The entrepreneurs behind Canada’s franchise industry continue to show that they can compete with the best systems anywhere. And all three of the brands profiled offer proof of how they compete: an excellent idea, the necessity of strong branding, and the need for close collaboration between head office and franchisees.
MowTime Lawn Maintenance
If there really is a best place to start a lawn maintenance company, it has to be Victoria, British Columbia. When the rest of Canada is still struggling with snow and cold, the provincial capital on Vancouver Island is already enjoying the flowers, shrubs, and sunshine of spring.
And it was in Victoria that Daniel Smith, president and CEO of MowTime Lawn Maintenance, started his company in 2008 and is now rolling out his franchise plans. Smith is currently looking for the first franchise to work alongside the original corporate location and has controlled growth in mind. “Typically, we’re looking local (for franchisees) to start, but down the road, we’ll be looking across Canada.”
As well as lawn and garden maintenance, MowTime will allow certified MowTime franchisees to do different jobs in their area, such as landscaping and snow removal, and will even hang Christmas lights. The cost of a franchise is between $42,200 and $64,900, an amount based on the franchisee already owning a truck suitable for the work involved. Smith says it would cost another approximately $5,000 to purchase a used truck if the franchisee doesn’t have a suitable vehicle. Despite being regarded as one city, Victoria actually encompasses 13 municipalities, Smith explains, so franchisees will get exclusive rights when they buy into the system.
Among the benefits of investing with MowTime, Smith says the first franchisees will receive a self-propelled mower, a line trimmer (weed wacker), a hand leaf blower, and a 5×8 trailer as part of their initial fee. Other benefits include providing client leads, close collaboration with head office, and the advantage of being first to market.
Training, which is in Victoria, takes approximately three weeks to two months, and includes such instruction as how to operate commercial equipment (self-propelled mower, trimmer, etc.), how to properly quote a property to maximize your revenue, and how to use your time productively. “Time management is the hardest thing to get people trained on,” says Smith. He says he’s attracting a range of potential investors and is looking for two qualities above others: franchisees should be business oriented, and they should be open-minded about the work and the services MowTime provides to its clients.
Pür & Simple
Pür & Simple is a breakfast and lunch specialist that began franchising in 2016. In the short time between then and now, the Montreal-based company has grown to an 18-franchise system, with restaurants in five of Canada’s 10 provinces, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.
Further expansion is planned for Alberta, says Ritou Maloni, president and chief operating officer, with locations expected to be open there by the end of 2020, with, she hopes, Pür & Simple adding one franchise a month to its system elsewhere in the country. The brand is part of Eat It Brands, which owns and operates a portfolio of restaurant brands.
Pür & Simple operates from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, says Maloni, which allows franchisees to have a life outside of work, an attractive prospect for potential investors in an industry notorious for its long hours. The majority of her investors are career changers, she says, with a lot of them coming from the equally demanding world of IT. So far, most of Pür & Simple’s franchisees have been men aged 35 to 45.
The cost of a turnkey franchise runs between $650,000 and $750,000, and the size of a location depends on the market, with 2,800 to 3,200 square feet as Pür & Simple’s “sweet spot,” says Maloni. And although the system has done retrofits, “We usually build new,” she continues.
Pür & Simple customers range from those in their mid-twenties to others in their mid-fifties, and on weekends, families are a common sight. All come looking for Pür & Simple’s eggs Benedict, pancakes and waffles, omelettes, and more for breakfast, and its burgers and other items at lunch. “We also offer vegan and gluten-free choices, and we have a big smoothie bar,” says Maloni.
She says she looks for forward thinkers among potential franchisees, and for those with a strong work ethic and plenty of energy. Although a restaurant background is not necessary, some business exposure would be an asset, “And you have to be passionate about people.” Training takes five weeks in Montreal, and there’s also another three weeks of in-store instruction. “For us, training is key,” says Maloni. “(Franchisees) need to be autonomous and they need to understand the restaurant business.”
Among the benefits of a Pür & Simple franchise are its concept and its market niche, Maloni explains. Its stores are welcoming, and the head office team goes the extra mile for investors. “No one is allowed to be just a number.”
Under the GUI Academy
The “STEM” subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math – have always been important, but never more so than today, especially for parents who want to give their children an edge in challenging yet rewarding careers.
And that’s where Under the GUI Academy comes in. Jamie Chang, founder of Vancouver-based Under the GUI, says the school teaches STEM, Coding, and Robotics subjects to children from Grades 1 to 12. “Our goal is to go beyond what the (public) schools are teaching,” he says.
Under the GUI began seven years ago, says Chang, and started franchising three years ago. GUI now has 38 locations – three of them corporate – with seven in British Columbia, seven in Toronto, one in Calgary, and the rest in Asia. Chang says domestic expansion plans will see growth in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta, and the start of a presence in Saskatchewan.
The cost of a franchise runs from $90,000 to $150,000, and training takes one week. At present, Chang travels to the franchise location to conduct the training, but he says in the future he intends to centralize training in Vancouver. Chang is also present the day the franchise opens, and then he checks in again three months later. Teachers at an Under the GUI franchise are usually university students in second to fourth year, and the hiring is done by the franchisees themselves. Under the GUI has different pricing models, including summer camp, winter camp, robotics, private, and semi-private classes.
When it comes to Under the GUI franchisees, Chang says, “Educators do best, and they tend to be younger. Learning new technology is easy; learning how to teach children is hard.” He’s looking for franchisees who are financially stable, reliable, “and people skills are super, super important.”
As for the benefits of investing with Under the GUI, Chang says the system has a long history of developing curriculum that has proven successful for a long time. “Education is a long-term business. In order to test a curriculum, you need to spend the time and iterate,” he says. One of their students, he notes, designed a robot that could sort garbage by using image recognition technology.
By David Chilton Saggers