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Women in Franchising: Food for Thought

Kiran Behl, COBS Bread South Point Annex

Why did you decide to invest in your franchise?

I always liked what franchising stood for. The umbrella was appealing to me and felt safe for me as a single mum. Investing in COBS was a no brainer for me, as I believe in the product. It was an instant passion for me. Coming from the U.K., we love our bread, and I had never tried such awesome bread in Canada until I ate COBS bread.

What were you doing before franchising?

I worked in a job in downtown Vancouver for a company in HR and payroll, plus my ex and I owned two pizza franchises.

What are the benefits of franchising with this specific franchise? What are some of the challenges?

Having the umbrella of the COBS brand, knowledge, and support. Being able to utilize all the wonderful systems and tools available to us from COBS.

COBS franchisors are the friendliest bunch you will ever meet. They’re very family oriented.

The biggest challenge is staff turnover. Finding people to bake in the middle of the night isn’t easy; however, once we do find a good individual who is passionate about their career and the art of baking, then it becomes a win-win. Getting to that point is the challenge.

Why do you think women should get into franchising?

Franchising is a less risky way to do business, as it provides you with a safety net of solid support, advice, tools, and marketing one needs to be successful. This applies to both men and women. For me personally as a woman and a single mum raising my daughter, it was a great choice, and I was lucky to have stumbled across COBS Bread as a franchise, as it shares some of the same values as me: family, community, and people.

It is vital to have a great mix of women and men in any business; it only enhances the franchise. However, I am all about women in business and always encourage women – we bring such a unique outlook on business, and we need more women in business.

What advice do you have for women who want to buy a franchise?

Do the research, and work with a great accountant who understands the numbers before embarking in any type of business. If you are not passionate about the product, then don’t bother buying that particular franchise. You truly have to believe in what you sell. Try to buy a franchise close to home, as it’s always beneficial to do business in the community you live in.

It has truly been an amazing experience for me and in the 14 years I have been a COBS franchisee, I have learned so much about myself, and feel I have grown by leaps and bounds. Every day is a learning experience, whether I am learning from my staff, the franchise, or a customer.

It is a gratifying, but at the same time, challenging experience. However, I not only have a job and wear many hats doing it, I bought myself a career with substance and meaning. I am responsible for coaching and mentoring my staff, and also being a part of my community, helping the needy, and lastly being a part of the COBS franchise, and meeting such wonderful people in the network who I consider family. Life is definitely not boring!

Christelle Hamelin, Cora Breakfast and Lunch

Why did you decide to invest in your franchise?

I worked in my family’s business starting at a very young age (12 years old). By the time I officially became the franchisee, I had pretty much worked in every position there was. Cora is all that I know. We are the Canadian breakfast and lunch leader, and offering my customers a memorable experience is what drives me. I firmly believe in our concept and work extremely hard to respect Cora standards and offer exceptional quality.

What were you doing before franchising?

I was an employee at Cora.

What are the benefits of franchising with this specific franchise? What are some of the challenges?

Cora is a brand that people trust. It’s an honour to be associated with this brand. I am also a mom, so being able to be at home in the evening with my kids is wonderful. As for challenges, the biggest is finding workers who are passionate and competent. It’s not always easy. There’s also a lot competition, so we need to maintain very high standards and keep the momentum going.

Why do you think women should get into franchising?

A franchise offers many positive points: structure, support, a capable team who helps the company grow. Typically, you’re stronger with a team than on your own. As a female entrepreneur, I am a natural leader. It’s extremely rewarding for me to manage a team of 30 employees. You can’t put a price tag on having the ability to decide how things are run.

What advice do you have for women who want to buy a franchise?

The best advice I can give is simply to believe in yourself! Surround yourself with good people, hold your head up high, and go for it. The rest will come!

Pam Chahal, OPA! of Greece

Why did you decide to invest in your franchise?

I have always wanted to be self-employed, and so together with my husband, we decided to invest in a franchise. We made the decision to invest in an OPA! of Greece franchise based on a number of compelling factors. The comprehensive training, guidance, and ongoing support that OPA!’s head office provides to franchisees played an important role in our decision to partner with them. They also provide exceptional operational support and marketing resources that we felt would have an impact on our ability to succeed as business owners. There was also a lower risk associated with investing in a franchise than if we had started our own business from scratch, making the franchising route all the more appealing.

What were you doing before franchising?

I am originally from India but came to Canada at the age of eight with my large extended family in search of a new life and new opportunities. At the age of 21, my husband and I had our first child. At that time, I had been working at the Calgary Airport and was registered as a part-time criminology student at a local college, but the arrival of our little one sparked the decision to invest in our family’s future and our desire to be self-employed prompted us to explore becoming franchisees. When we found the OPA! brand, which already had a strong (and rapidly growing) presence in Alberta, we felt strongly that it should be the next step for our family and we quickly became invested in growing our own franchise. We now own four OPA! locations in Calgary and are raising four children at the same time (one for each location as we like to say). Since that time, I have also been able to return to school and complete my degree, thanks largely in part to the opportunities and flexibility that being an entrepreneur has afforded me.

What are the benefits of franchising with this specific franchise? What are some of the challenges?

OPA! of Greece has an amazing head office that has a strong support system in place for franchisees – this really sets them apart as a franchise. They are always there for us and make it possible for us to continue succeeding in the industry. They understand that our success as franchisees is their success as well, and they do everything they can to support and guide us as franchise operators. The OPA! training structure also provides franchisees with access to other successful franchisees who can act as mentors and offer advice on owning and operating your own location.

As with any entrepreneurial venture, there are also a few challenges that come with the territory. These mainly include fluctuations in the costs of goods, labour, and commercial leases. We have also had to get creative in responding to Alberta’s recent economic downturn. We have found ways to be resilient despite the economic climate but responding to the ongoing recovery of the economy can be a slow process.

Why do you think women should get into franchising?

The franchise business model presents a great opportunity for all entrepreneurs, women included, because it is known to have a higher success rate in comparison to independent businesses. There are important support systems and processes already in place that make owning and operating your own business easier to do. Speaking from my experience with OPA!, I have found that franchises give men and women equal opportunities to thrive and be successful in an entrepreneurial environment. Franchising offers the opportunity to experience the rewards and freedom of small business ownership and there is a lower risk of loss of investment as you have a team working alongside you to help you succeed. As a franchisee, you also have full control over your schedule which means that working women (and men) have more flexibility to spend time with their families or focus on other pursuits.

What advice do you have for women who want to buy a franchise?

My best piece of advice for other female entrepreneurs who are considering exploring opportunities in franchising is to not overthink it. I also believe that it is important to be passionate about being a business owner. If you have passion, and if you’re willing to work hard and give it your all, I believe you will see success. It is also key to ensure you have your financials figured out before jumping in and to do your research. Make sure you find a franchise brand and model that fits your values, skills, and lifestyle. Take time to explore the brand you are interested in and see how successful their system is but again, don’t overthink it! Be ready to work hard for the first few years and then enjoy being a BOSS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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