Fibrenew franchisees Kelli and Taisa Smith of Texas talk with FBR CEO, Eric Stites, about how opening their franchise gave them control of their time and has allowed them to spend more of it doing what they love.
Listen to the full conversation here or read the transcript below.
Eric Stites: Good afternoon, this is Eric Stites with Franchise Business Review and today I have the pleasure of talking with Kelli and Taisa Smith in Belton, Texas who are franchisees of Fibrenew. Welcome ladies.
Eric Stites: So, we talk to a lot of franchisors and a lot of franchisees and I'm curious to hear a little bit about your story and how you got into franchising and how you chose Fibrenew. So, can you give us a little background?
Taisa: Sure, this Taisa. I guess it was the beginning of last year so, about a year and a half ago, we decided that we were tired of working for other people and that we have now just turned 7 year old daughter and we wanted more time with her, and we just wanted more freedom and wanted to be our own bosses instead of having to answer to someone else. So, Kelli actually, when she was at work one day, decided to start looking up different franchise options and she found a franchise consultant out of Florida who talked to both of us, kind of got an idea of what our likes and dislikes are, what our interests were, and came to us with a couple of different options. I think one of them was window cleaning. What was the other one Kelli?
Kelli: It was like a phone repair ...
Taisa: A tech company. Just several different options and we were kind of kicking those around going, "keep looking". I guess after about 2 or 3 weeks she called us and told us about Fibrenew. Kelli and I have been together since 1994 and we've always liked to on our spare time to sit there and work on things and figure out how things work instead of having to call a repairman. We typically would figure out how to do it ourselves.
Eric Stites: Sure.
Taisa: So, it just really stick on what we like to do. It's repairing vinyl, leather, and plastic and you're looking at all markets. Automotive, residential, aviation, marine. We have two lakes here, we've got airports, everybody's got a car. So, we were like, I think we're in a good location for that and it's something that we've always enjoyed figuring out how to do things like that on our own anyway.
Eric Stites: Right, right.
Kelli: Yeah, and so from then on we went and rode with Craig down in Austin, metro Austin, and we loved it since we rode with him. We knew it was going to be a perfect fit for us so it's been great.
Eric Stites: Yeah, it's interesting that you mention that you worked with a franchise consultant because I think that can be a helpful process for a lot of people because you don't know ... I mean, there's so many different opportunities in franchising and this is the perfect example of a concept that you probably would have never found on your own. In something like that.
Taisa: No, especially with Fibrenew being a Canadian based company. There's a lot of franchise owners in the U.S. but there's nobody in this area that does it. You look at franchises and a lot of people would just be looking at the big ones they see all the time like Subway and things like that-
Kelli: Brick and mortar, and we want to just stay away from brick and mortar. We've been going to work every day, you know? I don't want to have to go, I'd like to get up, work here, and then go out. Since we're mobile it's been really good.
Taisa: Yeah, and that was one of the selling points. Something that I would tell people looking into franchises regardless of whether they use a consultant or not is to look up and make sure that you're familiar with the way that you pay royalties because a lot of them base it on sales and, I like the way Fibrenew is set up where its just one set fee.
Eric Stites: Yeah, that way you can grow your revenue without necessarily making more money for the franchise. That's a great way to do it. So, obviously, both of you are involved in the business. How do you divvy up ... There's a lot to do in any small business obviously so, how do you kind of divvy up the tasks?
Taisa: Well, when we first started I had been in human services for 20 plus years. I have a master's degree in professional counseling, and then Kelli was a government contractor on Fort Hood. So, we decided that she would keep her job and just help me on evenings and weekends and big jobs. So, she actually kept her job and we started this in August-
Kelli: Of last year.
Taisa: Of last year. So, we're almost right out a year. So, I actually quit my job and I ran it full-time while Kelli like I said helped me evenings, weekends, and big jobs because we were just trying to the word out that we were here. So, when I was out on jobs she would post things on Facebook and we would sit there and get jobs that way and then word of mouth, and then she finally left her government contracting job at the end of March. So, she's been on full-time for almost 4 months now. So, what we do is we'll go out on jobs together but then we also have one set day a week where I stay at the house and do all the accounting and bookkeeping stuff that you have to have running a business, while Kelli goes out and does marketing.
Taisa: When we get a new job scheduled, we'll go out and do the job together. We've been together since '94 like I said earlier, so we just kind of have this flow and we work real well together. We switch out, like one day one of us will color match while the other one does the repair, and then we'll switch it out so we're both still up to date on everything and know how to do everything.
Eric Stites: Well, congratulations for making that transition to full-time. I know that can be a struggle for a lot of franchisees so, it's great that you've been able to do that.
Taisa: It can be scary to take that leap because we do have a 7 year old daughter and our mother lives with us as well, she's retired. Which helps because it's summer so our daughter can stay home with her and we don't have to worry about paying for childcare and her going to some summer camp or anything, so that helps as well.
Eric Stites: Right, right. So, what's been the most difficult part of transitioning from full-time employment to owning your own business and running a franchise?
Kelli: I guess scheduling. Just getting everything scheduled properly I think would be the hardest part. Other than that, everything has been pretty good. Remembering the sales tax report every month, that's another one, but we're getting it, we're setting alarms and making it happen. We just got back off the lake, we've been at North Point Yacht Club this morning repairing boat seats and, there's nothing like your office being on the lake so, it was really nice.
Eric Stites: Yeah, I bet, I bet.
Eric Stites: Again, it's great because that's the kind of business that nobody would ever imagine as a franchise business, like holy cow. Like you said, they think of Subway and those typical businesses but, it's not always in the service industry.
Taisa: Right, and like Kelli said, there was also the learning curve of course, learning the business, but not only that, learning how to run your own corporation because we had to set up a corporation in order to buy the franchise. So, we have a corporation as well so, learning the ins and outs of that and tax codes, tax laws, and all that. It's good to have my mother because she actually retired from, oh god, 63 years’ worth of accounting bookkeeping experience so, we have that on our side as well.
Eric Stites: Wow, that's great. So, when you were first introduced to Fibrenew, what sold you on the concept? Did you go and visit the company in Canada, or was just all by phone?
Taisa: Well, at the beginning, the way that Fibrenew has it set up is you actually talk to one of their franchise people in Canada, and they have you call other franchisees in the company. They give you a list of ones that you might want to but you can call anybody that's a franchise owner, they give you that freedom, and actually ask them a set of questions. You know, if you had to do all over again, would you do it? How much did you make in the first month?
Taisa: Or, first year. What was the most difficult thing typically now that you've been in business for a while? How much do you make per day? Just so you get a realistic view of what it's like to own a Fibrenew franchise.
Eric Stites: Right.
Taisa: So, they had us make all those phone calls. They had us go to do a ride there with Craig Burton down in Fibrenew Metro Austin. So, they want to make sure that you're comfortable with it and that's one thing that I really liked about it, they're not trying to sell you on it. They want to make sure that you feel like they're the right fit and in the process they're seeing if we are the right fit for them. They don't even offer you the contract until they talk to the person that you do the ride along with. So, they actually had to have a phone conversation with Craig after we did that ride day to see what he thought and if he thought that we would be good franchise owners.
Taisa: So, I really liked that they wanted us to feel them out as well as them feeling us out before we signed anything. And then they offer you the contract and if you decide they're not the right fit you can say no but, of course we said yes and then that's when they set up, you know, gives you a real incentive to set up, you have to get your funding, and we had to go to two weekend stints of training up in Calgary in August last year, which was really nice to get away from the Texas heat.
Eric Stites: I bet.
Taisa: And then, like I said earlier, I think a lot of it was the being mobile, and then also the way that the royalty was set up each time.
Eric Stites: Yeah, so you know how much each month you're paying and obviously, if you have a good month, if you become more profitable that month.
Eric Stites: That's great.
Taisa: I mean, it's not like most of these other franchises that charge you a percentage of your sales.
Kelli: They also gave us the first 6 months with no royalty fees.
Taisa: With no royalties, right.
Kelli: So, that helps.
Taisa: It's very reasonable. It's not anything outrageous.
Eric Stites: Right, right. Great. Well, I think you guys are a great case study for, as I said, a lot of people would like to own a franchise business but they don't realize how many different types of businesses are out there. Many businesses that most people have never heard of or thought of. What advice ... I mean, you've probably talked to some franchisee candidates now that are considering Fibrenew but, for somebody that's looking to get into franchising what advice would you have, whether it's Fibrenew or some other concept?
Taisa: Regardless of where they try to go just make sure that they do their research. We worked on this from March of last year and we gave them the thumbs up that we were going to buy in, I think it was like June? We did a good 3 months’ worth of intensive research and talking to people and looking around before we took the leap to do this. I think that's the most important thing is to just make sure you do your research.
Kelli: And a consultant. I highly believe in the consultant.
Taisa: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kelli: Because they kind of feel you out, see what you like to do and not like to do, and what you're capable of, and then that's where they bring you the possible franchises that you fit in with.
Eric Stites: Right, right. Yeah, a good consultant obviously can make a big difference and really help guide you into, like I said, opportunities that you probably never heard of. Well, Kelli and Taisa I appreciate you taking some time today to chat with us and it sounds like you've got an exciting new business on your hands, and hopefully we can chat in another year or so and hear how it's going.
Taisa: Sounds good Eric, thank you.
Kelli: Sounds good Eric, thank you.
Eric Stites: Yeah, no, I appreciate your time. I wish you the best of success.
Taisa: All right, thanks.
Kelli: Thank you.
Eric Stites: Take care.