How to start an interior design franchise

Do it yourself 'Changing Rooms' with an interior design franchise

What is it?
Getting started
How does it work?
Tips for success

Interior design is traditionally associated with up-market houses and luxury offices. But thanks to the Changing Rooms generation it’s now about improving the feel of a space – any space. And if you have an eye for what makes a room look good then there are a number of franchises out there that could be for you.

What is it?

None of the franchises require to you to be an expert in design – or formerly qualified. They all rely on the natural talent that they assume has brought you to the franchise in the first place and comprehensive training.

As a result, to work with Colour Counsellors you will benefit from an eye for colour but you will be taught about book keeping, design, antiques, carpet laying, painting, decorating, curtain making and so on.

Franchisees – or ‘Counsellors’ – tend to visit the client in his or her home to discuss samples. It is difficult, otherwise, to gauge what it is exactly they are looking for and the kind of space you’re dealing with.

You would then go home, work out a colour scheme and go back to the client with designs and an estimate. Then hopefully work goes ahead. Despite learning about the process of laying carpets you don’t actually do this yourself. As well as building the business in terms of clientele, your job as a franchisee is to hire and retain the services of reliable subcontracted workers.

The franchisor runs a tightly controlled operation but you have access to the 300 suppliers with whom it has forged relationships and set up accounts. Without an account a supplier won’t give you priority, as it will with a well known-name.

Decorating Den works in a similar way. Its name will get you an account with the supplier but you don’t continue to operate through the franchisor, you deal direct.

But a distinctive aspect of the Decorating Den franchise is that all its franchisees drive to appointments in a ColourVan. This is a customised van that carries 1000s of samples, thereby serving as storage, as well as acting as an effective permanent advert. Most appointments will be on the clients’ premises so wherever you park the name is promoted.

Although even though she will travel quite a way, calling first to find what the client is looking for is essential, says Jo Tempest York in Buckinghamshire. “That way I can find out if they’re looking for traditional or contemporary or whether they want furniture and have the right samples in the ColourVan.”

Urban Planters by contrast is concerned with the interior landscape of your space. Franchisees create contracts with offices, hotels, and leisure centres and so on to hire out and maintain real and artificial plants and sometimes trees.

Where the other two franchises offer potential repeat revenue, if you offer a satisfactory service Urban Planters guarantees a continuous revenue stream. And you don’t need to be an expert in horticulture. As Liverpool franchisee Brendan Wilson says,

“I was interested in gardening but only as a hobby. The attraction of the franchise is that it’s a really nice product to work with and the variety is enormous. I go from large to small offices to fitness centres in a day, meeting many different people.”

This is a burgeoning market as offices have ceased to see plants as a decoration or luxury and are now looking on them as essential. In many places it has become a health and safety issue. And Urban Planter franchisees look to make a design statement while providing this.


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