When looking to invest in a franchise business, prospective franchisees should consider new systems as well as those that are already established. With a solid concept, clear thinking, and strong management skills, getting in on the ground floor represents a real opportunity for franchise growth. If the concept is strong, then being among the first investors is a bonus.
By David Chilton Saggers
Fairway Divorce Solutions
A drawn-out divorce can wreak havoc on the finances of anyone who has sizeable assets, says Karen Stewart, chief executive officer and founder of Fairway Divorce Solutions. Stewart—who’s divorced, herself—thought there was a case to be made for starting a company that could help protect the finances and parenting relationship of couples getting divorced. Stewart explains that the company will negotiate, mediate, and navigate on behalf of its clients, all for a flat fee. Canada’s divorce laws are comprehensive but not complex, she says, and she promises that Fairway will be “in and out of the negotiating mud in 120 days.” The average client fee per couple is $8,000 to $14,000, and the target market is those with assets that need to be protected.
Calgary, Alberta-based Stewart is a former stockbroker and is well informed about high-net-worth individuals. She began Fairway Divorce Solutions in 2006 and started franchising in 2008. She halted franchise sales from 2011 to 2020 to focus on same store growth and proof of concept. As of 2020, with her renewed strategy for growth, she now has 16 offices in her system, the corporate location in Calgary, and 15 franchises in Ontario markets such as Oakville, Kitchener, and Niagara Falls, and others in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Two franchises are expected to open this year in Toronto, and Stewart is actively seeking strategic investors and franchise partners. She hopes to expand further in British Columbia, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada, and have 40 to 50 offices coast to coast.
As for the qualities she looks for in her franchisees, Stewart says she’s interested in entrepreneurial owner/operators with a high emotional quotient (EQ). Financial planners would be ideal, although she notes, “One of my best franchisees is a teacher. She has a super high EQ.” Increasingly, lawyers are also showing an interest in a Fairway franchise. But irrespective of training, her franchisees must have credentials behind them. They’ll also need a formal business office.
Training is offered both in-person and online. An online course takes 40-50 hours to complete, and there are six days of instruction in independent negotiation and resolution. There’s also a year of ongoing training and support. The cost of a franchise is $45,000.
The pandemic hasn’t affected Fairway as much as some other systems, thanks in part to virtual consultations. Many franchisees had their best year ever, Stewart explains. “We haven’t lost one franchise due to COVID-19.”
The benefits of a Fairway investment are its branding, high margins, high demand, and its target client, says Stewart. “To be successful, you don’t need a big piece of the market.”
Mad Radish Gourmet Fast Foods
David Segal believes that fast food and healthy eating can go hand in hand. That’s why he’s steering Mad Radish Gourmet Fast Foods as its chief executive officer. Mad Radish began in 2017 with two stores in Ottawa, Ontario, and now has four there and three in Toronto, all corporate. Segal got the idea for Mad Radish—and its sister concept, Luisa’s Burritos & Bowls—while he lived in the U.S. “We’d like to bring healthy fast food choices to Canadians,” he says. Among the popular choices on the menu are Piri Piri Chicken, the Mad Caesar with a choice of lemon-herb chicken or cilantro-lime tofu, and the Smoking Gun Burrito.
With expansion in mind, Segal, who’s based in Ottawa, intends to start franchising this year in the Ottawa to Windsor corridor. Franchisees will benefit from the support of a world-class operations and marketing team and a hands-on approach to ensure their success.
Since the system is young, Mad Radish is focused on single and multi-unit investors. Ideally, franchisees should have some experience managing staff, appreciate healthy eating and, of course, have a positive, can-do attitude. Training takes five weeks, three of them in a corporate store and the other two in the investor’s own location. The cost of a franchise runs between $475,000 and $600,000, and a store’s “sweet spot” is 1,400 to 1,800 square feet. Stores can be refits or new builds, says Segal, but they must be street front.
As for the effects of COVID-19, Segal says that before the pandemic, Mad Radish was very successful in the office worker market, but with the abrupt change in work venues, “we evolved our system. We upgraded our technology and our structure towards other successful models.”
The benefits of investing in Mad Radish are numerous, says Segal. Operations are standardized, there’s a strong branding strategy in place, and having Mad Radish and Luisa’s Burritos & Bowls under one roof puts two complementary concepts in one location. And he concludes, “The future of fast food is healthy.”
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What began as a delivery service for seniors seven years ago has changed focus over time and is now a successful moving company that continues to serve largely, but not exclusively, the seniors market.
Brett Ford, president of Stallion Movers, says seniors and those with homes of three bedrooms or fewer are definitely Stallion’s specialty amongst other available income streams. The brand recognized that seniors moves was a market that wasn’t being catered to, as they require an extra level of care and an emphasis on patience, empathy, and kindness.
The Kitchener, Ontario-based company is in the process of creating a franchise system for Stallion, and plans to start franchising in 2022. Ford explains, “We’ve spent the past year seeing what works, and where there’s opportunity to improve our processes—we’re constantly learning.” He expects his first franchises to be within a reasonable drive of Kitchener, and mentions such cities as Brantford and London in Ontario’s southwest. The hope is to start with three franchises, and Ford stresses that Stallion is going to make sure they work before expanding to ensure longevity and success. At the moment, Ford pegs the cost of a franchise—which can’t be home-based—at between $100,000 and $200,000 depending on territory. Ideally, each franchise would have a minimum of two to three trucks.
Ford is certain about what qualities he wants to see in his franchisees. Although a background in moving would be helpful, he says that a more important factor is attitude. “Our main priority is a focus on the customer experience, and we ensure that every step is positive and pleasant. We want people who feel the same way, and want to do things differently than expected.”
As for the benefits of investing with Stallion, the brand has built a network of seniors’ homes and retirement community partnerships within its current region, and can actively start conversations with retirement homes in each franchisee’s area to help them establish their business. Stallion currently has a strong reputation and even better referrals, Ford says. “Future franchise owners can confidently use our template and training to kick-start their own seniors moving business under the Stallion Movers brand.”