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Guiding Wellness

Looking for a franchise system that’s rewarding in more ways than one? These four brands offer products and services that can round out good mental health practices

By Gina Makkar

In today’s fast-paced world, prioritizing mental health is more important than ever, and it extends far beyond the tried-and-true advice of seeing a mental health professional (which is obviously still exceptionally important!). From mindfulness to self-care, these franchise systems offer a range of products and services that contribute to their customers’ positive mental health and help support their journey to well-being.

Crayola Imagine Arts Academy

Crayola Imagine Arts Academy is bridging the gap in arts education. Its innovative approach develops soft skills through art, preparing children for a future where skills in creativity, conflict resolution, and empathy are paramount. “There were a lot of people teaching art or techniques. We felt that art can go way beyond that,” says founder Shafik Mina.

One of the academy’s core beliefs is that creativity is a muscle strengthened with practice. Through its programs, it encourages children to see themselves as creative beings, fostering confidence and a willingness to explore new ideas.

More than skill-building, the program fosters social-emotional health and connections, for art that fuels good mental health. A program on animals is viewed through a lens of empathy. “When we’re talking about empathy, we’re flexing that muscle about why we need to care, and why these things are important,” says Sharon King, vice president of research and development. “If we have more empathetic human beings on the planet, we’re more likely to have positive outcomes in terms of how we treat each other and how the world gets along.”

The program also fosters teamwork and collaboration and explores feelings in tangible ways. “We say, ‘Tell me the story of how you did this,’ or ‘Tell me the story of this artwork.’ It drives the emotional impact of what they did. It’s not about how skilled they were, it’s how they felt about it,” says King. Learners come away with valuable tools to navigate feelings and relationships while expressing themselves creatively, contributing to overall well-being.

Under the 2inspire brand that also founded Mad Science 30 years ago, Crayola Imagine Arts Academy franchisees enjoy the benefit of a mature system and its resources, from programs and tools to research and more.

Mina’s advice to franchisees? “If you’re going to buy a franchise, follow the recipe. Somebody invested a lot of time and money in creating that recipe. If you buy into it, then buy into it.”

He also advises that choosing something meaningful will help them stay the course when times are difficult. “COVID was the greatest test we had,” he says. “Everybody said, ‘I have to keep it together because I want to come out on the other side.’ It wasn’t for financial reasons, because financial motivation went out the door. It was because they loved what they did. It was rewarding.”

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Dogtopia understands how dogs impact our mental health and well-being and strives to create a safe, nurturing environment for dogs and their owners.

“Especially after the pandemic, people of all ages are recognizing the joy and companionship that dogs provide and how it directly correlates with their mental health,” says Kim Hamm, president and CEO of Dogtopia Canada. With offerings from daycare to boarding and spa services, they’ve got everything dogs and their pet parents need for happy, healthy, stress-free lives.

The return to routine post-pandemic spurred an increase in demand for the services Dogtopia offers. “People today view dogs as a part of their family and are seeking peace of mind and a safe place to bring their fur babies,” says Hamm, who adds that trust and transparency are key to fostering good mental health for dogs and their owners. “Trust is the foundation of our brand. People trust us with their fur babies because of our relentless commitment to the health and safety of all dogs in our care. This premium standard of care and transparency is something that was lacking in the industry and is why Dogtopia is so beloved in the communities we operate.”

To that end, Dogtopia’s Wellness Program helps pups live longer, healthier, and happier lives with proactive and preventative services like nail trims, teeth brushing, and ear checks.

“As a home-away-from-home for our pet parents, we can proactively identify nuances and changes in behaviour because we see a dog three, four, or five times a week,” explains Hamm. “Who better to fulfill what are important, but often stressful, services for both the pup and pet parent?” The result is convenience and peace of mind for owners and happy, healthy dogs.

With 22 locations across Canada and 10 more in progress, Hamm says that cultural fit is important when pairing pups with their services, and franchisees to the system itself. “We’re fortunate that dog people tend to attract other dog people, and dog people are great people. That common thread binds us all together.” To ensure consistency and quality within their locations, Dogtopia’s robust franchisee training system includes administration, sales, marketing, dog handling, and more, which sets franchisees up for success on their journey of entrepreneurship.

After 10 years with the brand, Hamm says the biggest driver of success at a location is following the proven playbook and engaging with local businesses. “It goes a long way toward fostering relationships and drives business in the door,” she notes.

Hamm says their model has sustained and survived a pandemic and a recession, and though with these economic headwinds people may have scaled back on other material possessions and spending, they continue to invest in the health and well-being of every family member, including the furry ones. “It insulates the business model, and not a lot of other industries have that peace of mind,” says Hamm.

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LivingLIGHTING does more than illuminate homes—it enlightens minds. Since 1968, it’s been a beacon of innovation, evolving from a traditional lighting store to a dynamic brand that offers more than just light fixtures. Through its full-size showrooms and the LivingLIGHTING Boutique model, the company’s lighting specialists can assist in all things lighting—from selecting the right bulb, to lighting planograms, to working with designers or tradespeople. And with a focus on educating consumers and adapting to changing demographics and technological advancements, LivingLIGHTING has carved a niche for itself in the market.

A key aspect of their success is the commitment in educating consumers about the lighting in their homes or businesses. Lighting can impact our circadian rhythms, affecting our sleep, mental health, and well-being. “A lot of people don’t know that lighting can have an impact on your body,” says Bill Mason, general manager. Using high-temperature LED bulbs (such as 4000K, about the same brightness as sunlight) in the evening can signal our bodies that it’s daytime, inhibiting melatonin production and making it harder to fall asleep. And using low-temperature lights (such as 2700K, with a warmer, brownish tint) during the day can confuse our bodies, making us feel drowsy when we should be alert.

The quality of light can also affect our visual comfort and overall health. Poorly designed lighting, such as fluorescent lights, can cause eye strain, pain, blurred vision, dizziness, and difficulty focusing. To mitigate these issues, LivingLIGHTING helps customers create lighting plans that will add beauty to their environment, while optimizing their overall health. Committed to community engagement, they also support SolarBuddy, a charity that provides solar lights to communities without electricity.

For those considering a franchise opportunity, the company seeks enthusiastic individuals willing to engage with the business and their communities. “I can teach everything other than passion,” says Mason. “We have many people who are remarkable in their passion and entrepreneurship.”

Once on board, franchisees receive comprehensive support, from location selection to ongoing training, ensuring their success. Mason also advises investors to speak with existing franchisees. “Talk to the owners and discover what they are doing in their local communities to make their business a success,” he suggests.

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Smash Therapy

Releasing anger helps reclaim emotions, and rage rooms and wreck-it rooms are fun and functional facilities to play and release stress. Magen Mercer, founder of Smash Therapy, identified a gap in the market when searching for a place to blow off steam. “I had a stressful week, and I wanted to [smash] a specific coffee cup that I wanted to get rid of in my cupboard and thought, ‘Maybe there’s one of those places [in my area] I could take it.’ When there wasn’t, I knew that I wasn’t the only one that could use something like this.”

First launched in 2020 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the concept is simple but powerful. Participants can bring items that hold emotional significance, such as old dishes or pictures, and smash them in a safe, judgment-free environment. They can also smash items readily available on-site.

Mercer has created a space that welcomes people from all walks of life, including corporate teams, fitness enthusiasts, and inner-city youth, and many clients report a sense of release and empowerment after a session. Though Smash Therapy is not meant to replace traditional therapy, Mercer says for some, it’s a first step in their healing journey. “For some people, it’s a fun little bachelorette party idea, and for others, it’s healing.”

Mercer is committed to sustainability and minimizing environmental impact, sourcing items destined for the landfill or recycling and giving them one last use. She’s also forged partnerships with local organizations, including the Electronic Recycling Association.

With its innovative approach, Smash Therapy is positioned to make a meaningful impact on the mental health and well-being of its community. Connecting to local businesses, from therapists to social groups, fosters connections and builds a sense of community. In preparing to franchise, Mercer has developed nationwide partnerships with agencies such as insurance companies. With the brand’s intent to expand locally at first, a prospective franchisee should have a passion for serving their community. “I’m looking for someone with a huge heart, a creative thinker who can think outside the box and do whatever it takes.”

Learn more about franchising with Smash Therapy