Company Profiles Current Issue November/December 2021

No Office Required

Home and mobile-based businesses provide unique, flexible franchise opportunities for entrepreneurs

By Georgie Binks

As we continue to face lifestyle and business changes from the pandemic, more people are now comfortable with working at home, and the trend is becoming increasingly popular within franchising. Flexibility and comfort are top of mind for many aspiring entrepreneurs who may want to operate their small business from their home office or on the go.

Here, Franchise Canada explores four franchises that make it possible to do the job you love from wherever you desire.

1-888-JunkBin

When one door closes, another one opens—so the saying goes. And when Canadians were locked down to the outside world last year, they started opening up doors inside their homes and discovered that they owned a lot of junk.   

Rob Lough, president and founder of 1-888-JunkBin says, “Our actual sales went up. When other people were off work, they were focussing on cleanups and projects around the home. They were doing more work, so we got busier.”

The brand was established in 2014. It has one franchise located in Moncton, with a corporate location in Halifax, and is looking to expand throughout Canada. Lough explains that the company offers two revenue streams: full-service junk removal and junk bin rentals.   

Before the pandemic hit, the franchise’s setup had one employee in a truck delivering a junk bin to customers. The model was changed to be contactless, with all contracts and credit card payments completed over the phone or online. Lough says they’ll stick to that going forward because it saves time. “It probably saves 10 to 15 minutes each delivery and a couple of hours a day [in total].”

An ideal franchisee should have good organizational skills, and doesn’t mind doing some of their own paperwork and bookkeeping themselves, says Lough. They also need patience. “This isn’t going to be an overnight success.”

Franchisees attend a three-day training session in Halifax, then Lough goes to their location for two days during the opening process. After that, head office offers ongoing support.

The working conditions are perfect for a mobile or home-based business, explains Lough. “This is a business which, once established, the franchisee can run with a cell phone from anywhere.”

He also adds that it’s recession resilient. “There’s always a demand and need for junk bins. During COVID-19, that became more evident than ever. It increased our business while other businesses were shut down.”

Hickory Dickory Decks

At the height of the pandemic, many people couldn’t head out to a patio, so they decided their own backyards were the next best thing. Charleigh Roberts, Hickory Dickory Decks franchise owner in Ancaster, Ontario, says that because of this, the brand “has done extremely well through the pandemic. With so many people at home and not able to travel, the need for home renovations, especially outdoor living spaces, has boomed.”

The custom deck-building franchise was started by Tom Jacques in 1987, and today has more than 65 franchises across the country. The uniqueness of Hickory Dickory Decks is the process, established brand, and web presence. Roberts explains, “Right away I began receiving leads from the website, and from there designing and pricing a deck is so simple with the Hickory system that it didn’t take me long to start creating big, beautiful projects for customers.”

The main benefit according to Roberts is the flexibility. “Being able to work from home and make my own hours allows me to pick up my kids from school and never miss their sports games, doctors’ appointments, or school trips.” The business is also seasonal, allowing her ample time off in the winter months. Training and support involve ongoing check-ins with a franchise manager (daily for new franchisees), as well as virtual training sessions.

Over the past year-and-a-half, the franchise had to make changes. “We adapted our training to be run remotely, so franchisees can log in on their phones or computers. We learned how to do sales calls and meet customers virtually. With our work taking place outdoors, the physical distancing has not been a concern,” says Roberts, adding that going forward, the franchise expects sales to stay healthy and continue to grow.

Roberts advises that an ideal franchisee needs to be organized, offer exceptional customer service, and should stick to the franchise model that’s provided to them.

Metropolitan Movers

Metropolitan Movers franchisee Shalin Shah bought his franchise located in Etobicoke, Ontario in September 2019, just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Fortunately, because the franchise system is home-based, he was able to run it out of his house. Still, business dropped.

 “The first challenge was that everything was locked down. Initially, we were getting less commercial business and people stopped spending money,” Shah explains.

The brand was also concerned about the safety of its crew members. “When you go to someone’s house, you have to touch all their belongings,” he says. “Having gloves isn’t completely safe. With masks on our crew members, lifting 50 pounds and travelling up and down the stairs made it very difficult for them to carry heavy items, so they had to go slower.”

Metropolitan Movers has been in business since 2010 and has franchise locations across the country. Shah says a benefit to the franchise is that they send him jobs, plus he can look for his own. Franchise owners are also responsible for their own marketing.

While franchisees have been able to work from home with no fixed office costs, they’re also able to work out of head office. In addition to being able to deal with customers and movers by phone or email, customers were also able to do a video call with the movers which offered them a safer option at the height of the pandemic.

Shah says training and support from the brand is terrific. “There’s always someone to support you so you won’t get lost. Even if I call after 8 p.m., they’re always [available] and can help me get out of [any type of] situation.”

When it comes to the ideal qualities for a Metropolitan Movers franchisee, Shah says that you should enjoy working with people and motivating them to provide superior service for customers.

WP Creations

For a parent, there’s nothing quite like the sound of little feet pitter-pattering along the floor as your child comes greet you with a warm smile and a hug. But as every parent knows, kids grow up too quickly. That’s where WP Creations comes in. The brand creates 2D and 3D prints of your baby’s hands and feet (or even your dog’s paws), so that physical memories of your precious little ones can stay with you forever.

The system was founded by Debbie Cornelius, a mother who was having a difficulty finding safe materials for creating hand and footprints of her two little girls. Once she figured out how to make them, she devised a work-at-home franchise model to market her business. Today, the franchise has 38 locations in Canada, and licenses in Quebec, the U.S., and the U.K.

Cornelius stepped down from her position in 2016, and president and CEO Jamie Berube took over as head of the brand. She says that operating during the pandemic has been an interesting challenge. “Our goal is helping families remember the look and feel of their baby’s hand and footprints, so we updated our mission statement to include how to safely capture precious hands and feet.”

In devising a safe way to keep the business going, the brand had to come up with an additional way to operate. “We packaged up our materials, put them in a box, met parents curbside to pick up the materials, and helped them to virtually create the moment safely from their home,” explains Berube. “They then dropped the moulds back off, so the franchise’s artist could continue to work on them.”

Berube says that going forward, the franchise will offer both in-person and remote services to customers. For franchisees, they offer ongoing virtual training and calls with their business coaches sometimes even on a weekly basis.

Franchisees with WP Creations can work at home and make their own business hours. As for advice for success, Berube says, “You have to be a go-getter and be self-motivated to follow the systems and participate in the company. You have to like people and want to be a part of our family.”

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