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The Lady - September 2010
A Franchise Affair

Going back to work after a career break can be daunting. Vanessa Berridge suggests buying a franchise, as it will allow you to work flexibly and from home.

If you thought McDonalds was the only sort of franchise, think again. It’s certainly the largest and best known – but running a hamburger bar is everyone’s cup of tea, and not something to be done part-time. There are, however, plenty of smaller-scale operations which sell the right to market their goods or services within an agreed territory. Setting up your own business can be daunting, especially if your confidence is low after a career break. That’s the big advantage of franchises. Many are flexible, easy to run from home, and your buying into a proven business formula and recognised brand. Figures suggest that they’re increasingly appealing to women: between 1995 and 2005, the percentage of female owned franchises jumped from 8.5% to 25%.

Financial investment is required – franchises cost from under £10,000 upwards, on top of which are royalties and/or management fees. But you’re not putting your house on the line – and, if you go off the idea, you’ll lose little more than your initial investment. More importantly, you won’t be alone – the cost includes training, continued business support, and a ready made network.

For young mothers, child-orientated franchises dovetail well with their lives. Karen Sherr, Managing Director of Musical Minis, began running pre-school music groups in North West London over 20 years ago, when her own children were small. She recalls “it took me seven years to set up the franchise properly – it’s a big investment so women need to be sure they’re getting value for money.” She now has 19 franchisees, who have each paid £8,000 (plus VAT) for a five-year licence. Included are equipment, instruments, lesson formats, insurance, training and puppets. Franchisees are helped with their business plans, but not set targets.

There are pitfalls in taking out a franchise and you need to do your homework. Make sure any company you are considering is accredited by the British Franchise Association (BFA). Read the small print to find out what’s included in the initial cost, and to spot carefully concealed extras.

For those prepared to invest both time and money, there are many plusses in a franchise – not least camaraderie and the scope to develop at your own pace. Cathie Flynn, mother 12-year old twins, has been running her Musical Minis franchise in Liverpool for 9 years. “There’s no pressure to do more than suits you,” she says. “I’ve built up the business around my girls’ needs – I have five staff now, so it’s no just me holding classes. It’s a happy job and everyone wants to be there.”

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