‘My Franchise Journey’, With Fiona Simpson

Whether you’re contemplating a career in the franchise industry, or if you’re an established franchisor, progression should be a prime consideration. But how can you grow your franchise? We spoke to Fiona Simpson, ‘Woman Franchisor of the Year’, about her business’s growth, and her advice for aspiring franchisors. Fiona is the Founder, Franchisor, and Managing Director at ARTventurers. But what made her decide to franchise ARTventurers in the first place, and how has she found that process?

“My franchisor journey has been a steep learning curve,” Fiona acknowledged. “I did initially look at alternative models of expansion, including opening branches with employed staff. However, the franchise model is one that works well in the children’s activity industry; and there were already some great examples of brands who’d successfully franchised.

“I was keen to test the market before investing in a franchise model. So, I licensed for a year to ensure that it was workable before I invested the money to employ a consultant, and launch it as a full franchise opportunity.

“There have been lots of challenges along the way, both on a personal and professional level,” said Fiona. “With two young children, it’s been a constant juggling act between home and business, which is always a challenge for any working parent. However, I’m very lucky to have a strong support network of family and friends.

fiona simpson ARTventurers

Creative play classes for babies, toddlers and children!

ARTventurers are a national franchise network. They run events, parties and creative art & play classes for babies, toddlers and young children across the UK. Initially inspired by Fiona’s two children, Erin and Isaac, ARTventurers was set up in Sunderland in 2011, starting with just a couple of classes per week.

As demand grew, Fiona expanded the business through licensing, before developing a franchise model back in 2015. The company now has over 30 branches, with a network of franchisees running family friendly, award-winning businesses. The business won ‘Best Pre School Activity’ 2017 and 2018 in the What’s On 4 Kids Awards. The company was also crowned ‘Overall Top Franchise’ in the Working Mums Top Franchise Awards.

Success down to “Supporting” and “Investing”

“From a business perspective, one of the biggest challenges for me has been developing a workable franchise model. I needed something structured enough to protect the ARTventurers brand, but flexible enough to attract the right type of franchisee.

fiona simpson founder and franchisor of artventurers
Fiona puts ARTventurers’ success down to ‘supporting’ and ‘investing in’ her franchise team, at ‘every stage of their journey’.

Speaking exclusively to Danbro, she said: “ARTventurers is now a leading provider in our industry. We have a very high franchisee retention rate. Our longest serving franchisee, who joined us at the very beginning, is about to celebrate her 5th year in business. I think that shows that we’re doing something right.”

“It’s important that our ARTventurers franchisees are able to be creative and put their own stamp on their business. As a result, our model is quite untraditional. But I think it’s that innovative and flexible approach that has won us the awards we’ve won!”

ARTventurers now has over 30 branches, with plans to launch another 10 in the next few months. And Fiona believes anyone can cut out a career in the franchise industry.

“Our franchisees hail from all walks of life, be it marketing, retail, or legal backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, many of them are former teachers looking to escape the profession but still wanting to work with children. Full training is provided for franchisees, but they must be creative, passionate about children, and ambitious to grow a business.”

“Our approach to franchising is very collaborative. It’s crucial that anyone looking to become an ARTventurers franchisee fits our ethos and our culture, and vice versa.”

Women in Franchising

fiona simpson at the ewif awards winning woman franchisor of the yearFiona is a highly successful female franchisor, but what’s her message for other women in the franchise industry?

“My main message to women in business – franchisors or otherwise – would be to reach out to others. I’m a firm believer in networking and collaboration. Starting a new business can be both stressful and, at times, isolating. It’s really important to connect with other people who are going through – or have gone through – the same journey. There are plenty of brilliant networking groups and events out there, from franchise specific ones like EWIF to more general business networks. It’s just about trying a few and seeing which ones sit well with you and your business.

“Through networking, you can find other businesses to work alongside, collaborate with, and gain valuable support and guidance from. Over the years, I’m lucky to have built up a supportive network of other franchisors to turn to for advice. That’s been invaluable in helping me get through some of my most challenging times.”

Specialist Franchise Accountants

Are your franchisees pulling in different directions, following different advice from different accountants? A divided franchise is an unproductive franchise. That lack of consistency can damage your profits and hinder your business’s opportunity for growth. Your franchisees need to be working towards a common goal, with a service provider who can handle the demands of a national network.

By partnering with Danbro, you can better support your franchisees, and fast-track your franchise. We’ll understand, we’ll deliver and, ultimately, we’ll grow together. So, click here to find out more.

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