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100% Canadian FranchisesCompany ProfilesNovember/December 2023Previous Issues

Home-Grown and Locally Owned: Crock A Doodle, Master Care Janitorial and Facility Services, Ultimate Coders

At first glance, janitorial services, computer coding classes, and pottery painting workshops don’t seem to have much in common. But despite their differences, each of these successful Canadian franchise systems is backed by a solid business model and a clear understanding of their market segments.

Crock A Doodle

Annette Brennan found inspiration for a new and creative business idea while living in Ireland more than 20 years ago. She visited a small pottery shop where visitors could paint the pottery themselves. In 2002, she built on that idea and started Crock A Doodle, a pottery painting concept, from her home in Flamborough, Ontario.

The business concept was well received, and the growing system did well, she says from her office in Brantford, Ontario, but to many, a home-based franchise meant part-time commitment and she wanted much more. So, in 2009 she went up to Blue Mountain Resort Village on the shores of Georgian Bay and began prospecting for a retail spot. That, says the system’s president and chief idea officer, is when she switched to a retail model, and it was in Blue Mountain where she established a corporate franchise, her first ever retail studio.

That store is now operated by a franchisee, and there are 32 more Crock A Doodle locations in Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba in urban centres and resorts. Five more franchises are in the works, too. Looking back, Brennan says her brand has evolved beyond kids and families. The corporate market is growing, she continues, and “the growth among young adults has been phenomenal.”

Crock A Doodle brings people together to socialize and unwind as they paint their pottery pieces. “We really focus on delivering an experience,” says Brennan. “It’s fun art, not fine art.” Most of Crock A Doodle franchisees are women, and Brennan says more importantly, she looks for shared values, a creative mindset, and self-management skills, among other attributes. The cost of a franchise is between $100,000 and $130,000. In-person training takes five days at the system’s main studio in Brantford, Ontario, and there are 12 weeks of follow-up instruction and onboarding support.

Brennan says she looks for franchise sites where communities gather naturally, such as a neighbourhood shopping plaza and the sweet spot for a store is 1,200 square feet. The benefits of investing with Crock A Doodle include a “really healthy ROI,” personal fulfillment, and a sense of community belonging, she says.

As for expansion, Brennan says the Greater Toronto Area, and Ontario as a whole, are on the horizon, as are Alberta and British Columbia. And she has her eye on the U.S. market. She’s been approached many times and notes that by end of 2023, she’ll have her first location south of the border.

While Brennan notes that the pandemic was extremely stressful, it also provided impetus for change. Where Crock A Doodle sessions were run on a drop-in basis, they now operate primarily by reservation. And the system now has an online store and take-home kits, too. In fact, says Brennan, her business is up 30 per cent from 2019.

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Master Care Janitorial and Facility Services

Who do you call when you have a liquor store that needs cleaning? You call Master Care Janitorial and Facility Services, headquartered in Surrey, British Columbia. CEO Terry Laferte, who took over in 2017, says Master Care cleaned 80 of British Columbia’s provincially owned liquor stores since 2019. But that’s just a small portion of their business. Laferte says his system cleans commercial properties large and small—including many medical and financial offices—as well as residential buildings, particularly those in the condominium sector.

Master Care began in 1981 and sold its first franchise in 1989 in New Westminster, B.C., and now there are 12 franchises in total operating under the system’s new name, which was adopted in 2013. Nine of these franchises are in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, one is in the interior, and the other two are on Vancouver Island in Victoria and Nanaimo.

As for expansion, Laferte says he’s eyeing more units in Ontario and introducing the concept in Alberta soon. Master Care may also grow province by province or city by city and he names Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto as possibilities. But whatever route he takes, Laferte says, “We plan to be in all provinces in the next five years.”

Looking at potential franchisees, the CEO says a two-person team is ideal, with at least one working in the business full time. Incoming franchisees don’t need business exposure, but they need to be tech savvy, willing to learn, and “above all, have good communications skills.” The cost of a franchise is $95,000 ($35,000 fee + $60,000 working capital). Training involves one week in Surrey, another week at the franchisee’s local site, and remote training with online follow-up instruction, as well. Franchisees will need their own vehicle—wrapped in company livery—and they also buy their own supplies.

As for the benefits of a Master Care investment, franchisees get a large, defined territory with significant growth potential and a lower cost of entry. And, as an incentive, as business gets bigger, Master Care reduces its royalties.

The effects of the COVID pandemic were difficult for the system and its clients. “Some of our customers were hit very hard and closed their offices and business,” says Laferte. Master Care itself put contracts on hold rather than cancel them during the crisis and paused service for a good percentage of customers. However, requests for one-time cleanings went way up, and there’s still a high demand for disinfecting and other services. Overall, Laferte concludes, revenue continued to grow during the pandemic.

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Ultimate Coders

Kena Patel first came up with the bright idea to start offering coding and robotics classes to young kids. She saw the need for a curriculum that would keep kids engaged and parents satisfied with their education. With the help of her husband, Kevin Patel, the idea grew into Ultimate Coders, which offers programs for youngsters ages five to 18. It opened its first corporate location in Brampton, Ontario in 2018.

In late 2019, Ultimate Coders started franchising, says Kevin Patel, co-founder and CEO, and now has 12 franchises—one in Richmond, British Columbia, one in Edmonton, Alberta and 10 others in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Two more franchises are planned, and Patel has his eye on further expansion in the GTA, Edmonton, and Vancouver regions.

Ultimate Coders’ target customers are parents with children aged five to 18 who want high-quality instruction at reasonable prices, says Patel from head office in Mississauga, Ontario. The student-to-teacher ratio is six to one, and programs are offered in three age ranges. There’s also an in-house digital learning platform the students learn from as they advance from simple computer language to something more complex. Classes are held after school, and on weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

As for the ideal qualities of a franchisee, Patel says he looks for those who want to combine a passion for education with a desire to start a business that can be run part-time. “Business experience or technical knowledge is an asset,” he adds, “but it’s not mandatory.” What is mandatory, however, is a willingness to learn and excel.

The cost of a franchise is between $105,000 and $250,000 and the ideal site is between 1,200 and 1,500 sq. ft. Retail plazas with favourable demographics work best, says Patel. Initial training takes two to four weeks and is held online and in person at the corporate location in Mississauga. Ultimate Coders also provides hiring assistance for new franchisees. Instructors are typically young people finishing computer science or other related post-secondary programs.

A key benefit of investing with Ultimate Coders is the work-life balance, with only four hours of operating hours each day. There’s also the competitive investment cost, and the demand for coding and robotics instruction, which is beginning to boom.

The pandemic was tough initially, especially for the newly opened franchises in Scarborough and Vaughan, Ontario. “We didn’t anticipate the length of the lockdowns,” says Patel, who moved all curriculum online during that time. The company was able to retain 80 per cent of its existing customers as students adapted to virtual learning. It also gained a lot of new customers who wanted their kids to learn online during lockdowns. And as the crisis abated, more and more parents asked for in-person instruction. Now, says Patel, 90 per cent of classes take place in the classroom. In the face of challenges posed by the pandemic, Ultimate Coders has not only adapted but thrived, embracing the digital realm and emerging stronger than before.

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