It takes just one person with drive and a great idea to start and build a franchise system. Of course, the product or service offered has to meet market demand, but it’s that unique entrepreneurship that is an absolute must if the system is to thrive in good times and bad. And the three entrepreneurs here certainly display that unique quality.
Elite Trade Painting
After 37 years in the trade, Mike Benteau certainly knows painting. The founder and president of Elite Trade Painting ran a student painting business for years before branching out and branding Elite in 1991, which he didn’t start franchising until 2012.
There are now nine Elite Trade Painting franchises from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. Benteau wants to establish 30 new franchises in the next three to four years, with 15 in Western Canada and the other 15 in Ontario and Eastern Canada. The full investment to open a franchise runs from $80,000 to $100,000.
Benteau says franchisees don’t need a painting background due to their comprehensive classroom and field training programs, as well as the fact that they’re looking for good managers rather than good painters. However, he says some exposure to the home service industry would be an asset for potential franchisees.
Benteau adds that it’s important to find the right franchisee fit. “Are they good people? Do they understand the customer? And, crucially, do they have good communication skills to talk to customers and staff? Put simply, we’re nice people who do good work for our clients.”
Elite’s customer base is about 50-50 residential and commercial, handles both interior and exterior painting, and reaches clients through online marketing and traditional media programs, such as signs, door hangers, and vehicle wraps.
There are plenty of benefits to an Elite franchise, Benteau explains. An attractive lifestyle for the franchisee is one of them, he says, with hard work coupled with the time to enjoy life, particularly since the painting trade is cyclical, with some periods busier than others.
There’s also Elite’s software program, which propelled the franchise system and its franchisees to become local market and industry leaders. As an example, where an estimate for a customer used to take over an hour, now Elite can have one ready in as little as 15 minutes. But there’s more to it than just estimates; it also has features such as billing, scheduling, and crew management, Benteau says. “The job has never been easier since the technology was put in place.”
GEM Health Care Services
In 1994, Gaye Moffett had what she calls an “epiphany” – a sudden moment of clarity and understanding. Moffett, a nurse, had just lost her job and was wondering what to do next. The solution was to start her own company, and she launched GEM Health Care Services that same year.
Speaking from head office in Ottawa, Moffett says GEM Health Care Services provides a wide range of services such as providing nurses for palliative care, flu vaccination clinics, and health care assessments for veterans; providing personal support workers for home care; and home support workers for light housekeeping, meal preparation, and so on – for those who qualify for provincial assistance; and providing long-term care staff relief. And, she notes, GEM is certified by the International Organization for Standardization in Switzerland, which is usually identified as ISO Certification, which allows GEM to bid on provincial government contracts.
Moffett says GEM began franchising in 2006 and, along with the head office location, the company has one very successful franchise in Newmarket, Ontario. There’s also interest from potential investors in Ottawa and Mississauga, Ontario. Ontario is primarily where the system is looking to expand, Moffett explains.
As founder, president, and CEO, Moffett says, “I’m very particular about who we choose [as a franchisee]. It takes time to build the trust relationship necessary.” Among the qualities she looks for are empathy, a sales background, and a capacity for hard work.
Moffett, a nurse herself for 47 years, says franchises need a combined primary and secondary population base of 500,000 to be successful because that’s the size necessary to provide multiple revenue streams. The average cost of a franchise is between $100,000 and $120,000, and franchisees will need a bricks and mortar office and two people to run it. Franchisees themselves hire staff, whether nurses or personal support workers. Training takes three weeks – two weeks of instruction in Ottawa and another week at the franchisee’s own location.
As for the benefits of investing with GEM, Moffett says there’s the satisfaction of caring for people in the franchisee’s own community, strong corporate support, and the system’s strong reputation. More than 95 per cent of GEM’s business comes from word of mouth recommendation, she says.
Joshua Bagchi, founder and CEO of Prairie Donair, wants to build a cross-Canada system that has deep roots in the west, but sells food usually associated with the eastern end of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
And he’s well on his way to doing that, with a 14-franchise presence in Saskatchewan and Alberta and expansion plans for British Columbia and Manitoba. “We really want to build a foundation out west,” says Bagchi.
Prairie Donair began in 2010, Bagchi says from his office in Regina, Saskatchewan, and started franchising in 2016. There are now 13 Prairie Donair locations in Saskatchewan and one in Medicine Hat, Alberta serving customers who check every demographic box.
A donair, for those who don’t know, is a sandwich – usually using pita bread – filled with lamb, chicken, or beef, along with vegetables. Lots of vegetables, notes Bagchi, as Prairie Donair offers its customers 22 different types of vegetables and 21 different sauces to smother them in. A main sandwich at a Prairie Donair restaurant costs about $10, putting the price point at the middle to lower end of the dining out scale, says Bagchi. Also on the menu are such items as a falafel pita, a hummus pita, and a Basmati rice pita, all vegan, and a rice bowl topped with meat that’s great for kids.
Bagchi says he looks closely at the personal background of potential franchisees when he’s considering them as investors in the system. He also looks for a strong work ethic rather than a single interest in making money. Prairie Donair franchisees will need to provide real customer service, he continues, but they don’t need a food or restaurant background, nor do they need any exposure to business. “I’ve got the business background,” says Bagchi, who’s been in the restaurant industry for 15 years.
The cost of a franchise is about $200,000 for a “quick service, niche restaurant” of between 800 square feet and 1,200 square feet, says Bagchi, reminding investors that, “(Prairie Donair) is almost half the cost of some franchises.”
Prairie Donair provides 80 hours in-class training and another 80 on-site instruction hours, but Bagchi says, “We keep them (franchisees) in training until they are ready.” The benefits of investing with Prairie Donair are numerous, says Bagchi, singling out the strength of the support system.
By David Chilton Saggers