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.”
The Halifax franchisee, Roberta Dexter, currently has the top sales figures in the country. In 2012, she was named most valuable player (MVP) across the entire system, which includes nine countries.
“She’s a star and a mentor to the other franchisees,” says Higgins. “We’ve got everyone working together. I don’t know of many franchise systems where individual franchisees work as a whole unit, a true network, but the strength of this company is in the numbers. We can serve clients, such as industry associations, that rotate their meetings through different cities across the country. That helps us, because it’s an ability no one else has in the event-management sector.”
“I’d done some event planning before in different jobs and had lots of local business contacts,” Dexter explains. “I always wanted to be a business owner, but was timid about striking out on my own, so I browsed franchise opportunities. Plan Ahead was the only franchise I could find that was involved in event planning. I already knew how to do it, but this would provide an infrastructure of support and an extra level of confidence.”