Planning for growth
I’m a firm believer in the need to build a very strong brand across an entire system. And I know it can take a 20-year commitment to fully spread the gospel of brand awareness.
We continue to market ourselves through high-end direct mail pieces and door hangers. When we’re doing an installation, we put a sign on the lawn outside. My car is fully covered with vinyl graphics to resemble a kitchen. We’re also planning to get more wrapped vehicles on the road in the future. They’re like mobile billboards.
I enjoy planning for the year ahead and this involves more than marketing. We’re now looking to expand on the Sunshine Coast, for example, I recently visited there to begin the process of hiring a designer and an installer to cover the market. I’d also love to grow our business in Kelowna, but again, for anywhere remote, I’ll need to find a designer/installer to serve as my representative there.
I started with three employees and now have 10. They’re an awesome team. We did $1.6 million in business in 2016 and, by the end of our third year, we surpassed an overall total of $4 million in revenue since we started.
I’m very picky about who I bring on-board, as it then takes a lot of effort on my part to mentor them, so they need to be really good students to begin with. The ability to design our shelving units comes with the training. What’s more important—and harder—to find is someone who is punctual, has the necessary ‘fire’ within, is excited about the product and will embody the brand.
This is why I don’t see becoming a franchisee as a chance to buy a job. Rather, my job is to make my team awesome in the first place.
Taking a breather
Since around May 2017, I’ve hit the first phase of my business where I haven’t had to attend as many design appointments in person. I can finally step back a bit and breathe a little more.
That said, being a franchisee has always offered advantages over my previous career. Even when I was extremely busy in the early days of this business, I had the freedom to drop my daughter off at school and volunteer to accompany her class on field trips. That’s all because I do my own scheduling.
I still mentor my designers and do a lot of followup calls with our clients. Repeat business is an essential part of this venture. We might do ‘phase one’ of renovations for a given client and then ‘phase two’ the following year after a break. We don’t have to do an entire kitchen at once; we can start with just a pantry.
As for the franchisor’s support, the initial training really helped me understand what the system is all about, but other than that, I would like to say that I am a fairly low-maintenance franchisee!
Communications are good and include weekly conference calls across the franchise system. I used to also take part in ShelfGenie’s franchise advisory council (FAC), but I stopped last June when I felt I needed a break. I left some of my networking groups, too. I wanted to take a breather so I’d have more time to look at other business opportunities, as I know I still have more to offer. One possibility down the road would be to establish a physical storefront that would represent my ShelfGenie franchise and also incorporate other, complementary brands.
Joseph Choi is a multi-unit ShelfGenie franchisee in British Columbia. For more information, visit www.shelfgenie.com/british-columbia.
Date of first franchise: 2008
Franchised/corporate units in Canada: 11
Investment range: $70,000 – $107,750
Initial franchise fee: US$45,000