Tag Archives: Unusual Franchises

A Convenience Store for Metals

Photo courtesy Metal Supermarkets

By Peter Saunders

Established in 1985 in Mississauga, Ont., Metal Supermarkets has grown to become the world’s largest supplier of small quantities of metal, serving everyone from engineers to hobbyists. By filling a niche in the metal industry’s distribution chain, the franchise system has established its brand and continues to grow in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

“The company was founded by Bill Mair, who’d had a long career in aluminum manufacturing,” says current president and CEO Stephen Schober. “He saw there was a void in the industry. Larger warehouses might have millions of dollars’ worth in high-volume metals, but Bill recognized the demand for small quantities of a broad range of metals, cut-to-size for fast pickup or delivery. It was a really good idea and no one else was doing it.”

Mair soon had not only customers at his door, but also businesspeople interested in opening more locations elsewhere. As he had little capital available to fund such expansion, he began franchising in 1989. The initial system growth in Canada was followed by franchising in the U.K. starting in 1994 and the U.S. in 1995.

Planning Ahead

Photo by Shelley Wyman


By Peter Saunders

In January, Cheryl Higgins was hired as vice-president (VP) of Plan Ahead Events Canada, which holds the nationwide master franchising rights for a U.S.-based franchisor of—as the name suggests—event-planning services.

Higgins already had plenty of experience both in event planning and with the franchising sector, having run the National Franchise and Business Opportunities Show for 20 years. Plan Ahead, however, represented a unique combination of the two concepts.

“They started in the U.S. in 2007 and sold their first Canadian franchise in 2009 in Halifax, but the master rights for Canada were not sold until 2012,” she explains from the head office in Toronto. “So, the idea has been here for a few years. We already have locations in Vancouver, Ottawa, Niagara, Ont., and Mississauga, Ont. Now we’ll expand it across Canada. We’re hiring more staff and I’d like to see 12 new franchisees with us by this time next year.”

Read the full article: Planning Ahead

Opening New Doors

Franchisees and their employees install, maintain, repair and replace garage doors for residential customers and some commercial clients. Photo courtesy The Garage Door Depot


By Peter Saunders

The installation, maintenance, repair and replacement of garage doors are not typically the domain of franchisees, but The Garage Door Depot has set out to change that. Currently comprising 28 locations across Canada, the chain grew out of its parent company’s need to diversify.

“Canadian Access and Door Systems was founded in Port Coquitlam, B.C., in 2005 and served a predominantly commercial market,” explains Dean Carman, president and CEO. “In 2007, though, we realized new construction would soon take a nose dive, so we started another brand to target consumers instead. We began securing a relationship with Costco in 2008, ran a pilot program in Ontario in 2009 and sold our first franchise in 2010.”

The franchisor initially focused on British Columbia. The first territory covered the Fraser Valley, followed by a second franchise in Kelowna in early 2011 and then three more across Vancouver Island.

Read the full article: Opening New Doors

Freeing Your Toes with Flip Flop Shops

By Peter Saunders

Doug Kingston, Canadian master franchisee for Flip Flop Shops. Photo courtesy Flip Flop Shops.

In today’s specialized retail world, perhaps it was only a matter of time before a franchise system emerged that was entirely dedicated to flip flops, the plastic and rubber sandals that have become wildly popular around the world.

“When I first read about Flip Flop Shops in the business section of the newspaper three years ago, my first thought was, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’” says Doug Kingston.

At the time, Kingston was managing the Vancouver territory for Lids, a hat retail chain.

“The concept was similar: take one portion of the bigger clothing industry and do it really well,” he says. “By the end of 2010, I decided to leave Lids, as I wanted to own my own business. I spoke to Brian Curin, the president of Flip Flop Shops, who lives in Vancouver. Soon after, I purchased the master franchise for Canada.”

Kingston expanded the business quickly throughout 2011, opening shops in Vancouver, Kelowna, Nanaimo and Coquitlam, B.C., as well as Edmonton. He runs Coquitlam as a corporate-owned training store and next has his sights on Calgary, Saskatchewan and Toronto.

Read the full article: Unusual Franchises: Flip Flop Shops

Helping Smokers Quit with I Quit Smoking (IQS)

By Peter Saunders

Joel Friedman, vice-president of Canadian development with I Quit Smoking (IQS). Photo courtesy IQS Canada.

Toronto-based Joel Friedman has worked for a number of franchise systems over the course of his career, including McDonald’s, Second Cup, Prime Restaurants (the franchisor for East Side Mario’s, Casey’s and Fionn MacCool’s) and the UPS Store Canada—but none has been as unusual, by his own admission, as I Quit Smoking (IQS), for which he is now vice-president (VP) of development in Canada.

Conceptualized in 1999, IQS began operations in Ireland in 2002 and has since become an international master franchise with partners in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. In addition to individual franchisee locations, the business model has been applied in clinics and corporations.

To help customers quit smoking, IQS provides detoxification treatment that involves ‘auricular therapy,’ whereby reflex points in the ear are stimulated with a handheld reflection instrument scanning electropulse (RISE) device. This method, which dates back to the 1950s, encourages the activation of beta-endorphins to control the pleasure associated with smoking and thus curb the addiction. Customers are encouraged to drink lots of water to flush existing nicotine out of their system.

Read the full article: Unusual Franchises: I Quit Smoking

Profit Shield: Protecting Profits for Bars and Restaurants

By Peter Saunders

Mark Halpern, president of Profit Shield, helps businesses prevent liquor-related losses. Photo courtesy Profit Shield.

While helping manage the Saint Cinnamon franchise, Mark Halpern became familiar with VisualTouch point-of-sale (POS) systems from Visual Information Products in Woodbridge, Ont., which help quick-service restaurants (QSRs) keep track of customer orders. In 2009, Visual owner Marius Kimel developed an offshoot concept: software to help the hospitality sector minimize loss of high-value alcoholic beverages. Halpern became president of a new franchise, Profit Shield, which uses this software to audit clients’ inventories.

On the problem:
Canadian hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclubs suffer losses up to 40 per cent, with the average topping 15 per cent of gross sales. This happens for several reasons: a cash-based business is open to theft; servers may overpour to earn better tips; and the bottles are just sitting there, where people can easily take them.

Restaurant and bar owners have tended to look at these losses as part of the way they do business, but they can lose thousands of dollars per month.

On the process:
We visit our clients’ establishments in the morning, before they open, and take inventory. The first audit can take hours, especially when bottles don’t have scan codes that are in our database. The second audit a week later adds any cocktail recipes to the system, so we know the amounts of ingredients poured into each drink, and then the two inventories are compared to find any variance.
We also have a meeting with the employees and tell them what we’re doing. While many employees are really honest, some are there to steal. We explain the past is the past and our intent now is to reduce shrinkage.

Typically, we continue to audit on a weekly basis. It’s like counting cash.

Read the full article: Unusual Franchises: Profit Shield

Franchising Party Planning: Life of the Party

By Diane Peters

Back in 1998, Elana Lancit started planning weddings; now, more than a decade later, she’s running Sweet Beginnings Event Planning, one of the only franchises of its kind in Canada. The company has a tried-and-true system that allows home-based entrepreneurs to organize everything from bar mitzvahs to engagement parties. Now that Lancit has stopped doing events herself to focus on expansion, this 10-franchise system is set to spread across the country.

On starting up:
Thirteen years ago, I was working at the local school board here in Vancouver. It was a good job, but I’ve always loved organizing events. I’m the one that plans everything: for any birthdays or outings, I was always the person who got the ball rolling. So I started Sweet Beginnings to plan a few weddings. I ran a couple of events, and I loved it.

On finding a niche:
About a year or two later, after I’d began working at my business full time, I realized I was developing a lot of ideas for decorating and event themes and subcontracting people to help fulfil my concepts. I realized, ‘Wow, these people are making money on my ideas.’ I started to build up inventory and was soon able to offer full décor services. I added linens, chairs and decorations, so I could be sure everything was just right.

Elana Lancit took a part-time job as a wedding planner and turned it into a growing event co-ordination franchise.

Read the entire article:  Life of the Party