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How I went from construction to running an international beauty franchise

Barry Oakhill bought the UK licence for Spanish beauty brand Biothecare Estetika. Here, he shares his advice for potential franchisors and franchisees

Having previously worked in the construction and distribution sector in various corporate roles, becoming my own boss was something I felt very strongly about. At a trade show in 2010 I met with Biothecare Estetika, a Spanish beauty brand that was looking for a UK master franchisor.

Specialising in non-invasive beauty and aesthetic treatments, it was not an area I had any experience in but I was taken with the company straight away.

I felt there was a sizeable a market opportunity for quality beauty treatments that deliver real results for customers. However, I wasn’t alone; at least five other companies were interested in the master franchise, so I knew I would have to fight for it.

Winning the master franchise

Determination and showing the brand how much passion and vision you have for it is critical, whether you’re pitching for a master franchise or to become a franchisee, particularly when the competition is rife.

You have to do your homework. Be sure to visit the company in person and do your due diligence before pursuing the opportunity. You need to ask yourself if you can really replicate the brand in other markets.

There is an old saying – whether you think you will, or whether you think you won’t (be successful) you are probably right. A positive mental attitude and ability to ‘make things happen’ is essential in business.

Then it comes down to funding. To buy the Biothecare brand license in the UK for the master franchise, I had to liquidate all my assets from the past 15 years of my life (meaning I had to turn my assets into cash), which was no easy feat. Biothecare was very impressed with my commitment, strategy and where I was going to align the brand, so they decided I was the best fit for the job.

Anyone wanting to take on a franchise needs to think realistically and make sure they are in a good financial position. I took more of a risk with a master franchise but thoroughly believed I had what it took to succeed – which is is crucial.

Choosing the right location

You can never underestimate the importance of location. When opening your first franchise or when rolling out a number of franchises you have to consider the general demographics of each specific area and how it will fit with the brand.  Different cultures can bring about different levels of opportunity. It’s all about identifying your key target markets and opting for locations that will bring the highest demand. A franchisee will also be expected to know their local area well, as the franchisor or master franchisor will likely be led by your local knowledge to some degree.

Getting it off the ground

It took eight months from my initial conversation with Biothecare to launch the first store in Bristol, but it wasn’t plain sailing. One of the first challenges you are likely to encounter is securing the four walls of the business.

Commercial landlords and letting agents are a tough nut to crack and extremely difficult to persuade for businesses that are unknown to the market. Make sure you leave no stone unturned when identifying potential properties and agencies to maximise your chances. You have to be tenacious – don’t take no for an answer and challenge them!

The next hurdle is persuading the local council to get advertising and marketing consent. Again, these conversations are testing and you have to keep persevering. In the end, I brought in a legal expert to help fight my case. If you lack experience in this area, hiring a professional or using existing contacts if money is tight is really worthwhile to seal the deal.


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