As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8, honouring the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, FranchiseCanada recognizes the female members of the Canadian franchising community.
More entrepreneurial women are entering the franchise world, and here we showcase four hardworking females who have paved their own way to success in franchising, and share their words of wisdom for the next wave of franchisees and franchisors.
You might wonder why a Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa franchisee’s stress levels and a neighbourhood’s love of its cottages are related. “We opened in August, which is not great for that neighbourhood, which has the highest cottage ownership in Canada. I had a full staff, and not much happening,” explains Vivian Mah, who owns a Hand & Stone franchise in Toronto’s Bloor West Village.
Mah’s solution? She quickly made up a batch of flyers with friend and family discounts, and hit area businesses – and found success. As Mah’s stress levels decreased, so did the neighbourhood’s.
The Hand & Stone franchise concept, based on convenience and affordable massage and skin therapy, opened in 2008, and started franchising in 2009. Today, there are 25 franchise locations in Canada, and 336 in the United States. A lifestyle program offers members discounts on services, products, and gift certificates.
Mah spent 20 years in marketing and sales before jumping into franchising. “I was always passionate about skin care, and spent a lot of money and time getting massages and facials, so I networked to see how to get into the industry.” After picking up an aesthetics diploma and working in the industry on a marketing and sales level for a number of years, she decided to open her own franchise in an industry she loves.
As far as being a female franchisee, she says, “We’re dealing with people who are stressed or going though rough times, and are maybe not in the best shape physically and mentally. That connection with your clients and your team is a large part of your location’s success. As a woman, I think you’re more sensitive.”
Her advice to prospective franchisees: “You’re pretty much working 24/7 from the beginning. You have to love a massage and facials.”
That being said, she would definitely do it all over again. “Opening any business is a risk, but when you open a good franchise concept, the work’s already done for you. You put your personal touch on it, but it’s a minimized risk.”
If you’ve ever tackled head lice by calling Lice Squad.com, you’ll know that its President, Dawn Mucci, is not unlike Wonder Woman. Mucci started her business removing the pesky little critters in 2000, and turned it into a franchise the following year. She says her inspiration was quite simply, “Personal experience and seeing a problem that needed to be solved, and a gap in the market.”
Lice Squad.com provides full service head lice removal, checking, and education. It also offers a full line of eco-friendly products for head lice care. What differentiates Lice Squad.com is their people, products, and exclusive innovation like Canada’s only Lice Protection Plan in partnership with TruShield Insurance, and a mineral-based head lice solution called Super Hero #1 Time Head Lice Solution.Even though the business is successful, with 35 locations and 150 providers, Mucci has faced her fair share of challenges over the years. “Wearing all the hats in the beginning of the business was hard, no pun intended. Financing the growth of the business without giving up equity and finding people with the skills I didn’t have, and frankly couldn’t afford, was a huge challenge. Through persistence, passion, and innovation, I eventually attracted more business, profits, and people who loved what I was doing, and who joined me on the mission.”
She says being a female in business has been a benefit. “Depending on how ambitious and busy you get, it all comes down to carving out the lifestyle you want, and learning to say ‘no thank you’ or ‘yes please.’”
She says the ideal franchisee has passion, empathy, and persistence, with a drive to achieve success and financial freedom. Marketing, communications, business, and sales experience is preferred. She says franchisee support is provided in the form of communication through Friday News, regular franchise meetings, and a biennial convention.
The key to success, she says, is don’t pick head lice. “Learn the process, and then train others to do it. Outsource and delegate what you’re not good at, and focus your time on building relationships, marketing, and selling your products and services. In the end, never be afraid to ask for help, and surround yourself with diverse and talented people. After all, people are what make a business great.”
“My grandfather was a publisher, and my husband’s grandfather, a graphic designer – it’s funny I ended up doing a combination of the two.”
It seems like fate that Eleanor Rinne is as happy with her Print Three franchise in Toronto today as she was 30 years ago, when she signed on with the retail print company. At the time, Rinne was juggling a job with a large corporation that was downsizing, with three small children, and was looking for a 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday job. Franchising with Print Three was the perfect fit.The Canadian-owned franchise, which works mostly with small-to-mid-sized businesses (but is happy to handle larger clients, as well) started in 1970, began franchising 10 years later, and boasts 47 locations today. “All owners are personally involved day-to-day, so every client gets that extra personal service,” says Rinne.
She laughs when acknowledging that her biggest challenge has been being accountable to herself. “I couldn’t blame anybody for anything; it was all me. The good days were mine to enjoy, and the bad days were my creation. It’s amazing how the buck stops at my desk.”
Rinne has high praise for Print Three as a franchisor. “They’re fantastic, ahead of the curve, bringing us the newest trends, and training us. My biggest problem is that I’m technologically not swift, but my husband is. We’ve made sure our staff is up to date and really on the ball with all the new technology. I can sell it, but I can’t do it.”
She says being a female franchisee hasn’t had a major impact on her franchising experience. She advises prospective franchises not to resent royalty fees, to do as much research as they can on the market, and to get a lawyer and an accountant involved from the very beginning.
And, of course, make sure you find something you love.
“I love this – it’s my passion,” says Goldie Hazrah of her Ricky’s All Day Grill franchise in Edmonton, Alberta. Hazrah, who has owned her franchise for the past six years, previously spent 14 years in the restaurant industry. She was drawn to Ricky’s, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, because of its food quality and impressive head office team and support.
The mother of twin boys, now 21, she also felt the franchise offered a good work/life balance. “I’m a morning person, and you’re home in the evenings. My kids are old enough now, but at that time, they still needed me to drive them around.”She says being a mother has actually been terrific training for running a franchise like Ricky’s. “In this business, it’s important to be good at multi-tasking. The staff are your kids, so you’re managing them, and giving them the support they need. I think women have a bit more patience than men. It’s much easier for us to deal with situations you run into in the restaurant industry.”
Hazrah says the company, which started in 1962, began franchising in 1978, and now has 85-plus locations, offers ongoing training and support, with everything from new menus to help dealing with issues like saving on labour and food costs.
Hazrah says the biggest challenges are staffing and customer comments, but she always sticks to the positives. “When customers comment, I take it as an opportunity. That’s the best way for me to take care of it and improve. It’s important for staff to remember that our customers love coming here because of the great service and food they have come to expect. Sometimes working in a busy restaurant isn’t for everyone, but I’m committed to helping develop any staff member with a passion for great customer service.”
So happy is Hazrah with the franchise, she opened a second location in November in partnership with a staff member, who’ll manage it. Her advice for prospective franchisees: “Whatever you do, you have to love it.”
By Georgie Binks