Canadian Franchise Association

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Franchising: A History

What do the Singer Sewing Machine, Coca Cola and Benjamin Franklin have in common? They’ve all been linked to the early emergence of franchising in North America.

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While the birth of modern franchising is often attributed to Isaac Singer and his network of sewing machine distributors in the 1850s, or to Martha Matilda Harper and the hair salon franchise she founded in 1891, experts have identified an even earlier example of franchising.

Famous for being one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin may have also been one of the founding fathers of franchising! In 1733, Franklin entered into a partnership agreement to expand his printing business.

The contract outlined Franklin’s responsibilities to his partner, which included providing paper, ink and other tools, rent for the print shop, and money for any repairs. In exchange, his partner would give him a percentage of the profits. This arrangement is similar to a modern day franchise agreement, where the franchisor grants a licence to the franchisee to operate a business using the franchisor’s brand and trademarks.

While its exact origins may never be agreed upon, franchising continued to grow throughout the 1900s. One of the earliest companies to successfully use the franchise business model was Coca Cola. The company licenced regional franchisees to produce and bottle soft drinks under its trademark. In Canada, one of the earliest franchises was Canadian Tire, which began franchising in 1934.

After World War II, franchising expanded to a number of new industries, including restaurants, retailers, hotels, and more. Today, there are more than 1300 franchise brands in Canada operating in more than 50 different sectors.

The Canadian Franchise Association

As franchising grew across North America, Canadian franchisors realized there was a need for a national umbrella organization committed to the growth, enhancement, and protection of franchising across the country. So, in 1967, as Canada’s centennial was being celebrated, a small group of franchise business owners got together and formed the Canadian Franchise Association.

Beginning with just five members, CFA has since grown to over 600 corporate members nationwide representing some of Canada’s best-known brands. Today, CFA is the indispensable resource for the franchise community and advocates on behalf of franchisors and franchisees in Canada to enhance and protect the franchise business model. CFA promotes excellence in franchising and educates Canadians about franchising, specific franchise opportunities and proper due diligence through its many events, programs, publications, and websites.

Click here to learn more about the Canadian Franchise Association.