At first glance, franchise systems targeting condo living, Asian food, and children’s dentistry could hardly be more different. And yet just below the surface, they are strongly similar because their entrepreneurs have come up with an original concept or the renewal of an established one.
Dr. Charles Lekic says Children’s Dental World clinics are among the fastest-growing dental specialty clinics in Canada, and were created as a place where children could find their true dental home and be treated as a dearest family member.
Starting Children’s Dental World in Winnipeg, it wasn’t easy to establish a large pediatric and orthodontic practice due to the large number of these specialists working in the city at that time. In spite of this, the founding “fathers” of Children’s Dental World believed that there was a place for a pediatric and orthodontic dental practice where children will be comfortable and accept it as their “Dental Home.” This is how the first clinic was founded in 2007. There are now two others in the Manitoba capital, and one more in Regina.
The pediatric dentists and orthodontists from Children’s Dental World acknowledge the difficulties of franchising dental clinics, but note that cities across the country and North America are becoming “saturated” with specialists, so a successful franchise-type arrangement for pediatric dentists and orthodontists to work together is an attractive proposition for future young specialists.
Although their system uses franchising as a working model, Lekic takes care to point out that these clinics are not franchises in the usual sense because, for one thing, provincial regulators want dentists to have full autonomy over their practices rather than having to take direction from a corporation. As a result, Children’s Dental World dentists pay monthly consulting fees, not franchise fees. So, Lekic suggests a consulting fee would be $9,000 a month in Winnipeg and $12,000 a month in Calgary, or about the cost of a dentist’s rental fees every month.
Children’s Dental World clinics, which have the same layout and certain other features, are not just about making money, Lekic emphasizes. “We will always look at the child in the chair,” he says. In time, Lekic sees the system being exported abroad, perhaps to Africa, where he grew up. But at home or abroad, he says, “The selection of (our) dentists will be very vigorous.” At the moment, for fully-qualified dentists in North America, there is a two-to-three-week mandatory Children’s Dental World orientation.
In 2011, Kelly Niessen and her husband bought a condominium in Vancouver and began to renovate. Later, they wanted to improve their unit’s balcony, but couldn’t find any attractive options that didn’t contravene the building’s bylaws.
So, after some research, they decided to offer what they couldn’t find, and KANDY Outdoor Flooring was born. The system offers condo owners high-quality flooring for their outdoor spaces, says Niessen, the company’s CEO. It’s removable, too, since condominium corporations don’t allow condo owners to stick or attach anything permanent to outdoor spaces. “We fully customize it so (the flooring) looks like it belongs there,” says Niessen, adding that KANDY Outdoor Flooring offers everything from synthetics to hardwoods, all of which can satisfy any style, and all of which are designed and manufactured in Canada.
KANDY Outdoor Flooring’s targets are dense urban centres such as Toronto and Vancouver, where the system is based. “It’s a niche market. It’s not a product play,” says Niessen. The system’s clients tend to be owner-occupiers with household incomes of $75,000 and above.
The total cost to set up a franchise, including the fee, can range from $27,000 to $100,000, depending on location and vehicle requirements, and training takes five days. There is no equipment to buy, but investors will need a vehicle that is less than five years old, has a certain payload, and is a particular colour, because it will be decorated with company decals. “It’s very low overhead, and very low working capital is required,” says Niessen.
Husband and wife investors make an ideal team, she says, with wives dealing with the design function and husbands handling the materials. “It’s actually quite physical,” Niessen explains, and typically franchisees hire installers to do the work. Niessen says she looks for franchisees with some aptitude for business, an interest in renovations, and a passion for the process and the customer experience created.
There are KANDY Outdoor Flooring franchises in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto, and expansion will likely come from both primary (Toronto and Montreal) and secondary markets. In smaller centres, Niessen says she may partner with other suppliers of condo or complementary services. As for the benefits of investing with KANDY Outdoor Flooring, Niessen says the concept is home-based, has a significant online presence, a high referral rate, “and everything is done for the franchisees on the back end.”
Millennials are everywhere these days. And it’s these young people – aged from about 18 to 35 – that Mean Bao has in its sights. “This is a millennial concept,” says James Cheung, Director of Franchising for the Toronto-based system.
Mean Bao, which sells Chinese sandwiches and dimsum, began in 2013 at Village by the Grange, known as the unofficial food court for OCAD University and the Art Gallery of Ontario in downtown Toronto. Since then, the system has expanded to two other locations in central Toronto, and another store opened in the city’s west end in July. “We’re taking our time,” says Cheung. “We want to find the right partners.” Expansion, when it comes, will be in major urban centres such as Toronto and Vancouver, he says, adding that he hopes to add at least two locations a year to the system.
There isn’t a standard Mean Bao footprint. There’s Mean Bao Express, which runs from 400 square feet to 600 square feet, and the larger premises of about 650 square feet to 1,500 square feet that compete in the fast casual market. The cost of a franchise is from $180,000 to $300,000. Cheung is familiar with the refrain that Millennials can’t find jobs and are paying off large tuition fees, but he also notes that when they do spend money, they want the real deal. “They want to pay for an authentic product. They may not visit (Mean Bao) so often, but they will visit.”
That authentic product, in this case, comes from a family tradition and its own recipes. The name, Mean Bao, by the way, is a play on words. In Cantonese, “Mean Bao” means bread. In English, a rough translation would be “a mean (excellent) sandwich.”
Cheung says he sees lots of young people who want to invest with him, and notes that they see Mean Bao as a brand they can relate to and see themselves in. But whatever their age, franchisees have to undergo two weeks of training at one of the Mean Bao locations before they open for business, and must spend two days at “Mean Bao University.” And when they welcome their first customers, a trainer from head office will be there to see that they get off on the right foot.
A business background will help new franchisees, says Cheung, and a willingness to work hard is essential. He also looks for those who share the same values as the company. What franchisees get in return for their investment depends on their brand delivery, he continues. If they deliver Mean Bao’s brand values, then they will enjoy all of the usual benefits that a successful franchise provides.
By David Chilton Saggers