Exclusive interview with Card Connection franchisee for Glasgow and Fort William
Name: Elaine Anderson
Location: Glasgow & Fort William
Franchise: Card Connection
Date joined: 2012
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your Card Connection franchise?
Before joining the Card Connection franchise network I was a contract manager for Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Enterprise for around 10 years before taking a break to re-evaluate options.
Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose the Greeting Card industry? And why a Card Connection franchise?
A visit to the Franchise exhibition in Scotland sparked my interest in franchising and an advert in the local paper led me to the Card Connection opportunity which had become available. I was looking for a new challenge and Card Connection ticked all the boxes. The business offered a solid cash-flow opportunity and stunning products.
I also liked the business model where Card Connection’s franchisees use a proven system to place quality greeting cards and gifts in retail outlets on a ‘consignment’ basis. This means the stock and display equipment are installed on free loan to the retailer. This is one step beyond ‘sale or return’ as Card Connection customers never have to buy the stock initially, only paying for what they sell. Card Connection’s award winning merchandising service provided to retailers by local franchisees has proved popular with retailers and supported franchisees in business for more than two decades.
The staff were friendly and helpful and this stood out too. The team have a good attitude and it is this support you need when starting out, not pressure!
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
Training was thorough and took place at Card Connection’s head office in Farnham, Surrey. There was a full handover with the outgoing franchisee who was emigrating to Australia, so I could learn the ropes before taking over full-time.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
The Glasgow and Fort William territory is a mix of urban and some particularly rural areas and even includes several island locations. Driving through the scenery is a delight and I have got to see parts of Scotland I’ve never been to before! I also need to travel on a couple of ferries which is not a bad way to get to work! I have around 200 retail customers which I visit on a regular basis every four-six weeks. I visit between five and seven stores on a typical day to supply the new stock of greeting cards and refresh the displays.
What challenges have you faced?
Starting out was ‘hectic’ but in a good way! I can only compare it to expecting a child: you do all the research but nothing quite prepares you for the reality! Card Connection’s business model is simple, but there was still a lot to learn. The team have been tremendously supportive and really helped me get to grips with the franchise, so I could get up and running quickly.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life? If so how?
I am so pleased I chose Card Connection – the company and staff have been really good to deal with. I now manage my own business, it is completely different from any of my previous roles but I really enjoy the challenge.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
Homework is essential! Research is great, but there is no substitute for spending time with a franchisee and seeing what they actually do on a daily basis.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Organised people who are focused will make good franchisees. I think people who are over anxious may find self-employment challenging. Franchisees also need to be prepared to work really hard and be flexible. Often it is not a 9-5 job!
What are your plans for the future?
It is coming up to five years with Card Connection, so I plan to continue to build the business. I now work with my son and have also a part-time helper to pack the greetings cards. We will now focus on developing better quality stores which are of a certain size to maximise profits.
Would you do it all again?
Yes! I researched many options before joining Card Connection but the franchise has definitely turned out to be the best choice for me.