For Spray-Net founder Carmelo Marsala, you could say the idea to franchise his exterior painting business fell from the sky.

“I was on a ladder, thirty feet in the air, taking a sales call when my phone fell to the ground and smashed into a million pieces,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘well, this is no longer sustainable.’”

As head painter, lead sales representative, and production manager at the time, Marsala decided to develop training and operating manuals so he could delegate some of his tasks and better manage his rapidly expanding business. He decided to use these materials to develop a franchise system. “I always liked the model,” he says. “Group power makes more sense than doing it all on your own.”

Marsala already had plenty of experience in franchising. As a business student at Concordia University in Montreal, he operated a College Pro painting franchise during his summers off.

“We don’t consider ourselves a painting company,” Marsala says of the Spray-Net concept. “We say we’re the most cost-effective way to increase curb appeal, because we’re essentially an alternative to replacing siding and doors and windows.”

Marsala’s business launched when he was just 19 years old. Upon graduating, Marsala decided to pass on a stockbroker job to focus on Spray-Net full time.

After franchising his business in 2013, he sold his first two franchises in Gatineau and Quebec City in March 2014. As the franchise grew, Marsala began to win accolades from the business community. In 2014, he was a finalist for the EY Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and, in 2015, winner of the Air Miles Small Business Achievement Award. The win caught the attention of the producers of Dragons’ Den, who invited him to appear on the show.

Marsala pitched his concept to the Dragons in May 2015, and was offered $175,000 from Jim Treliving in exchange for a five per cent equity stake. Although that’s exactly what Marsala asked for, he decided not to move forward with the deal. The Dragons’ Den appearance ended up generating more than 400 leads in the three days following the episode’s air date.

Today, less than three years after launching franchise operations, Spray-Net is almost completely sold out in Canada. Marsala’s next step is to take his concept to the United States, where he was recently recognized as a top young entrepreneur in the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) NextGen in Franchising Global Competition.

The 29-year-old has earned the respect of the international business community, a far cry from his early days as a young entrepreneur trying to get his business off the ground. “People don’t necessarily believe in you at that point. You have to convince them that what you’re doing makes sense and get them to be part of your story.”

Today, Marsala has a dedicated team of head office staff and franchisees, many of whom are also under the age of 30. “You’re only as good as your team,” he says, “We don’t sell franchises, we award them. The franchise fee might be appealing at first, but it’s not worth it in the long run if that person is going to be negative for your brand.”

Adapted from the July/August issue of FranchiseCanada. Check out the July/August 2016 issue of FranchiseCanada, on newsstands now, or you can order your subscription by calling 1-800-665-4232 ext. 224.