By Helen Doron, CEO and Founder, The Helen Doron Educational Group

Since the start of the recent economic downturn, starting your own business has become more challenging than ever. However, for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, the benefits of franchising have become even more apparent.

The proven business model that can be offered through a franchise opportunity, combined with the support given by the parent company — in terms of sales, marketing and training — can make all the difference in terms of establishing yourself quickly and confidently.

One of the largest franchise markets at the moment in the UK must surely be within education. A solid market with nearly 10 million UK students, there is always demand from parents for education and tutoring businesses that can enhance and support their children’s learning.

When I started my business over 25 years ago, I had no idea of the franchise opportunities that lay ahead. I knew I had created a unique learning methodology that really worked in teaching languages to young children but the business possibilities were something I had yet to fully consider.

Today, the Helen Doron Educational Group has a network of over 650 learning centres across the globe. This has given me the chance to reflect on what really makes a franchise work, what type of person it requires and the challenges faced when setting up a new regional franchise.

Make Learning Fun

Within the education market, there is a huge choice of franchise opportunities. Many relate to teaching the core subjects, maths and English, for which there will always be a need. However, IT and science related franchises continue to rise, as do those relating to the Arts, including drama and music. I believe the key element to making any area a success is to make learning fun. Although I am aware that this may go against the thinking of the so-called ‘Tiger mother’, I do believe it is vital for the success of both the students AND the business!

Our franchise network began with teaching English but soon expanded to other areas. For example, at the moment, we are currently seeking franchisees for two educational programmes which have been created especially for the UK market, Ready-Steady-Move! and MathRiders.

Whilst each programme offers something quite different, what we have found is strikingly similar is the type of person who we look for to roll out our programmes both locally and globally.

So, what type of person suits running such an educational franchise business? Firstly, they need to have strong management and marketing skills as well as sound financial competence and a desire to run their own business. Second, and by no means less significant, they should also have a passion for helping children to reach their full potential and a genuine commitment to educational ideals. I believe it is this passion that will drive a franchisee on through the tough days and ensure that they start to reap the financial rewards that a franchise can bring.

At Helen Doron Educational Group, we have an equal number of men and women at master franchisor and national franchisor level. Traditionally, however, education franchises are considered especially popular with mothers returning to work due to their flexibility. In fact, The British Franchise Association (bfa) reported last year (June 2010) that more women than ever are becoming franchise owners, up to 34% from just 20% of total franchise owners in the late 1990s.

When considering becoming a franchisee, it is vital to analyse your personal finances and decide exactly how much you can afford to invest and the projected returns you expect to make on your investment. Set yourself a cap that you will not go over.

Do Your Research

Then you need to thoroughly research the geographic area in which you are planning to base the franchise. Do the local demographics offer plenty of potential for new customers? We often find that those franchisees that are already active in the community where they wish to set up, have a head start. Equally, it is worth exploring the local schools in the area as many successful educational franchises have been forged through partnering with schools and local councils.

Check What Support You Will Be Given

It is also important to research the franchisor. Speak to other franchisees — from those that are well established to those who are still quite new and may have experiences to share. And before entering any type of franchise agreement, it is important to check what support you will be given. For example, we offer our franchise partners business training in order for them to become adept at running learning centres, hiring and managing staff and other key basic tools to equip them in running their own business.

The NatWest/bfa Franchise survey 2010, considered one of the leading studies of franchising in the UK, reported the main reasons for franchises not being granted as ‘insufficient capital’, ‘lack of business acumen’ and ‘lack of enthusiasm’. Like any entrepreneur will tell you, making any business a success is all about enthusiasm for the job and a belief in what you are selling. That’s why, for me, passion will always come top as the marker of a future franchise star.

About Helen Doron’s UK Educational Franchise Programmes

Ready-Steady-Move! is an innovative fitness programme with a language component for children aged 3 to 8. Through fun, musical activities using a combination of yoga, Pilates, dance, martial arts and more, youngsters build healthy bodies while learning a new language.

MathRiders is a complete maths tutoring system based on the UK curriculum to cater for small groups of children from nursery school age to A-level. Created by pedagogical experts, it begins by encouraging children to seek out and discover maths in the world around them and assists older children in keeping up with schoolwork, teaching self-reliance and good study habits applicable to all subjects.

For more information, please visit www.helendorongroup.co.uk