It was at the National Franchise Exhibition in Birmingham back in October 2002 that Dream Doors first showcased its innovative kitchen door replacement concept. Started in Hampshire three years before that, it had built up a healthy local reputation and piloted two franchised operations nearby.
Says founder, Troy Tappenden, still at the helm some 13 years on: “I started this business because I was sick of working hard for other people and seeing little reward for my efforts. And to be honest, I dreaded going back to work each Monday. Like a lot of people, I lived for the weekend.
“I'd looked at franchises myself but hadn't found anything that really sparked an interest. Plus, I didn't have lots of money to invest. In fact, I wouldn't have been able to buy a Dream Doors franchise – at least not the retail franchise it is now. It cost me £500 to place my first two adverts back in the late 90s. And that was all I could afford to risk. I got nothing from the first advert, and saw that as £250 wasted. Fortunately I got six appointments and four sales from the second advert. If that hadn't worked Dream Doors wouldn't be here today!”
When Dream Doors launched as a franchise, it was a sub-£10,000 investment that could be run part-time and from home. And while this provided a reasonable income for its franchisees, greater returns would be achieved from retail premises. Ten years on, with a dramatic revision to its business plan more than five years ago, franchisees are now contracted to open a showroom within six-months of trading.
“Starting from home has benefits,” Tappenden says. “Franchisees get to learn at a steady pace without making expensive mistakes. But the business only becomes real when the showroom is open. Typically it quadruples turnover, and in some cases it has increased sales eightfold.
“I'll admit we made some mistakes in our early days. Initially we recruited kitchen fitters and practically-minded people. They were great on the installations, but many couldn't sell or manage a business. And some just didn't want to open a showroom. We parted company amicably with a few, and adapted our recruitment policy. Now we only look for 'white collar management' individuals, or people with good sales and organisational skills.”
Since changing its franchise model, Dream Doors has had consistent growth and recognition. Franchisees' sales have increased by an average of 18 percent each year since 2007, while 2012 is set to be a record year with like-for-like sales that exclude any new showrooms up an impressive 25 percent. Total turnover for all Dream Doors franchisees, from those in their first year to those in their tenth, is up 45 percent year-to-date.
In 2008 Dream Doors won a government-backed training award for the strength of its franchisee sales training programme, winning the British Franchise Association's 'Brand Builder of the Year' in the same year. It has also been shortlisted for the Franchise Marketing Awards a record 18 times, winning six trophies in the last six years.
The franchise fee has increased inline with improved training, head office facilities and resources. In the last two years alone, Dream Doors has added two new franchisee support staff to its team of ten. It also outsources additional support to companies that specialise in business coaching, marketing and IT. The total investment for a Dream Doors franchise is now £75,000, a figure that includes the showroom fit out and working capital to cover the first nine months' trading.
“We can accelerate a franchisee's business from a standing start to more than half-a-million pounds of sales in just one year,” says Tappenden. “Even the average showroom turns over more than £350,000 each year. The investment might be higher than ten years ago, but it's essential to get to that level. Our early franchisees did this for a salary or part-time for holiday money. Now, when margins are controlled and franchisees work hard, husband and wife teams have netted more than £100,000 each year.”