Can you really franchise a Creative Business?

Franchise opportunities for mums

ARTventurers is a creative business – we run art classes for babies, toddlers and children, what could be more creative than that?! But can a creative business really be franchised without losing the creative heart of the business?

The International Franchise Association offers the following definition of a franchise :

Franchising is a method for expanding a business and distributing goods and services through a licensing relationship. In franchising, franchisors not only specify the products and services that will be offered by the franchisees (a person or company who is granted the license to do business under the trademark and trade name by the franchisor), but also provide them with an operating system, brand and support.

Franchising, by its nature, therefore generally discourages innovation and creativity on the part of franchisees. Franchisees are required by their franchisors to follow very specific policies and procedures on exactly what they will sell, how they will make or deliver it, where they can and cannot trade and how they carry out their marketing. The strict adherence to brand guidelines will be one of the major keys to the success of the franchise brand – I have previously written about the importance to both franchisor and franchisee of brand consistency in marketing messages and beyond.

However, for a business like ARTventurers which has creativity at its core and therefore attracts creative individuals to it as potential franchisees, there’s a real challenge if the business is to expand through franchising.  Is it even possible to franchise a creative business given the structured and often rigid nature of a franchise relationship?

It might be unsurprising for you to read that I firmly believe the answer is yes – it is possible to franchise a creative business successfully. However there are unique challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that the creative heart of the business isn’t extinguished as it grows, whilst also ensuring that the franchisees remain on brand and the core identity isn’t lost.

As with any franchise recruitment, getting the right people on board in the first place as franchisees is fundamental. Creative minded people often are deterred from exploring franchise opportunities in the first place, fearing that they won’t have enough flexibility to stretch their creative muscles. However, creative individuals can make fantastic franchisees – not only do they have the inherent passion about what they do to communicate to and enthuse their customers and build a successful business, they’re also able to think outside of the box when it comes to marketing and promotion too, helping them to stay ahead of the rest and stand out among the crowd. On the flip side though, it’s vital to ensure that franchisees from the very outset understand the importance of and respect the wider brand identity and message, being clear that any creative flexibility on their part must remain within strict parameters. It’s important to select franchisees who ultimately share the core values of the franchise brand so that everyone is working towards the same common goal.

As a franchisor, having a franchise network that is buzzing with creative ideas and energy can be your biggest asset and one to be ignored at your peril. I believe the key to successfully franchising a creative business is empowering franchisees with the opportunities to be involved in the creative development aspect of the business, encouraging them to innovate and share ideas. Within my own business, we make sure that our franchisees have fully mastered the basics first with our support and training, and of course it goes without saying that there are certain aspects of the brand, product and service which must never be tampered with. Consistency in brand marketing and messages remains vital. However giving franchisees the opportunity to put their own creative stamp onto certain aspects of their business not only satisfies their creative flair and needs, but also means that they continue to be passionate and enthused about what they do and feel valued as part of the wider business therefore producing excellent franchisee retention rates. And harnessing a franchisee’s creativity and taking a collaborative team approach to business development with their input and ideas means that the brand is constantly moving forward, innovating and evolving rather than plodding along – essential as a company in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Communication is also a necessary foundation to successfully franchising a creative business. Making sure that there is an open and honest relationship between franchisee and franchisor results in franchisees having the confidence and feeling supported to implement creative ideas of their own in a transparent fashion. Encouraging creativity with a high degree of transparency is vital because that is what allows the organization as a whole to see what is working and what is not, identify where franchisees may be going “off piste” and need to be steered back in and other compliance issues, and provides the brand with valuable insights into customer responses.

Of course this approach to franchising won’t work for every brand, and I can imagine that some elements of this article may strike fear into the heart of some franchisors! The key must be communication and clear guidelines with a real ethos of teamwork within the franchise network. Staying consistent with the core components of your brand doesn’t mean that you can’t keep the creative heart of your business alive – with the right framework in place I firmly believe it is possible to franchise a creative business in a way that benefits both franchisor and franchisee, producing an extremely exciting opportunity for both parties.

 

A version of this article written by ARTventurers founder and MD Fiona Simpson first appeared on Forbes.com in October 2018. You can read it here
Fiona is a Forbes contributor and regularly writes for Forbes on issues relating to franchising. You can read other articles written by Fiona here

 

Women In Franchising!

ARTventurers is a proud member of EWIF – Encouraging Women into Franchising – and our founder and MD Fiona was named Woman Franchisor of the Year 2018 in the EWIF Franchising Awards 2018

In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of women business owners generally – in the USA  more than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, and female-owned businesses now account for 39% of all privately held firms. (Statistics from the American Express OPEN Report “The State of Women-Owned Businesses 2017”).

And franchise experts report a rising trend in women entering the world of franchising.  In the UK women now account for nearly 25% of franchisees and  the International Franchise Association is seeing a similar shift. Women owned 27 percent of franchise locations in 2017, it says, compared with 20.5 percent in 2007 – and that doesn’t include another 17% of the population where men and women operate franchises together as partners. Between 2011 and 2017, female franchise ownership jumped by 83 percent, while male ownership only increased 13 percent, according to FranNet, the US based franchise consultancy.

So what is it about the world of franchising that holds such an appeal to a skyrocketing number of female business owners?

One common held belief is that many women are attracted to franchise opportunities in part due to skill sets and personality traits. Female business owners tend often to be more financially cautious and therefore the lesser element of financial risk often associated with buying into a franchise of an already well established brand may have significant appeal over starting up a business from scratch.

Women generally have strong communication skills, are good networkers and take a collaborative approach to working. These are traits which not only make them excellent franchisees with the key skills to engage their target market and grow their businesses, but which also mean that women are likely to be drawn to the idea of joining an established franchise network and working as part of a team, being in business for themselves but not by themselves.

In addition, an increasing number of women are seeking flexible careers outside of the traditional nine to five role. Franchising is seen as a route to building a flexible business around family life or other caring commitments, with the support of the franchisor and management team.  The speed at which a franchisee is able to be up and running with the new business as it is a tried and tested business model is also therefore an appealing factor.

The growth in the number of female franchisees is also likely to be attributable to the wider variety of business sectors entering the franchise world, particularly those which tend to attract women. I previously wrote for Forbes about the franchising boom in the children’s activity industry – an industry which certainly does currently attract more female than male franchisees. Similarly domestic and caring based businesses are taking up an increasing share of the franchise market and are also historically more likely to attract female franchisees. In addition, it is considered to be the case that women may often choose a business based on their own interests or it’s “purpose” rather than simply on financial prospects alone – and again there are an increasing number of franchises available covering areas such as art, food and drink, tutoring and sports.  Many female franchisees will report that the reason they first investigated their particular franchise opportunity was because they were attracted by the product or service.

One other factor must be the emergence of networks and schemes specifically set up to encourage women into franchising such as EWIF, the IFA’s Women’s Franchise Network, and the British Franchise Association’s Women into Franchising initiative. Networks and initiatives such as this have not only raised awareness of franchising amongst women generally, but have resulted in a trend towards more franchisors specifically targeting women in their franchise marketing.

Whatever the aims and ambitions for her venture a female entrepreneur may have, it is clear that very nature of franchising really can lend itself to the way in which many women want to set up and run a business  – with a network of fellow franchisees and support from the franchisor. With this female focused trend only set to continue, it will be interesting to see how franchisors will not only adapt their franchise marketing methods, but also if many will also take steps to adapt their franchise models and processes to attract more women into their businesses,

A version of this article was first published on Forbes.com in September 2018
Fiona, the founder and MD of ARTventurers is a Forbes Contributor and regularly writes on issues surrounding franchising.
You can read more of Fiona’s articles here

My ARTventurers story!

Whenever I meet new people and chat to them about ARTventurers and how it all started, I inevitably end up telling them my own story – why I set up ARTventurers way back when and what inspired me to do it. It’s a story that seems to strike chords with so many other parents – we’re professional jugglers, striving to achieve that perfect (but seemingly impossible!) balance between life and work!

These two monkeys in the photo above were the inspiration behind ARTventurers – Erin who is now 12 and Isaac aged 10 (where does the time go??). Before I had my children my life was unrecognisable to my life today – I was a solicitor working in the field of family law. Long hours, emotionally tough work and although it was intellectually challenging it unfortunately wasn’t a passion of mine and some days the thought of going to work would fill me with dread!

Like so many mums I speak to, almost the moment that I found out I was pregnant with Erin my priorities completely changed. I began to fast forward in my mind to when she was two, five, ten years old and worry about nurseries, schools, boys…the lot!!! I started to suddenly take notice of other women I knew through work who had gone on to have children and see how they managed to juggle work and kids on a day to day basis – a real eye opener into a world I’d never really considered before!

When I decided to leave the legal profession a lot of people thought I was completely crazy.  I’d worked so hard for so many years studying, training and qualifying and then building up a successful career. However I was sure as soon as Erin was born that I wanted to spend as much time with my babies as I could and although I knew I still wanted (and needed!) to work in some capacity, I needed to make a change. Working as a solicitor even part time mean that when Erin and Isaac went to school they would need to be in before and after school clubs most days and as a mum I really wanted to be able to take my own children to school in the morning every day and pick them up at the end of the day – that was my absolute personal must!

ARTventurers was an idea born out of sleepless nights, up feeding the baby! I spotted a gap in the market for a colourful art class for preschoolers – based on the messy, creative fun that Erin, Isaac and I enjoyed at home and also work I had been doing in school nurseries working towards my Early Years qualifications. I have always been a passionate believer in the benefits of getting children involved in art and creative play at an early age and could see first hand the huge developmental benefits that mini artists gained from exploring paint, trying out different mediums and art techniques and have a safe, secure and social environment space in which to investigate, explore and create! At the time there was no grand plan – simply an idea to run a class that I knew local parents and children would love and the hope that it could be a way for me to work and create an income for myself whilst working flexibly around Erin and Isaac whilst they were little. I’d then worry about what I’d do work wise long term when they got a bit older!

Fast forward a number of years and ARTventurers as a business has grown up with Erin and Isaac! When they went to school nursery I would drop them off, dash off and run a class then be back in time for the lunchtime pick up. As they headed off to full time school, I expanded the number of classes I ran to make it effectively a full time job for myself within school hours – still always making sure I set my timetable so I could drop them off at school every morning and pick them up at the end of the day!

Now, as we head into the second half of 2018 ARTventurers has grown into a national brand in a way that I NEVER could have anticipated during that sleepless night with Isaac when that small seed of an idea popped into my head! We have a fabulous team of ARTventurers franchisees, running their own branches of ARTventurers across the country and winning awards as we grow! The vast majority of our ARTventurers franchisees are parents with stories just like mine – looking to create a fun and flexible way of working around family life. I was thrilled when we recently won two AMAZING awards in the Working Mums Top Franchise Awards 2017 – Supportive Franchisor of the Year and Overall Top Franchise 2017 – to reflect our supportive and flexible franchise model and the training and support we provide to all of our franchisees. And then just last month, in May 2018 I was named Woman Franchisor of the Year 2018 in the UK EWIF (Encouraging Women into Franchising) Awards 2018.  When I developed our franchise model, it was developed with our typical franchisee in mind – a parent with a story just like mine – and I hope that this shows that (at least most of the time!) we’re getting it right!

baby and toddler franchise opportunity

Can a working parent achieve a perfect work life balance? If I’m honest, I still think the answer is that there is no such thing! What I do believe though is that you CAN create something that works for you and your family with hard work, a leap of faith and persistence.  I can honestly say that I have never missed a choir concert, school play or parent teacher meeting and working for myself has allowed me to be there after school each day to ferry them to dancing, football training, cubs, brownies….whatever they’ve wanted to do! However yes, it has meant some long evenings spent at the laptop once the kids are in bed, sitting watching TV whilst cutting out masses of paper fish or taking the kids with me to do marketing and to meetings. The past few years have seen a significant increase in women in particular seeking out self employment opportunities and launching businesses  – running your own business isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone but with the right effort and mindset it can give you brilliant flexibility.

Over the last year or so I’ve given talks to various groups of women, telling my story and listening to other inspirational entrepreneurial mums talking about their own business journeys. Whatever industry they are in there are so many common threads that appear in each story – an idea and a passion, tales of sacrifices along the way but also the sense of pride in taking ownership of their futures and shaping a working life to suit them and their families. If you have a story to tell or if you’d like to find out more about joining the ARTventurers Team and running your own ARTventurers business then I’d love to hear from you – you can get in touch with me at mail@artventurers.co.uk

Fiona x

ARTventurers Managing Director Fiona crowned Woman Franchisor of the Year 2018!

baby and toddler franchise opportunity

Amazing news for the ARTventurers Team this week when our Founder and MD Fiona Simpson was crowned Woman Franchisor of the Year 2018 in the EWIF Awards (Encouraging Women into Franchising) 2018

Every year EWIF holds an annual award ceremony designed to bring together the best women in the franchising industry to celebrate their successes. EWIF’s 2018 Awards brought together over 150 franchise professionals to celebrate women in franchising. As it was their 10th anniversary year this was a celebration not to be missed by the franchise industry – a true celebration of women and their place in the world of business!
Fiona and the whole of the ARTventurers Team were thrilled and very proud when she was announced as Woman Franchisor of the Year 2018 – recognising the dedication, hard work and commitment that goes into supporting our growing team of ARTventurers franchisees and ensuring that ARTventurers continues to grow and develop as a flexible, innovative and creative brand with family friendly policies at it’s very core.

To find out more about ARTventurers award winning franchise packages click HERE. 

You can also read about Fiona’s personal franchising story here