Franchisee in Action: EmbroidMe
This article appeared in Issue 1#3 (Mar/Apr 2007) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
Systematic Success – Michael Hooper
Michael Hooper went to the franchising expo in Melbourne looking for a system.
Although he was initially cautious about the potential for hidden agendas in franchising companies, he also recognised the value of being part of a tested and successful system.
He was running two funeral businesses at the time but, after 13 years, he was ready for change so he keenly examined a number of franchise opportunities.
“I was working 18 hour days and I wanted more quality of life. I wanted a family business and the more I saw of EmbroidMe, the more I liked it,” he said.
And the more he looked around, the more he saw uniforms and embroidered shirts everywhere. Convinced of the great market potential of the products, he examined the business closely. EmbroidMe is an international concern with over 350 stores worldwide. It was started by entrepreneur Ray Titus who also started the extremely successful SIGN*A*RAMA franchise.
Michael spoke to existing franchisees as well as corporate representatives at the expo and appreciated that he wasn’t given the hard-sell. “Some of the others I encountered at the expo were trying to get me to sign on the dotted line straight away but the EmbroidMe guys were great. They kept in contact but there was no pressure,” he said.
Once Michael joined EmbroidMe he spent two weeks at the training school in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA. EmbroidMe helped him with site selection and handled the initial setup. They then spent three weeks with him training him in all aspects of the business. Although Michael already had business experience he was keen to work within an established and proven business system.
“That’s the beauty of a franchise. You are not just buying the name; you are also buying the support. They come in and do all the set-up for you and that includes all the equipment, systems, marketing and plans”, said Michael.
Each franchise territory consists of about 4,000 businesses. They can vary in geographical range but Michael’s in inner Melbourne is quite tight. He has a double shop-front in Brunswick, which is approximately five kilometres from the centre of the city. His shop includes a showroom, an office and a production area.
A typical working day starts around 7am when he checks his emails and plans the production for the day. By 10am, he is usually out on the road visiting clients, sometimes cold calling if his appointments for the day allow the time. Back again in the afternoon he checks on production and in-store sales and prepares the quotes his rounds have generated. Michael aims to visit all the businesses in his territory every three months.
“A lot of people think we just do embroidery and that we must be like the little kiosks at shopping centres but we are the opposite to that. We are a one-stop shop and we supply everything,” he said.
Embroidme has a range of apparel and promotional material that can be embroidered or screen printed. Michael’s clients can range from corporate clients, schools, and sporting groups to individuals who just want a small item such as a hand towel embroidered for a gift. According to Michael, the variety of people that he deals with is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the business.
Occasionally, a working day does not go to plan. When Michael’s young son took ill and had to be rushed to hospital, his corporate field officer was in the shop helping out in his absence. “The support is just fantastic. I have never seen anything like it in any other business and you certainly wouldn’t have that backup if you were a sole operator,” said Michael.
Michael’s business success has set a new Australian record within EmbroidMe. In his fourth month of operation his sales exceeded $51,000 and the following month they exceeded $45,000. These figures are well in excess of what he expected from his business plan. The franchisees around Melbourne have regular breakfast meetings where they discuss marketing strategies and co-ordinate their approaches to large corporate clients. As there are stores throughout Australia these clients are able to take advantage of a local supply of corporate wear with identical designs across the country.
“Even though every store is individually owned we are very close,” said Michael. “It’s like one team, one company, and we all help and support each other.”
Michael still keeps in contact with the friends he made while training in the USA, another enjoyable aspect of being part of a global concern.
The equipment Michael uses in his store has been very reliable and, as a worldwide brand, it is accompanied by a high level of service support. If a problem arises that he can’t be talked through on the phone, his local representative is out immediately. It is all part of the organisation and support that has led to the success of the EmbroidMe system.
Every six weeks, a corporate meeting is held in Melbourne, usually on a Saturday morning. “It keeps us in the loop about what’s going on and it shows that they care,” said Michael who is now in the position of returning the favour that was extended to him by the honesty of the franchisees he spoke to at the Expo. When he is approached by people thinking of joining the franchise he is free and honest with his advice. They are able to come and spend the day with him to get first hand experience and find out what is involved.
Although he has not yet been in business for a full year, Michael is planning to open another EmbroidMe franchise within two years. He is a willing ambassador for the EmbroidMe system and has had no regrets about joining. “If you follow the system and ask the questions and learn well, you will do extremely well,” he says.
“I look back and I smile every day. I’ve made the right decision and I’ve never had a bad feeling about what I’m doing.”