January/February 2020

Families Who Franchise Together

Franchising is an increasingly appealing model for families who want to operate businesses together. With the extraordinary array of franchise opportunities and the flexibility and independence that franchises provide, it’s no surprise that these four franchising families have found success together.

3rd Degree Training

Holly and Chris Isnor, a husband-and-wife team, operate their interval-style fitness and training centre, 3rd Degree Training, in Montague, Prince Edward Island. One of the franchising mottos of 3rd Degree Training is “Be in business for yourself, but never by yourself,” so it’s no surprise that one of the things that drew the Isnors to the franchise was the value they placed on trust.

“Chris and I believed strongly that you have to trust the person you are going into business with and make sure your business goals align,” shares Holly. The couple’s ideals also aligned with 3rd Degree Training’s model, based on the belief that fitness is for everyone. They offer group training from beginner to advanced, motivating clients through developing health and wellness goals. “You are a part of a fitness family at 3rd Degree Training,” Holly says.

While Holly has a background as a paramedic, she was a client at 3rd Degree Training for six years, loving the program first from the client side. “I’ve always had a passion for fitness and felt very strongly about the importance of exercise, physically and mentally,” she shares.

While Chris is a Red Seal electrician by trade, he certainly has the entrepreneurial spirit critical to franchising. “We are partners in everything in life, and I knew Chris would be just as invested in a company as I was and that it would help our business,” says Holly.

“We also liked the idea of already having a system in place,” Holly says of the franchise model. On top of that, having the support of each other has benefitted the couple as they’ve grown their business. “You already know how to work together and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which has helped us work more efficiently.”

Of course, there are always challenges in any business undertaking. “Sometimes you’ll have different points of view, but when you take out personal opinions and look at it from a business point of view, you see what is best for the business,” she advises.

Finally, ensuring they have enough quality personal family time together is key. “Most days we divide and conquer so we can have that family time,” says Holly. “I think one of the most important things is to make time for family and yourself.”

Century 21

The Fulton family – dad Clare and daughters Katelyn, Carly, and Paige – are part of a third-generation family brokerage with Century 21, with their franchise being fully family-run for the past 40 years. This was one of the first Century 21 franchises in Canada, founded by Percy Fulton in 1977.

The four came from a variety of different backgrounds: Clare was in sales for an engineering manufacturing company, Katelyn was a pediatric cardiac sonographer, Carly was in human resources at a luxury cosmetics company, and Paige was in human resources at an insurance company. While these four careers might not seem like they have a lot in common, the four individuals were linked together through family and the passion for running a successful business.

“Although we are all different on many levels, we all have the same work ethic, vision, and goals for the future of the brokerage,” says Katelyn. This unified front makes it easy for them to use their individual expertise and diverse skill sets to continue their family’s successful business.

The three sisters have a wealth of advice for anyone looking to get into a family franchise or start a family franchise. First, they note, you should talk about your goals and what you want from the business. Starting on the same page makes a tremendous impact.

“Figure out your different personality types,” Katelyn suggests, “and look at how you handle conflict, how you like to work, what motivates you, and so on, so you can understand each other better.” The sisters even took in-depth personality tests so that they could better appreciate where the other was coming from and could work more successfully together.

Another big piece of sisterly franchising advice? “We have a rule,” Katelyn shares. “We are not allowed to talk about business at the dinner table. For us to manage a healthy family life outside of work, it also requires a ton of support from our spouses to handle our heavy workloads. We all work hard and will continue to work hard to keep our family legacy strong.”


For husband-and-wife team Al and Isabelle Crnjac, their franchise story is an intergenerational one. Al started working with Fibrenew in 1992 as a technician, and they purchased their first franchise in 1993 in the national capital region (Gatineau). They now own three Fibrenew franchises – Eastern Ontario, Ottawa Valley, and Ottawa.

Fibrenew, which specializes in repairing leather, plastic, and vinyl, from couches to medical examination tables to boats, is a unique business catering to numerous markets, including the automotive, marine, aviation, hospitality, and residential markets. “We wanted to be part of a franchise system that offered the best products in the industry without the struggles that often come along with a standalone company. We wanted to be part of a family,” Al shares, adding, “Fibrenew’s support system and head office are truly second to none.”

Another appeal of the franchise model was the flexibility it offered. “We were looking for a business that would allow us to manage our time with our kids and our personal lives,” Al shares. Furthermore, the couple knew that if their children wanted to join the family business, there would be room for them there. “As teenagers during summer breaks, all three boys work in helping us grow the business,” says Al. “Two of them are now part of the team and are really good at it.”

The couple loves having their children in the business with them, adding that the children are proud to be part of a company that is environmentally responsible. “Fibrenew plays a great role in preserving the environment by providing longevity to things that would otherwise end up in landfills. It’s quite rewarding to know that what we do is actually making a difference to the planet in some little way.”

It’s clear that the Crnjacs love what they do and couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else now. Al offers sage advice for those thinking about getting into the franchise game with a spouse or family member: “A partnership is not always easy, but like any marriage, if you work hard at it, you will reap the rewards. The roles within the partnership must be identified and respected. We treat each other with respect as a family, and this is carried over to the business.”

Good Earth Coffeehouse

For Zakaria Hamed, opening his family’s Good Earth Coffeehouse location in Calgary was a life-changing decision. Zakaria had been a surgeon, working in the medical field for 35 years. “Is it possible to take off the surgeon’s cap and run a business? In my late 50s?” he says he asked himself. The answer was a resounding and successful yes.

“Franchising was the answer to a dilemma,” he says. “It was better to start with the guide and support of others’ experience, with a franchisor providing the system to help us find our way to success.” Calgary’s East Village, an up-and-coming trendy neighbourhood in the Alberta city, was the perfect home for Zakaria and his family’s new endeavour.

Each Good Earth Coffeehouse location is a warm, inviting place, something that seems perfectly suited to a family-run dynamic. “The clients are very friendly and lovely. That makes the coffeehouse our new community,” Zakaria shares, noting that the franchisor has also welcomed him and his family with open arms. “I’m happy to be working in my new community, and we hope to have a bright future here.”

Viewing their business as a family-based project has served Zakaria well. “We, as a family – parents, a daughter, and a son – working together as one unit, know and respect each other. We can depend on each other and help each other.”

Zakaria notes that it’s also important to make sure you have healthy boundaries that let you make the most of your business life and your personal time. “We can determine the borders between social and business life,” he says of franchising’s flexible model, “and working as a family makes all of our family members stronger.”

Zakaria’s advice for people looking to get into franchising, whether with family members or not, is to choose an established brand that has a good reputation. The Good Earth Coffeehouse brand fit that bill, having been established in Calgary in 1991. There are over 50 locations to date, and their reputation as a successful Canadian-grown company is only getting stronger.

By Jessica Burgess

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