In some ways, a franchise is little bit like a business in a box, according to Journal Record reporter Molly Fleming. The concept has worked in other markets, so it already has a track record of some success.
“The branding is there. There's marketing power. And in some instances there's a team to help you get started,” Fleming said.
They are not, however, success in a box. They require hard work, and some franchisors offer more support than others.
In the Journal Record’s “2018 franchise issue,” published last week, the newspaper looked at some of the challenges and successes of being a franchisee in Oklahoma.
One Oklahoma franchisee that turned passion into a business is School of Rock. Owners Ted Kuschel and Brandon Birdwell grew up playing music together. After they opened their first School of Rock in Edmond, they started another in Oklahoma City.
“They don't just teach music lessons, they teach kids how to play popular songs. And then through that, they teach them music theory and the basics of playing music. So it's a little different approach than just hiring somebody to teach you piano,” Fleming said.
Natasha Neumann opened Oklahoma’s first Goldfish Swim School last October in Edmond. She offers swim classes for children up to age 12 in a warm, 90-degree pool with trained instructors. Neumann told the Journal Record that she never anticipated becoming a franchisee.
“Her children were at Goldfish Swim School in Michigan. And when the family moved here in 2012 she tried to find a similar program she couldn't. She thought about starting her own, but Goldfish has a good foundation,” Fleming said.
Neumann already had 650 clients in February, and she is looking at adding two more locations in Oklahoma City.
Jacob McCleland: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland and my guest today is Molly Fleming. She's a reporter with the Journal Record newspaper. Molly thank you for joining us.
Molly Fleming: Hey, thanks for having me.
McCleland: Now the Journal Record paper published its 2018 franchising edition last week that looks at the successes and challenges of becoming a franchisee. Let's start with Oklahoma City-based Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores. The gas station chain is also, it's actually, a franchisee as well. They operate chain restaurants in their gas stations. How how does this work?
Fleming: Love's business is based on providing services to commercial drivers. You know 18 wheel trucks and such. The car driver business that's really a bonus. So they want to make sure their truck drivers have a reason to stop, besides getting gas or, I guess for truck drivers, diesel. So they build the travel stops extra large and then lease or operate one of their 10 concepts in the space. This is a huge deal especially in small towns because the national chain may not see the density it needs to build a restaurant in the city but Loves can bring these new places which is always exciting. And it sounds like Loves will add more franchises to his repertoire soon. Restaurant services director Joe Cotton said he's been visiting with several concepts lately.
McCleland: So as I understand it, Loves is franchisee for 10 different restaurant companies, or different concepts. Are these the the only restaurant options there?
Fleming: No, actually they also lease 30 basis to eight different concepts which are operated by another franchisee. Because Loves is the franchisee, like we've said, there are some agreements that keep them from having another similar concept, like they can't operate another burger place because they are a franchisee for a Hardee's and Carl's Jr. So they can lease their already built restaurant space to the local franchisee for, say, McDonald's which gives them another option without having to break their contract.
Fleming: I'll admit that when I think of franchise businesses, the first thing that comes to my mind is fast food restaurants like we've been talking about. But you know that's not always the case. In fact people can go into business doing something that they love like Brandon Birdwell and Ted Kuschal did. They have two School of Rock franchises in the Oklahoma City metro area. Tell us a little bit about their story.
Fleming: So Brandon was the one that saw this school of rock franchise concept. They grew up playing music together. And so he called his friend Ted and they pursued it. And the first one opened in Edmond 2016. And they have a second one now at 7200 North May Avenue. And so the idea of this is that they don't just teach music lessons, they teach kids how to play popular songs. And then through that, they teach them music theory and, you know, the basics of playing music. So it's a little different approach than just hiring somebody to teach, you know, teach you piano.
McCleland: No other people see me kind of fall into franchising almost accidentally like Natasha Neumann. She opened Oklahoma's first Goldfish Swim School. How did she get involved in franchising?
Fleming: Her children were at Goldfish Swim School in Michigan. And when the family moved here in 2012 she tried to find a similar program but she couldn't. She thought about starting her own, but Goldfish has a good foundation. It was started by Jenny McCuiston who is a professional swimmer and has a degree in early childhood development. So Natasha reached out to the goldfish franchisee in Michigan, and she helped her on her business plan. So it took a few years to get investors and some land. But the school is swimming strong now. There are more than 650 students at the Edmond school.
McCleland: So what are the advantages of franchising instead of starting a business on your own from scratch?
Fleming: Yes a franchise is kind of a business in a box, if you will. So that does make it a little easier than starting with an idea on your own. You know the branding is there. There's marketing power. And in some instances there's a team to help you get started. Now they're not a success in a box, though. They do require work and in some cases the franchise or may have not set up a successful franchisee operation. One of the stories we heard about was a new Tom + Chee Grilled Cheese place up at Penn and Memorial. And those brothers would tell you that the Tom + Chee team is very hands on because they want to see the new eateries succeed. But other franchise owners may not may not be like that. Franchises start, though, because the franchisor is already successful. So the concept works. Also the franchisor knows the market where the business should go next. They just need the person to buy into the business. When we get e-mails at least every week of concepts looking for franchisees. So there are places out there that know our market and know that their concept would be successful. They just need people to buy in.
McCleland: Molly Fleming is a reporter with the Journal Record newspaper. Molly thank you so much for your time.
Fleming: Hey, thank you Jacob.
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