By Emily Smibert
When experienced franchisor Mike Kernaghan stumbled upon Christmas Decor, a small professional decorating company based in Lubbock, Texas, in 1998, he knew he’d found something special.
At the time, he and his business partner, Desmond Rice, had expanded the Weed Man lawn care franchise system across Canada and the U.S. and were looking for their next business move. They wanted to add more brands to their franchising management firm (now known as That Franchise Group) to complement the seasonal services they already offered as a way of monetizing the ‘off’ months.
“Typically, people in lawn care get into snowplowing and snow removal in the winter, but that wasn’t anything we were interested in, as it was already a mature, truly commoditized market,” says Kernaghan, “whereas nobody was professionally hanging Christmas lights.”
The idea stuck. Kernaghan and Rice met with Christmas Decor founder Blake Smith and offered to help him expand beyond his already successful system of seven franchises in exchange for the master franchising rights in Canada.
Together, the trio has since built a brand synonymous with Christmas lighting and decorating throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“With more than 300 franchises, we are the biggest home decorating and Christmas lighting franchise system in North America,” says Kernaghan.
During Christmas Decor’s first year in Canada, four different lawn care operators signed on to open franchises in Winnipeg, Brantford, Ont., Toronto and Oakville, Ont. Today, there are 23 franchises across the country.
The opportunity is well-suited for warm-weather seasonal businesspeople looking to maintain positive revenue throughout the winter and keep their staff busy.
“It’s a sustainable brand and not a fad but a trend,” says Kernaghan. “The more people light, the more people want to light!”
Franchisees sit with customers and offer personalized proposals for every budget, from tree treatments, exterior bows, wreaths and garlands to elaborate lighting features. The work is highly customized, taking into account each home’s architectural design.
“When our franchisees come out of their core-business season, they can’t wait to get to Christmas,” says Kernaghan. “There’s a lot of gratification with it. When the lights are turned on, it puts a smile on everybody’s face. We’re able to bring so much happiness to people. What could be better than that?”