Exclusive Interview: "Women are actively encouraged in business by InXpress"
Franchisee: Rebecca Robyns
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying an InXpress franchise business?
Before I joined InXpress I was doing a lot of freelance work in marketing and sales. I worked for various agencies on 6 month contracts or 6 week projects depending on what the client required.
For a long time I was very busy with that and worked on a wide variety of projects from Computing to Lifestyle magazines. I enjoyed the freedom of working from home and, as the Mother of two children, I was able to manage my work-life balance really well and the money was great.
Prior to that I ran a fashion house for a few years and won the “Young Woman of Achievement” award from Hull Enterprise, who help and support local businesses in my home town. I loved running a shop but soon realised that working what was effectively 7 days a week with a baby and a toddler wasn’t going to last long-term, I was exhausted!
It was during my freelancing period that I found out about InXpress, I was working for a magazine and another franchisee was placing an advertisement in the magazine because they were looking for a sales person. I managed to talk myself into the job rather than them have to advertise it!
Working for another franchisee gave me good experience in the business and working with the software. I realised that I was making him a lot of money and I thought I could do it for myself! To my delight the Hull franchise was available to buy and so I seized the opportunity.
What attracted you to franchising versus started starting up on your own or finding employment?
I was very impressed by the InXpress business model. In the past I had always been a bit suspicious of franchises and whether they really worked long-term. InXpress just makes sense because so many people use courier services and it seemed like a tried and tested business.
As a woman, logistics might not be the most glamorous industry but I was intrigued by it. I could see other franchisees who had been successful and they were just regular people from a range of backgrounds and with a range of experience. I thought if they can do it and I’m from a sales background, surely I could make a success of it!
How did you raise the finance for funding your InXpress franchise? Did you use any financial support (grants etc.) specific to business start-up?
I just took out a regular loan over 3 years but we managed to pay off the loan within the first year so now I am able to enjoy the rewards of the business.
Did you take advantage of any support available to women looking to get into business? E.g. member of a women in business network, attend any specific women business events?
There is a great support centre at InXpress and a good number of franchise owners who are female. There were not as many female franchisees when I joined but the number is growing.
Women within the network are actively encouraged and one of our CEO’s is female, and so that’s a positive thing. It’s still a very male dominated world but as with all things, change is ever present. As women we can and do hold our own I think, especially in sales where we have had some amazing results.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing from your franchisor?
Before I signed up to become a franchisee I went on a sales training course that introduced me to InXpress with the CEO, John Thompson and effervescent sales Trainer and motivator, Kenny B and was pretty hooked from there. When it came to buying a franchise, I was left to make up my mind with no pressure whatsoever and this again was a good sign, no hard sell was involved. The training was brilliant but a week is nothing! You’ve got to get out there and do it for yourself – there’s no substitute for hard work!
I visited another franchisee, Andy Mitchell from Guildford, because he was the number one franchisee at the time and he was really supportive and answered all of my questions. I also visited a few more local franchisees. You can always pick up the phone to someone, whether it’s another franchisee or the support team at Head Office – there’s always someone on the other end of the phone to help.
InXpress really is a family network and that’s a great thing to have behind you.
What challenges have you faced?
I faced the usual challenges of being a business owner. Sometimes you get customers who you have to go above and beyond for. For some customers, everything is about price and they are usually the most difficult customers!
We can offer great prices but one of the main things about InXpress is the quality of the service we offer. We offer a more localised customer care, something that larger corporations cannot always give due to their size, and that’s something that money can’t buy!
There are also the odd shipments that have problems that you can’t do anything about but other than that I haven’t really faced many challenges.
Has becoming an InXpress franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Yes, it has. It has improved the quality of my life in a financial sense but it has also given me personal freedom to run my charity project. There’s no way I could have run my charity project with a fixed 9-5 job because I wouldn’t be able to go out to South East Asia regularly.
It has also changed my families lives too as my two sons have enjoyed a private education as a result and is one of the reasons I have set up a charity to help children into education in south east Asia, as I feel incredibly grateful and am a firm believer in giving back where you can.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
It would be someone who doesn’t give up. You have to work long hours initially and really focus on the business. If you put the work in at the beginning and really focus on it, you will succeed. If you get it right and get the right customers and formula the rest will blossom from there. There are no shortcuts! It did take me a couple of years to get the right balance!
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give other women looking to start their own business through franchising?
Believe in yourself and stay focused. Remember there are women out there who are breaking through in business every day and times really are changing for women. Talent and skills are what people recognise and those are genderless. Stay confident and don’t become distracted by other people who have an opinion but no experience. Stay focused on the main prize and visualise where and how you want things to work out.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to grow the franchise and my charity project alongside each other. I want to have a successful business but I also want to help as many children globally as possible to get access to education.
I’m lucky that I have great staff so I don’t have to step back into the business all the time. I think the staff know if better than I do now but I’m passionate about InXpress and I always want to keep an eye on it to make sure my staff are looked after properly. It’s all a careful balancing act.
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