We started trading in October 2004 when our second child William was 11 months old. Jenny used to work in the music publishing industry as a freelance music copyist and was seeking a new business challenge.
We are based in Stafford, our Little Impressions territory extends to Burton upon Trent in the East, Sutton Coldfield in the South and Market Drayton in the West.
We were searching for a business opportunity that would initially fit around having two young children (4 year old and 11 months at the time) but that would enable Jenny to grow and develop the business as the kids got older. It was also important that we had some flexibility during school holidays etc. Another criteria was that we wanted a business, rather than a sales agent type franchise. We settled on Little Impressions for several reasons – the product was very appealing, it had the potential to appeal to other market groups, it is exceptionally high quality and there was good support from the franchisor.
The franchisor was supportive in a number of ways. They required us to produce a business plan, but provided guidance around marketing and sales in terms of what worked for other franchisees and what didn’t work. They actively encouraged us to talk to other franchisees and learn from them. The training was very comprehensive – albeit it assumes a level of business knowledge already exists – and there was – and remains – telephone and email support available at all times.
It was very clear though, that this was ‘our’ business and our success would be directly related to the effort we put in to get it off the ground. Some of the marketing tips and advice provided by other franchisees around the best routes to market proved to be invaluable in getting the business established.
We looked at several franchises before choosing Little Impressions. For each of them, we looked at the financials, target audiences and the margins within the business. For franchisees, Little Impressions offered a good gross profit margin, which gave us confidence that even if we spent more on our operating costs than we forecast, we could still achieve a good net profit. We also liked the fact that we were actively encouraged to speak to other franchisees during the process of choosing a franchise – not all franchisors seemed comfortable with that approach.
Our life has changed as a result of taking on the franchise. As it is home based, we now work 24 hours a day! Seriously though, we don’t have to worry if one of the kids is ill, or if we want an hour to watch them at School Sports Day as we can flex our hours to suit our family commitments. We’re under no illusions though, this is a full time business and we’re always searching for new outlets and avenues to explore. The biggest advantage is flexibility – that works both ways, we’re happy to see our customers in an evening or at a weekend, but that means we don’t feel guilty about having weekday time as family time in the school holidays.
Investing in a low cost franchise gives the knowledge that the business model and product offer is established and there is a market (though it is still hard work to establish that business in your own area). It takes out some of the risks of starting a business completely from scratch.