If you’re drawn to the idea of something different, the following four franchises have all cornered their own unique franchising market, whether it’s concrete mixing, independent divorce resolution, mobile airbrush spray tanning, or eyewear finishing. Read on to learn more about what sets these systems apart.
For the past 50 years, the concrete industry has used essentially the same technology, says Ian Grant, one of the Co-founders of Concrete Genius. Now his company is shaking up the industry with its Omni-Mixing Technology TM, which provides several benefits, including accurate mixing and a consistent product with an unmatched 100 per cent performance for eight consecutive years (confirmed by third-party testing). The company has its roots in Alberta, and now has five locations in that province, including two franchise operations that opened in 2017. It’s looking to expand across Canada, as well as internationally.
“Omni-Mixing Technology TM is a serious game changer. Our franchise concept allows people to access it and the concrete industry, which has massive barriers to entry,” says Grant. “Starting a concrete business can be a very risky and daunting task to take on by yourself – it can be a massive undertaking to try to source the right materials at economical prices, then learn and master how to consistently turn those materials into a high-quality product.”
“We help Concrete Genius franchisees source and test materials, and build mix designs to consistently produce high-quality concrete, with a differentiator in technology that gives them a huge leg up on their competitors. Plus, we help facilitate market development and penetration into higher margin specialty applications in which Omni-Mixing Technology is the best performer.”
The ideal franchisee is entrepreneurial, with a sales focus and an ability to run the business independently with the support of Concrete Genius. Having some kind of a trades background would be helpful, as typically the franchisee will drive the truck and produce and pour the concrete. Franchisees job shadow and receive hands-on training until they complete a certification process and prove their ability to run the operation themselves.
Customers are mainly general contractors and concrete finishers, and repeat sales are key. “You don’t need a ton of customers to be successful,” says Grant, “but those relationships need to be formed and nurtured.”
Over a decade ago, when Karen Stewart found herself unexpectedly on the doorstep of divorce, she got herself a good lawyer and went to court. “After five long years and over $500,000 in legal bills, both our ability to co-parent and our net worth were destroyed. I knew there had to be a different way, and I looked upon it as an opportunity to change the way divorce happens, so I launched Fairway Divorce Solutions in 2006. Since then, we have impacted thousands of Canadians going through divorce by helping them reach independently negotiated resolutions.”
The Fairway system is based on Stewart’s learning and experience in finance, business, negotiation, and mediation. Stewart explains that the company takes couples from start to finish through their divorce. In addition to negotiating a win-win outcome, they quarterback all other professionals, including legal advice, business valuations, etc. Fairway ensures its clients are empowered decision makers, ensuring they understand the laws and the long-term financial and relationship consequences.
Franchisees must have some professional background in family law/mediation, strong financial acumen and communication skills, and an entrepreneurial mindset. And they must have an unwavering passion about making a difference in people’s lives.
Initial training – 60 hours of online content plus 80 hours in class with a focus on role playing – is supplemented by ongoing coaching and enterprise classes that support business growth. “Our franchisees’ success is our success, so we are hyper-focused on ensuring they have everything they need,” says Stewart.
Stewart‘s goal in starting Fairway was simple: offer a way to divorce that is less acrimonious for the couple, less emotionally traumatic for the children, with resolution being reached within a shortened time frame. “We have the privilege of guiding couples going through one of the most emotional experiences of their lives. Fairway has a step-by-step process that works, and we can make a positive impact not just now, but on future generations.”
When Nicole Hyatt started her mobile airbrush spray tanning business in Toronto in 2008, the busy mompreneur had no clue that her concept would spread across Canada to every province but Prince Edward Island, or that Tan on the Run would eventually operate in overseas countries like Egypt and Namibia.
“My son was six months old, and I had brought him with me to a tanning salon. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could do this at home?’” Timing was good, with people becoming attuned to the dangers of tanning beds, and a growing preference for organic products, which is what Tan on the Run uses.
“After I started it, I received numerous inquiries from people who wanted training, and I decided to franchise to create a network of independent women who could run their own businesses,” says Hyatt. To promote affordability, Hyatt charges each new franchisee a flat monthly franchise fee versus a royalty based on sales.
“People are generally getting a spray tan for a happy reason – they’re getting married, going on vacation, doing a photo shoot,” says Hyatt, so it tends to be an emotionally satisfying business. There’s also no store front, overhead is low, and franchise owners can work flexible hours, setting appointments to suit their schedules. There is a seasonal rhythm to the business, with mid-February to mid-September and pre-Christmas being the busiest times of year.
The ideal franchisee is a people person, customer service oriented, motivated, and self-disciplined. It’s physically demanding work, and operators need to be comfortable working with naked people. Business experience is an asset, but not mandatory.
All training is provided in Toronto, but Hyatt can also go out to the new franchise location. “We can get them up and running in six to eight weeks, and provide 24/7 support. They will never be left hanging.”
When people purchase prescription eyeglasses from an eye care practitioner, they may not think about what goes on behind the scenes to fill the order. The lenses are processed at a surfacing lab, where they are surfaced to match the prescription, then mounted and edged into the frame. That last step in the process may be done in a finishing lab that is owned by a VisionTech Lab franchisee, a relatively new concept in the industry.
“We are the only Ophthalmic franchise finishing lab in the industry,” says Linda Said, Business Unit Manager at HOYA Lens Canada Inc. Franchisees will ideally have sales skills and optical knowledge – preferably an optician licence, says Said, to be able to speak the language when dealing with clients, and to do everything in the lab, but it isn’t required. “We can teach them everything.”
This B2B franchise can be run as a one-person shop, with the micro-lab typically set up in an industrial park, strip mall, or medical building. VisionTech supplies stock lenses on consignment, corporate marketing campaigns (mostly all marketing support materials are provided at no cost to the franchisee), ongoing training including an annual training meeting with travel and accommodation costs paid for by corporate head office, and territory managers who provide ongoing support at a more local level.
It can be challenging to compete with large labs and big-buck chains, says Said, but VisionTech has found that many eye care practitioners like to deal with a local service, both for convenience and to support local small business. “They get fast service, quality products, competitive pricing, and a quick turnaround time.”
VisionTech has six franchise locations in Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Ontario. HOYA LENS CANADA INC, the franchisor, is a large multinational company with reps across Canada who also bring business to corporate surfacing/finishing labs, and helps train the franchisees and their customers on new products. HOYA is also interested in opening new franchises in areas that it currently doesn’t reach.
HOYA Vision Care Canada provides precision prescription laboratory services and high-quality ophthalmic lenses to eye care professionals and franchise labs across the country. HOYA invests heavily in research and development. The result is a world-renowned range of products providing total eye care.
By Kym Wolfe