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100% Canadian Franchises Company Profiles July/August 2020

Home-Grown and Locally Owned: Angus Valley Montessori Schools, Keys Please, and Custodia

By David Chilton Saggers

A good idea and an entrepreneurial spirit don’t always spell success, but the chances are increased when combined with a sound strategy and a willingness to work hard. These systems also show that real opportunities can be found catering to children and their parents and grandparents.

Angus Valley Montessori Schools

Murtaza Hasan, founding partner of Angus Valley Montessori Schools, says the system is attracting new franchisees who are business minded. “We look for entrepreneurs,” says Hasan from the head office in Markham, Ontario. “If they understand the commitment it takes to be a small business owner, they’ll have a better likelihood of succeeding.” A background in education is an advantage, he says, “but it isn’t a requirement, as you can hire seasoned educators.”

Angus Valley Montessori began its research and planning in 2017, Hasan explains, and started franchising in 2019. There are now four schools in the system, and all should be in operation by this September. Three are in the Toronto suburbs of Pickering, Vaughan, and Milton, and the fourth is in Toronto itself, in North York. Hasan’s team has successfully operated an independent school, Angus Glen Montessori, in Markham for the last six years, which was the impetus for developing the franchise model. Montessori schools follow the teaching principles of the late Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor and world-renowned educator.

As an education system aimed at children, the rules governing its schools are stringent. Angus Valley Montessori assists new franchisees with the complex provincial ministerial permit process, which can take up to 12 months. They also provide guidance during staff recruitment. “It’s important to us to support our franchisees,” says Hasan.

All of the system’s schools are new and custom designed and built. The ideal location is often in a new sub-division and construction is coordinated with the development.

School sizes range from 6,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet and can accommodate 120 to 140 children, whose ages run from six months to six years, and there’s an after-school program for children aged six to 12. The cost of a franchise varies from about $850,000 to $1,000,000. Training takes four weeks; there are two weeks in class, appropriately enough, and two weeks on-site.

Looking ahead, Hasan says he hopes to add two more schools in 2021 and two to three more the year after that in the Toronto-London-Oshawa-Newmarket region.

As for the benefits of investing with Angus Valley Montessori, Hasan says, “we’ve developed so many unique aspects for our schools, from their layout and interior design, to the multi-functional libraries, playgrounds for different age groups, and most importantly, the dedicated kitchen and menu planned by the system’s own executive chef.”

Keys Please

Keys Please got its start when Ginger Greenwood and her partner Dave Dick spotted a business opportunity: providing designated drivers for those who had been to a bar and had essentially three choices – drive home, take transit, or take a taxi. Transit and taxis, of course, required those who’d been out for the night to leave their cars behind.

Keys Please began in 1997 with one corporate location in Calgary, says Greenwood in an interview from headquarters in the southern Alberta city. “It was a needed service,” she says. Since then, times have changed, Greenwood continues – the number of drivers, the size of populations, and the sorts of product that cause impairment such as marijuana, now legal in Canada, along with the driving services the system offers. Now, she explains, Keys Please provides designated drivers for day surgery patients, corporate events, weddings, and more. The client supplies the vehicle and the company provides a driver.

Greenwood says Keys Please is looking for franchisees who are passionate about the system and who have “a strong moral compass.” And, she adds, they should be “outgoing, energetic, and able to think on their feet.”

Keys Please sold its first franchise in 1999 in Prince George, British Columbia and a second last year in Edmonton, Alberta. Greenwood has expansion plans for all of Canada except Quebec and wants to grow where there is a large enough population to sustain a business, since Keys Please places only one franchise in a city.

The cost of the franchise varies and is population-based. The charge for a smaller location is $34,800 and it’s $51,900 for a larger one. That cost includes a promotional decal for a vehicle, initial promotional material, set-up cost, booth material, training, and franchisee fee, along with 12 weeks of free central dispatch for drivers. Training takes six to eight days.

The benefits of a Keys Please franchise include that one-city, one-location setup – even in somewhere as big as Toronto – and low overhead, says Greenwood.


Custodia Seniors Support

Canadians are living longer than ever, which means there’s an ever-larger number of seniors in the population. Almost all of them want to stay in their own homes, but not all of them can do the things they used to: raking leaves, shovelling snow, changing light bulbs, installing grab bars in bathrooms, and so on. That’s where Custodia Seniors Support comes in. “We’re like a senior’s concierge,” says founder Geoff Whitlock. “We’re here to solve a pervasive problem.”

Whitlock had just sold a business and was driving to help his mother when he realized that there must be lots of others like her who need help, but who don’t have family members who can pitch in. That was in 2018, and now Custodia has six franchises – one in North York East, Mississauga East, Mississauga West, Niagara Falls, Stoney Creek, Barrie, and Ottawa in Ontario. In addition, says Whitlock from his office in Toronto, he’s had 19 major requests for franchises from across Canada and the U.S., including Vancouver and St. John’s in Canada and Boston and Newport in the U.S., and he’ll consider master franchising requests. Custodia uses postal data to identify the market target of those aged 60-plus.

Whitlock is looking for franchisees who are personable and trustworthy. They will be screened for suitability, must be bonded and insured, and will undergo a criminal record check. Custodia provides two weeks of training, called Custodia U – one week in the virtual or in-person class and one week in the field meeting customers and learning the system. The franchise is suitable for both men and women, says Whitlock, and many owners spend their time building the business and hire contractors to do the work. Monthly subscription fees run from $89 to $489, and there are some add-ons, which are extra. A single unit franchise fee starts at $25,000 and a double unit starts at $50,000, plus first-year start-up costs.

There are multiple benefits to investing with Custodia, says Whitlock. “The number one benefit at Custodia is building a strong business asset while helping your community,” he explains. “And you can run the entire system on a smart phone from Barbados!”

Other substantial benefits include a growing market – over 10,000 people turn 65 each day in North America – strong branding, and a central call centre. “We make our money helping seniors and their families live better lives,” he continues. “It’s a great way to build a business.”






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