Cover StoryDiversity in FranchisingDiversity in Franchising CoverFranchisee Success StoriesMarch/April 2023Previous Issues

Strength Through Diversity

Franchisees from all walks of life bring unique perspectives to build strong franchise experiences

by Gina Makkar

Franchising is Canada’s 12th largest industry, and Canadian franchises contribute over 120 billion dollars per year to the Canadian economy. A franchise network is strengthened by the involvement of a diverse base of franchisees, and Canadian franchisees from all walks of life offer a wealth of knowledge and unique perspectives. Here’s how three diverse franchisees are colouring the franchising world with unique skill sets, backgrounds, and perspectives.

Hugo Breton, ActionCOACH

The story of Hugo Breton is a testament to the power of perseverance, determination, and the opportunities that come with diversity in franchising. As a former corporate manager, Breton’s experience with McKinsey, Citibank, and Riot Games prepared him for a new challenge. He set his sights on moving from Mexico City to Canada to launch his own business coaching company in 2021.

As a one-on-one mentor and coach, Breton saw the potential of ActionCOACH’s proven system to help teams and leaders in any industry achieve their goals. For him, investing in a franchise was about finding a niche market and a supportive community of coaches who could help his clients and his business grow.

“Doing my due diligence, I got to meet quite a few coaches, and I felt that I wasn’t just buying a franchise,” explains Breton. “I was joining a supportive community of coaches that could help my clients and help my own business.”

The turnkey ActionCOACH system provided Breton with everything he needed to support his clients from day one, while ongoing training and innovation ensure that he has access to the latest solutions for his clients.

With the goal of expanding and managing multiple territories, Breton is focused on building a team of coaches that can thrive and bring a positive impact to the community. And as a coach who brings a unique perspective from his corporate background and experience, he understands the value of diversity in franchising and its benefits to his clients.

To those considering a franchise, Hugo recommends doing their due diligence, having conversations, and understanding the benefits and sacrifices it entails. For Breton, joining the ActionCOACH community was a life-changing decision that has allowed him to do what he loves: help others achieve results and become better leaders.

Galium Ko, Inspiration Learning Center

Galium Ko first came to Canada in 1991 and achieved a master’s degree in mathematics and statistics. While working for a tutoring company in Windsor, Ontario, she discovered her passion for learning and teaching, and began exploring business possibilities.

As a mother of three, she wanted to provide her children with the best learning opportunities. “I wanted to find a way to pursue my passion and be a mother at the same time. I was looking for a business that focused more on individual learning and engagement, which is what brought me to make the best decision for my career by joining Inspiration Learning Center.”

Proud to be the first-ever Inspiration Learning Center franchisee, Ko quickly expanded upon her first location in Mississauga (which she’s since sold), to include a second in Oakville.

“Being the first franchisee taught me how to be a business owner. If I need support, if I don’t understand, I can call headquarters at any time to get help, and they are very helpful, especially at the beginning when I was still learning.”

Ko says she’s had many experiences and learned a lot in the last 15 years as a woman in business. Though the centre started as a tutoring facility, it expanded to become its own private, licensed school covering all areas of education, from test preparation to post-secondary application assistance.

“I have helped numerous students get accepted into universities such as the University of Toronto, Hong Kong University, and the University of Waterloo. It all started as a dream and now I am living the dream,” says Ko. “I was able to give my children the best learning opportunities as a mother, and I have also succeeded in my career goals as a woman in business. I made new friends and built a community with connections all across the world.”

In fact, Ko’s students often come back and share their successes, further solidifying the impact she’s made with the learning centre. “It’s really joyful when you see people struggle and then go on to become very successful. I think that is more a joy than earning money.”

Ko says that embracing the diverse cultures of her students and understanding their unique backgrounds creates a safe space where they can feel comfortable and are able to learn.

From a business perspective, she adds that it’s important for people of all backgrounds to consider franchising. “Everyone has different experiences, and we can not only learn from their experience, but they can gain experience from us, too. They will have the ground to support them if they decide to start a learning centre, because they will have someone with many years of experience to support them.”

Her advice to franchisees: “Don’t let anyone stop you from getting what you want. In the beginning, I didn’t have confidence. Always believe in yourself, no matter what background you are coming from; if you do the work, you will be successful.”

Tracy Tran, Pizza Nova

At 14 years old, Tracy Tran often helped out at her parents’ Pizza Nova location. An entrepreneur at heart, she went on to own two Second Cup franchises. In her early 30s, she returned to her Pizza Nova roots and went on to open a second location.

The culture, the people, the sense of community, and the family feel are qualities that Tran says contribute to the brand’s success. “I’ve always believed franchising is the best way to start a business. You have a team of experts backing you up with full support. I grew up thinking ‘10 heads are better than one.’”

With 20 years in the business, Tran has experienced financial success, but is particularly proud of her personal accomplishments. “In the years running the franchise and store, l learned to maximize all the capabilities and skill sets I never knew I had.”

The Pizza Nova values, such as the family-centric approach, are a cornerstone of the success she’s built over time. “It has that family passed down feel. They engage a lot in the community, and for me, giving back to the community was something I always loved.”

As a young woman and a person of an ethnic minority, Tran says there will always be assumptions and perceptions of her capabilities. “Being a woman and being a leader and running a business that primarily consists of men does not push me back. I rise to my challenge. My dad always said, ‘a strong woman sees challenges and stares them right in the eye with a wink.’”

For Tran, focusing on her strengths and leadership qualities allowed her to step into her role naturally and organically. “There’s full respect in the store because I lean on the Pizza Nova core value of family. I don’t treat them as employees, I treat them as family, and what does family do? They help each other out.”

When it comes to diversity in franchising, Tran says that every culture brings unique strengths and capabilities to the table. She adds that much like a franchising system brings together many working parts to create a cohesive system; when diverse ethnic groups come together, they can learn from one another’s strengths and make the system their own. “We all bring some sort of strength; we learn from how we grow up. And all that combined is a huge pot of gold.”

Tran’s advice to prospective franchisees is to open themselves up to possibilities. “Open your heart and your eyes. Being in this diversified society will give you that opportunity. It’s up to you whether you want to shut your eyes to accepting it.”

She chose Pizza Nova because it checked the boxes of the core criteria that she desired in a franchise partner. “Pick an industry that connects with you. In business, there will be rainy days and good days. It’s your passion and love for the brand that will get you through those rainy days.”