Dynamic duo: our franchise journey as a couple
Husband and wife team, Helen and David Thomas, had been working together in France for ten years so, when they decided to make the move back to the UK, they knew that their double act would continue in their new business. Helen explains how choosing the right franchise gave them the kick start they needed when hopping back over the channel.
“Our children had started to fly the nest and our business in France had become frustrating with the bureaucracy and high taxation, so we decided to move back to the UK. We wanted a business that would harness our existing skills and, having looked at franchises in France, we knew that the support of a good franchise would give us an extra helping hand.”
“The provides a unique business opportunity in the fast-expanding home improvements market. We offer quality-minded homeowners an extensive choice of makeover solutions, without the demolition, debris and disruption associated with conventional kitchen and bathroom installations. Our exclusive ‘top that fits on top’ concept allows our beautiful, high grade work surfaces to be fitted directly over existing worktops, tiled walls and other finishes, eliminating the need for demolition, shortening the project timescale and reducing costs.
“I have a background in administration and David used to work in telecoms before we moved to France. We had always renovated our own properties in the UK and David already had qualifications in bricklaying and plastering so we moved out to France to start our building and renovation business. We wanted to continue doing what we were good at and, although we had looked at franchises in retail and a coffee shop franchise, we decided to focus on franchises that would renovate kitchens and bathrooms. We had the luxury of spending two years researching the franchises available but, once we got to this point, Granite Transformations was the only real contender.”
Meeting the support team
“We enquired through the company website, spoke to some of the team and then were invited to spend a day at head office with Danny Hanlon, the Chief Operating Officer for Europe & North America. Granite Transformations, under the parent manufacturer TREND, is a global franchise with major operations in Australia and North America.
“We began to like the business more and more and were impressed that Danny was still so passionate about it years after he joined the business. The head office staff were another element that made us feel the franchise was well set up and solid.”
Setting up our business
“We’re originally from the Wirral and, when we were shown the free territories that we could establish our business in, we had just a couple of prerequisites – we didn’t want to be in London and we wanted to be near to the coast. Whilst we hadn’t necessarily wanted to settle back in the Wirral, we decided to take the Wirral and Chester territory as it gave us a great scope for expansion and our knowledge of the area could only be a bonus. We completed our initial training three months before we could fit out our factory location so it was great to then receive a lot more support when our doors finally opened for business in August 2014. We chose to have our showroom in a separate location with plenty of regular footfall and so opened our first 7.5 square metre site in a garden centre.
Our years of trading
“We have had success trading under Granite Transformations with two garden centre showrooms and planned to create a main showroom within our factory site. In April 2017, we opened this new third showroom as the main showroom under the TREND Transformations brand. The transition from Granite Transformations to TREND Transformations was smooth as far as branding is concerned and we made sure that existing customers as well as new ones were aware of the name change.”
Creating the main showroom
“As our franchise locations have been doing great over the last three years, we have decided to expand once again. It made sense for us to be involved in the rebranding process because it is an opportunity to grow the business and offer our clients more product choices. Taking into account the rebranding costs, we spent in the region of £80k – a huge investment, but we had a big space to fill.
Our third showroom was a gamble for us as it is not on a high street, it is next to our fabrication factory on a small commercial/retail industrial estate in Ellesmere Port. This showroom is much bigger than our other garden centre locations – approximately 102 square metres. We try to emulate what they do over in America but, as with most things in the USA, they often do things bigger and better. Our displays differ to theirs slightly but the point is to make it as similar as possible to keep the brand uniform identifiable. We joined the showroom and fabrication unit together to create a bigger space which allows us to display all the new products that we are getting including the beautiful Orsoni mosaic tiles.
The showroom was an instant success. Our visitors always comment on how fantastic it looks and that’s very important to us. With the financial and emotional investment that has gone into it, comments like this confirm that we made the right decision to take on more space. The showroom has made a big difference – it’s what customers want to see and gives them confidence that we are able to deliver on what we promise. It helps customers take the final decision to buy from us and to keep their business local.”
Future plans for the showroom
“Our showroom is now two and a half years in, so we have been able to make a few additions and alterations; freeing up space to show off more appliances. We listened to what customers were saying and acted upon it. Having key suppliers linked to the Network enables us to tap into the showroom discounts available which allows us the opportunity to change displays more frequently, introducing the new colours and designs as they become available.
We are also planning to refresh the garden centre displays in early 2020. It’s been a turbulent time for all businesses but, through hard work and determination, we’ve been able to get through it. We kept sight of our goals and are now pushing forward to the future.
We believe one of our strengths lies in the fact that we are willing to take on small jobs as well as the bigger projects. A couple of doors today may well turn into a new work surface in a few months. We’ve formed links with other local services, such as gas engineers, tilers, plumbers and electricians whom we trust to turn up on time and do a good job.
It helps, of course, that we sell something quite special in our work surfaces and that we are fortunate enough to have a solid team of staff working with us. We’re seeing customers coming back to us for further work, such as utility rooms, bathrooms and wardrobe doors. Customer referrals are regularly coming through, you can’t ask for better advertising.”