Owning a franchise: the Turtle Tots story
When your business is your livelihood, making the decision to franchise can be a daunting one. But do the potential rewards make it worth the risk? Turtle Tots co-founder Caroline Sparks explains what happened when she franchised her pregnancy, baby and toddler swim programme, and shares her advice on how to make franchising a success.
What inspired you to franchise?
Eighteen months before we founded what is now Turtle Tots Ltd, my business partner Gaby launched in Bristol. She realised what a lucrative and strong business model it was, so we decided to roll it out as a franchise. We knew it would appeal to people who wanted a rewarding and flexible career, but didn't want to risk starting a business from scratch. Now, we've got 50 franchises stretching as far as Australia! Three quarters of our franchisees were customers who loved the classes so much they wanted to get involved.
How did you find the franchising process?
It wasn't any more difficult than we expected, but the process was time consuming and detailed. We invested in expert solicitors to draw up our agreements and make sure we had the right trademarks. We also spent a lot of time writing our operations manual, so franchisees had a go-to resource for running and growing their businesses.
Based on your experience, what are the advantages of franchising?
You can grow your business and brand relatively quickly. Over the last seven years, we've expanded to a team of 10 at the Turtle Tots head office, with a managing director who's dedicated to supporting our franchisees. But it's not easy. Your success relies on you recruiting high-calibre franchisees who are passionate about your brand.
And what about the disadvantages of franchising?
There are very few in my opinion! One potential risk is that your franchisees become disinterested, so we constantly improve and evolve our offering, to stay ahead of the competition and give our franchisees great value.
What's life like for Turtle Tots, post-franchise?
It's very different – rather than working 'in' Turtle Tots, we now have a more holistic view and focus on supporting our franchisees, so they can grow and be profitable. We think more strategically about future expansion to take advantage of potential opportunities, like international markets.
Finally, what advice do you have for would-be franchisers?
Get as much advice as possible, and research the market thoroughly. Visit a franchise exhibition and speak to other franchisers – and franchisees – about their experiences. If you're a woman, there's an organisation called Encouraging Women Into Franchising (EWIF) that's worth looking at, too.
Lastly, don't cut corners. Invest properly in trademarking your brand and drawing up a comprehensive franchise agreement. It's worth it in the long run.
Feeling inspired to franchise your own business? Read independent franchise consultant Krishma Vaghela's top tips for getting started.