feel our success has been down to being a husband-and-wife team who both bring defined skills to grow our business.”

They also note that to stay current, they must keep ahead of the game in their marketing strategies while connecting with their communities.

As for advice the Joneses offer to new franchisees, their biggest is to invest in a business that you have a deep passion for.

“Look at what the vision is for the company you are investing in and ensure that you are aligned with it. Support goes both ways in franchising: you need the solid support of your head office, but they also need your support, ideas, and passion,” adds Stephanie. “Being part of a franchise really is like being part of a huge family. Finally, you really have to go ‘all-in’ when you do invest into a business and truly believe that you can make a difference.”

Susan Allison – Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada, Western Ontario

Silver, Traditional 

Why did you want to own your own business?

I actually owned a successful business in new home construction prior to getting into Wendy’s. At the time, some 28 years ago, the phases of the real estate market challenged us to diversify our business interests in order to maintain financial security for continued future growth.

Why did you decide to franchise with Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada?

When the decision came to diversify our business interests, Wendy’s was on the top of the list because it was a strong brand with a solid reputation for good quality food and had great market potential. In 1995, we acquired our first Wendy’s restaurant which now is one of the top volume Wendy’s restaurants in Canada.

What are the benefits of being a franchisee?

When you invest in a franchise, the structure is in place, so you are not starting the business from scratch. The food industry, and business in general, becomes more complicated with each passing year, and it is important to be associated with a strong brand that has a bright future.

Why have you found success with your franchise business?

I value and respect everyone that makes this business work. I also have a solid relationship with Wendy’s Company Leadership and our field level consultants which is so important.

What advice do you have for others considering franchising?

Ensure that your due diligence and business projections are solid. Food cost and labour are the two biggest costs, and if you understand the dynamics behind controlling them both, and have negotiated a reasonable rent, then you are well on your way to experiencing success.

Michael Murphy Brown – LeakPro, Vancouver, British Columbia

Silver, Non-Traditional 

Why did you want to own your own franchise business?

LeakPro was already established and there was room to grow with the support of the other franchisees. Having that support is crucial to building a bigger, better franchise.

Why did you decide to franchise with LeakPro?

I knew there was more potential for growth in such a rainforest-filled province so I took my already established skills, combined with my drive and determination in order to come closer to my expectation of what the franchise could achieve

What are the benefits of being a franchisee?

Teamwork, knowledge, and the ability to share expertise with anyone on the team. We all have the same tools and mind to work, but sometimes there is a trick to using them.

Why have you found success with your franchise business?

First, I’d say drive, mental toughness, caring for my business and my team, and impeccable coaching and leadership skills that I’ve gained over the years from my peers.

Second is giving respect to my customers and their vehicles while being fair and giving back to the community.

What advice do you have for others considering franchising?

Follow the three Fs: family, finance, and friends. Does this business give you those three Fs equally and balanced? Of course, there is hard work to be done, but you need an equal balance. Consider the time you will need to prepare yourself for the road ahead and don’t lose momentum.

Tahir Siddique – Pizza Pizza, Brampton, Ontario

Bronze, Traditional 

Why did you want to own your own franchise business?

It is simply less risky than starting your own business as there’s already a pre-established brand image to go along with the franchise.

Why did you decide to franchise with Pizza Pizza?

I had been working for Pizza Pizza as a driver, cashier, cook, and manager for several years prior to becoming a franchisee. The time that I spent in various roles made my decision to franchise with Pizza Pizza an easy one. It’s a reputable company with over 50 years in business.

What are the benefits of being a franchisee?

A franchisee is provided with structure and support that is especially important for someone who is new to running a business. Being a part of a larger organization also creates a sense of community among fellow franchisees and supervisors.

Why have you found success with your franchise business?

Early on, I got heavily involved in the local community through various social programs such as soccer teams, schools, the library, senior care homes, and local charities. The community is what a business is ultimately meant to provide to.

What advice do you have for others considering franchising?

You need to be able to enjoy what you do and have a genuine passion that lets you get to know your community instead of just focusing on profits and money. The backbone of any successful business is the combination of having community support and being a team builder.

Chetan & Roshni Bahl – Heart to Home Meals, Edmonton, Alberta

Bronze, Non-Traditional 

Why did you want to own your own franchise business?

It is a tried and tested model with brand awareness, and you get the privilege of a dedicated team who always backs you up. Your success is their success too.

Why did you decide to franchise with Heart to Home Meals?

Having studied Hotel Management in Ireland and being in the hospitality industry for almost 19 years, operating in the food business was always on my mind. When the Heart to Home Meals opportunity came up, we quickly grabbed it. Chetan had experience in both the seniors and food aspect. Since food will always be a necessity for living, then healthy, nutritious, and wholesome meals are always going to be in demand.

What are the benefits of being a franchisee?

You are part of a brand that has a low risk of failure with proven methods and a motivating team. There is credibility and customers put their trust in you, which offers continuous growth.

Why have you found success with your franchise business?  

We have seen tremendous growth with Heart to Home, going from eight deliveries to 250 deliveries each week, and our team is continuously growing. During these unprecedented times, we have been grateful to keep our doors open and serve our senior communities by ensuring that they get healthy and nutritious meals.

What advice do you have for others considering franchising?

If you are new to running a business and want to be quickly set up for success and get the business up and operating, then we would strongly recommend purchasing a franchise business.