Carys Jukes is the British Franchise Association’s Business Services Manager. She has come to the job through an interesting route, via 15 years in the motor trade and working for two franchises – Water Babies and The Creation Station.
Both franchises are led by passionate franchisors who place an emphasis on engagement, support and developing franchisees’ potential. Carys’ experience of working for them means she has a very good grasp of the importance of supporting franchisees.
“If you do not understand the challenges your franchisees face you can never give them the tools they need to advance their business. Emotional support comes first before finance, IT and so on,” she states.
Her role at the bfa involves running events and the franchisee membership side of the organisation. That includes education and development as well as bringing franchises together and building engagement.
She says there is a family feel to franchising which she also felt in her previous career in the motor trade.
Carys grew up in Devon, but left to study broadcasting at Falmouth College of Arts before moving to Brighton where she fell into the motor trade. When her mother became ill, she needed to return to Devon, but she wanted to stay in the motor trade. So she spent two years commuting from Tunbridge Wells to Devon, waiting for the right job to come up. It was while she was doing this that she came across Water Babies, a swimming franchise. She went for a marketing role there, but didn’t get it so she wrote to the franchise and asked to speak to them in a more casual setting. She was offered the role of head of franchising. “It was a bolt out of the blue,” says Carys. “I had no experience, but I fell in love with Water Babies.”
The franchisor was very passionate about helping others to set up successful businesses. Carys learnt a lot from him and enjoyed trying to bring out the best in franchisees. Her role included business development, franchise resales and events and she had to learn about all aspects of business in general and the aquatics industry in particular. “I became the person franchisees could go to when they needed to put the world to rights. Everyone has different priorities so my job was listening to people and helping them be achieve what they considered to be success. I loved that role,” she says.
She received a lot of support from the British Franchise Association. “That’s the beauty of franchising. If you don’t understand something you can pick up the phone and get support,” she says.
As Water Babies was expanding internationally Carys’s mother unfortunately passed away so Carys decided to take some time out to take stock of her life. It was during that time that she met Sarah Cressall, the founder of Creation Station. She found her a very inspiring figure and decided she needed to step away from where she was and embrace something new.
She joined The Creation Station team and developed its franchise networks, providing pastoral support.
All the Water Babies franchisees she had worked with were women or husband and wife partnerships. In the early days they tended to have come from the corporate world and were looking to grow a successful business. As the franchise evolved franchisees were more likely to be people who had taken their children to Water Babies, who came from a broader range of work backgrounds and didn’t want to work for someone else.
At The Creation Station there was a real mix, including people from corporate backgrounds and teachers. Most were women and many were looking for a better work life balance.
Having worked with two strong franchise models Carys was keen to see things from the other side – through the eyes of the organisation which provides the stringent accreditation process to show that a business is a proven and ethical model. She states that the attraction of franchises is that they are a proven business model – franchises are much less likely to fail than start-ups. “You still have to work hard, but you can grow something you can be really proud of,” she says.
Carys says the landscape of franchising is changing. Some people are multi-brand franchisees, for instance. Franchises also cover a growing number of sectors. Part of her role at the bfa as Business Services Manager is to encourage franchise to franchise business, keeping things within franchising, and to build regional networks and referral opportunities. “That will drive the franchise industry as a whole,” she says.
Carys says she has met some “incredible” women in franchising and says the number of women in franchising grows year on year. Their approach and aims vary according to what is driving their business, she adds.
She adds that women are increasingly taking higher level positions in franchises and more and more is being done to encourage women into franchising. The bfa holds its own event, designed to empower women in business which takes place every November and headed up by its CEO, Pip Wilkins, a very inspiring female figure within the franchise industry. Carys says more young women are joining the bfa too. “I’ve never heard anyone say that franchising is not a good world to enter for a woman,” she says. “Franchising is very much a supportive and welcoming family.”