Families in Franchising

Four families share their experience mixing family and business for franchise success

Franchising can be a very personal business model, so it’s no surprise that many franchisees find success partnering with family members. For all of the franchisees profiled here, pairing up with relatives has provided them with both personal and professional satisfaction.

COBS Bread

Mike Fujita’s first encounter with COBS Bread began, serendipitously, with family. “We happened to be in Edmonton for a family function, and drove by a business with a line-up out the door,” Mike explains. “We decided to stop and check it out – it turned out to be a COBS location.”

COBS Bread stores are from-scratch bakeries where no preservatives are used. Each store sells only what is baked fresh that day, and whatever is left over is given to charity. From that first taste, the Fujita family was sold.

When Mike and his family were driving home through the Summit Shopping Centre, they saw a sign for a COBS franchisee opportunity and decided to apply. And now? He and his daughter Bailey run the Summit Bakery in Kamloops, British Columbia together.

Mike and Bailey both work on the front and back ends of the business. When they first opened, Bailey was in full control of the front of house, and now both Mike and Bailey split those duties, as Bailey has gotten so strong when it comes to baking. “Bailey has been a saviour for me. She is strong in areas where I am weaker,” he says, praising her strong customer service skills in particular.

Not only is Mike happy with being his own boss – an evergreen benefit to franchising – but he’s also happy sharing his business with someone who shares his values and morals. “I think working together has brought us closer together,” he says of his relationship with Bailey. “We both have the passion for baking, and we haven’t had any problems working and keeping it professional.” The duo also gets support from head office, which only serves to further cement the success of their operation.

To those considering franchising with family, Mike suggests: “Make sure your personalities work together. Egos need to be checked at the door. You need to have the same goals, and to be able to take being told how to do things as a learning experience.”

Comfort Keepers

The Comfort Keepers business is an extremely personal one – providing care to individuals who need help with daily living activities. It seems fitting, then, that it might be an ideal franchise opportunity for family members looking to operate together.

Heather Martin was drawn to the heart of what Comfort Keepers is all about. “The fact that you can help people and possibly make their lives a tad bit easier,” Heather shares, was the biggest draw for her. “Being new to the field [of senior care], it was only natural that I looked at a franchise opportunity.”

As Heather’s initial franchise grew, she wanted to expand, and her brother-in-law Kenneth was looking to make a career change. Having started out in finance and operations, Kenneth went through some issues with caregiving for his mother that really made the idea of working with Comfort Keepers stand out in his mind.

“After much discussion with my sister-in-law, who was already a part of [the Comfort Keepers] team and very happy about what she did,” Kenneth says, “I decided to partner with her in expanding the operations.” Today, Heather and Kenneth have five territories in Greater Vancouver.

Senior care can be an emotionally demanding business, so it’s important to make sure that family members operating franchises together can find that necessary work-life balance. “Family and business are kept separate as much as possible,” Heather says, adding: “Set the ground rules at the beginning. Be open and up front with your partners.”

Kenneth echoes this sentiment, adding that knowing the strength of your existing family relationship will help you determine if going into business together is the right fit. “I have unconditional trust in my partner,” he shares, “so even if we disagree on a few issues, the good of the business is always first.”

Open and clear communication are the order of the day when it comes to franchising with family, and given the back-end support that the franchise model provides, families franchising together is a trend likely to continue to grow.

MOLLY MAID Canada

MOLLY MAID has been a symbol of quality, service, and value in the cleaning industry since it began in 1979. Cathy Deacon, one of MOLLY MAID’s longest-term franchisees, was drawn to the MOLLY MAID model through her own family life. “My husband was a shift worker, we had five children at home, and I worked in downtown Vancouver, commuting three hours a day. The concept of a home-based business was very alluring,” she shares.

Shauna Browne, Cathy’s daughter, has a long history with the franchise, as well. “My parents bought the franchise when I was a teenager. They started off with an office in our home, so I quickly became a part of it.”

In 2012, Shauna bought into the franchise herself. “Shauna had a young family at home, didn’t want to commute into Vancouver for work, and, most importantly, had the ‘right stuff’” for the business, Cathy shares.

Cathy and Shauna both say they work extremely well together. “Shauna and I are very close. We worked together for many years prior to her purchasing, and even with eight-hour work days, we’d still talk at night.”

This bond is certainly an asset in their franchising. “We know each other’s personalities and complement each other,” Shauna adds. They also saw the importance of creating boundaries – leaving office talk for the office, and trying not to discuss business at family dinners – which further reinforced their successful operation model.

“When you work with family [and] you share the same work ethic, beliefs, standards, it makes you a stronger team,” Shauna shares.

“Talk, listen carefully, respect each other; have the same goals and values,” says Cathy. These are the keys to successful partnership.

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK – Canada

When you think about a moving company, you might not immediately think about the idea of community, but that sense of a home base and belonging is exactly what Wendell Costello and his wife, Elaine, found with both of their TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® – Canada franchise locations in Hamilton and Halton Region, Ontario.

Wendell’s previous jobs often involved travel, but now, “I work in my own community, which allows me to build strong ties and become an integral part of the communities we serve,” he says, something that no doubt adds to the personal and professional satisfaction of being a part of this kind of franchise.

Wendell began as the sole franchisee, but after several years of growth, “I needed to add management infrastructure to take it to the next level,” he explains. Elaine was dissatisfied with her daily commute to her corporate job, and had the skills to partner with Wendell in the franchise.

“We both felt the business had grown enough to support us,” Wendell shares. “We also believed that with Elaine joining the company, it would improve our overall quality of life.”

Wendell notes that finding the right work-life balance wasn’t necessarily straightforward at first. “It took several years before we were able to have more clearly defined roles, duties, and authority [in the company],” he says.

In 2017, they added Wendell’s brother Glenn as a General Manager. “Adding another family member was a concern,” Wendell says – figuring out the ideal way to balance personal and professional isn’t always clear-cut or simple. “For anyone considering working with family in franchising, I suggest you be very open and honest with each other.”

But he is also sure to note: “Working with family can be very beneficial. They know your personality and how to work with you.” That interpersonal knowledge can be hard to come by in a typical workplace, and is certainly one of the unique benefits of franchising with family.


By Jessica Burgess