Prioritising family led Kirsten to Raring2go!
- Name: Kirsten Hackman
- Location: Chessington, South London
- Franchise: Raring2go! Esher and Weybridge and Raring2go! Kingston and Merton
- Date launched the franchise: April 2012 for EW and April 2017 for KM
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your Raring2go! franchise? I worked as an IT Business Analyst for a FTSE100 company before my redundancy in 2012. With two children at primary school, I took a life-style decision to prioritise my family, and step away from the corporate world. I was trying to juggle a professional career, commuting to London, and sometimes travelling overseas, meaning that my family were suffering. Playdates for the kids, or events at school such as assemblies, sports days, nativities and even medical appointments were difficult for me to attend. Ultimately, I wanted to be able to be a mum, whilst also taking on a challenge that would keep me and my brain active.
Can you also tell us about Raring2go!? In 2012, I launched the Esher/Weybridge Raring2go! magazine. It was a brand-new area, with no immediate neighbour. It was hard to start the business from scratch, but with a network of experienced Editors, and a supportive Head Office team, my business steadily grew. New franchisees came on board nearby, making us a strong team in the South West London / Surrey area, working collaboratively, to provide excellent service to our clients and readers alike.
When the neighbouring Kingston/Merton franchise became available in 2017, I didn’t think twice about taking on a second area. Running two areas can be a challenge at times, but if I could turn the clock back, I would make the same decision again. I set my own hours of working, and although there are clearly pressure points around deadlines, there isn’t the same pressure as a given deadline, as it’s a date that I’ve set myself.
Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose the publishing industry? And why Raring2go!? When redundancy was on the cards, I started to look at options that would fit with the family. I wanted to re-balance my work and family life but had no real idea how I could achieve that. When I saw an advert for a franchise exhibition, that mentioned ‘family-friendly opportunities’, I decided to pop in and see if there was anything interesting. Raring2go! were the first to do a short presentation targeted at flexible home-working, but the presentation stood out, as it was all about what Raring2go! could do for me. They genuinely were interested in people, and wanted to promote what they could offer prospective franchisees; it was more ‘we’d love to have you’ and not ‘you should be grateful to work here’.
At the exhibition, I spoke to the head office team, and decided to find out more. As I was still employed, and redundancy not certain, there was absolutely no pressure on me. There was an open dialogue over many months. Again... it was about a partnership to get the right relationship, and not just get franchisees on board. They want franchisees to be successful, and acknowledge that a franchise isn’t for everyone. Full disclosure was given enabling me to make an informed decision, and I joined when the time was right for me.
How did you raise the finance? I paid 30% in cash, and 70% from a high street bank repayable over 5 years.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing? Another new franchisee and I had 2 days training face to face with the Operations Manager. Shortly after, I also attended a regional meeting with all franchisees from the South East region, where ideas and experiences were exchanged. Within the first couple of months, the Operations Manager also visited me at home to go through my database, plans and generally make sure that I was OK. There were further options to meet on a one-to-one face-to-face basis, but most ongoing training was by phone. As zoom has become more prevalent, meetings and training tend to be now online. There are regular editor meetings, and ongoing training, especially in relation to changes to IT systems.
How would you describe your day-to-day role as a franchisee? With my children now being older, I have more flexibility in my day. When they were younger, I would do the school run both morning and evening, and work in between times. The day depends on where in the magazine period we are. It could be making calls and sending emails. As I also design my own magazines, it could be a design day. Sometimes it can even just be a duvet day! Once magazines are published, it’s time to get out and visit schools, nurseries and local outlets to distribute the latest edition. Although I have published around 65 magazines, I still get the same thrill when they arrive as I did when I received that first edition! But setting your own hours also means you can meet a friend for coffee, go for a run, help out at school, or catch up with the neighbouring franchisees, and just chew the cud.
Provide information on challenges overcome as well as your key successes to date. Setting up a brand new area is not an easy thing to do. You have to be self-motivated, tenacious and not pressure yourself too much in the early days. Ultimately, when buying a franchise, you are buying a business, and it’s up to you to make it successful. That will happen if you want it to, but it doesn’t happen overnight. I think being honest with the franchise network is also essential – there is always help when needed, but our franchisors are also not mind-readers, so don’t struggle alone.
I love building relationships with new clients, and building long-term relationships with existing clients, some of whom have been with me pretty much since I started. Knowing that my business has grown up and helped theirs also to grow is something to be proud of.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how? Yes - my family come first, but I have a business to be proud of. Not only am I happier, but my family have also noticed a difference, so Raring2go! has changed all of our lives.
How do you achieve a work-life balance? I am realistic about what I can and cannot do, and what I want to achieve and when. I use a separate computer and phone for Raring2go!, and decide that I run my life, and not my job, as previously occurred.
If you are a multi-unit franchisee, can you tell us why your franchise is ideal for those looking for a scalable opportunity? It is possible to run multiple Raring2go! areas, as there are shared clients between neighbouring areas, but it does put more pressure on at key times (e.g print deadline). I can’t comment on running multiple areas with managers / staff operating them.
Can you tell us about any community involvement, including any local partnerships, incentives or charity work you are involved in? Raring2go tries to bring the best local businesses to local families. My volunteering work is outside Raring2go!.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise? Be honest with yourself about exactly what you are looking to achieve. Then be honest with the franchisor. You are your own boss, and ultimately the success of your franchise is your own. A good franchisor will help you be successful, but they also need to know when you’re struggling, and need help. Always ask for help when you need it.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee? Someone who works collaboratively with their neighbour. Someone disciplined, and able to organise their own time. Someone who believes in their business and can communicate that to their clients and audiences.
What are your plans for the future? When I sell my franchise, I will be proud of the business that I have built up. Passing on the baton is like bringing up a child... you bring up a child to be strong and independent to forge their own way in the world. I hope that my franchise will be nurtured and grown by my successor.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently? I think I would actually look at a second area a little earlier. It gave me a new challenge and kept me on my toes, and helped keep me and my magazine fresh.
Interested and want to know more about Raring2go!?
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