The Challenges and Joys of Owning a Niche Franchise
Franchisors seeking to create a niche concept don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
In an industry driven by the desire to stand apart from the rest, investing in an out-of-the-box franchise concept can be a great step toward success. Owning a niche franchise − a unique, single-product or single-service focused franchise concept − comes with its fair share of obstacles. However, the joys far outweigh the challenges when the proper measures are taken to ensure the franchise concept will be viable in a tough marketplace.
The greatest challenge most franchisors face when determining what type of niche product or service to offer is determining whether the concept will survive among the big players who bring a wider range of products and services to the table. Entrepreneurs seeking to establish a niche franchise must then ask themselves one very important question: “Is this concept sustainable?”
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Often, when an entrepreneur is hit with the aspiration to create a new, unique franchise concept, it is due to the innate need, which resides within most entrepreneurs, for a new adventure. In line with this notion, French Fry Heaven was born out of our overwhelming desire to bring something original to the industry.
Inspired by the french fry stands found on the streets of Europe, we took a successful, pre-existing concept and catapulted it into a new, unexplored marketplace. In Europe, these popular stands typically offer french fries in three ways. Taking this idea back to the drawing board, a concept was created that fills a void in the U.S. snack market, offering more than 50 ways to enjoy a french fry, vastly differing from the original idea.
Entrepreneurs seeking to establish a niche franchise must then ask themselves one very important question: “Is this concept sustainable?”
This article serves as a reminder to franchisors seeking to create a niche concept: don’t reinvent the wheel. There are thousands of business concepts out there waiting to be revolutionized, as well as a multitude of large concepts waiting to be made smaller or simplified to cater to a specific audience. The focus should remain on adapting something that works, rather than creating something unseen, as chances are, it has already been done.
Prior to letting the wheels of innovation turn, one suggestion to any franchisor is to dive headfirst into a pile of books that are instructive about franchising and entrepreneurism. Round up advice from industry experts before taking a niche concept out for a test drive. With so many resources available, it becomes imperative to utilize the wealth of knowledge from franchisors who have already gone out and made the mistakes or, better yet, have reached success. It is amazing how many outstanding leaders there are who are eager to share their experiences.
Building a Repeat Customer Base
Once a niche concept has been established, a franchisor must then create a marketing plan to ensure his franchise will be sustainable. The need to build and maintain a repeat and loyal customer base is at the root of a niche concept’s success.
A strategic plan has been put in place at French Fry Heaven to help our franchisees establish a following of local customers or “happy souls” as we call them. A large part of this strategy revolves around social media. In today’s digital society, social media is an imperative component to increasing revenue and creating a sustainable franchise and it does so by gaining the attention of consumers on both national and local levels. Providing an outlet for customers to comment, share and tweet allows the brand to capture the eyes of hundreds of people in seconds.
French Fry Heaven franchisees are required to create Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts designed to draw the attention of community members and, in turn, increase foot traffic. Each franchisee is given supporting social media messages to utilize during the first months of business to gain a feel for the type of content that successfully catches the eye of a local consumer. In addition, media materials are provided for franchisees to reach out to local print, online and TV media outlets.
Another marketing tactic a niche franchisor may want to consider is implementing a loyalty program. Nothing brings a customer back in the door faster than the promise of a free gift. Whether offering punch cards, contests or promotions for repeat patrons, the brand is building a reputation as one that values its customers − an impression consumers will appreciate, remember and share with friends.
Requirement: Passionate Franchisees
One component of a niche franchise that does not often apply to larger franchises is the need to find franchisees who are extremely passionate about the product or service. A prime example of a franchise that sets high-standards for its franchisees is Wild Birds Unlimited. It offers bird lovers a one-stop-shop for high-quality bird feeding products and equipment. This niche concept caters to a very specific audience, making it imperative for WBU franchisees to have the ability to relate to its customers.
“We seek entrepreneurs who are interested in turning their passion into a profession,” said Jim Carpenter, founder and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited. “If our franchisees are not passionate about birds and wildlife they wouldn’t inspire customers to return to our stores or introduce them to new products. We target a niche crowd, and it is one that we resonate with system-wide due to our own love of nature.”
The Perks of a Niche Franchise
One of the greatest qualities of a niche concept is its ability to stand apart from the rest. Placing a narrow focus on a specific product or service allows a brand to spend all its time and energy perfecting the concept. This gives a niche franchise the opportunity to position itself as the expert, thus, eliminating competition.
Batteries Plus Bulbs is a great example of a brand that has become an expert in its trade. The booming franchise does not compete with big-box stores that offer only a limited selection of batteries or bulbs, as Batteries Plus Bulbs has access to more than 45,000 battery and light bulb products that cater to retail and business customers with highly specific needs.
“Luckily for us, everyone uses batteries and bulbs,” said Russ Reynolds, CEO of Batteries Plus Bulbs. “We often find that the customers who walk through our doors have already visited a big-box store and were unable to find the battery or light bulb they needed. Our business is all about making complex things simple and fixing people’s problems. We’ve been able to differentiate ourselves through superior product knowledge, product availability, helpful service and advice.”
Take the Risk
During the past few years, many people have sat on the sidelines of life waiting for the economy to revive itself before starting a new business venture. Those people are essentially waiting to live. If an idea for a niche franchise presents itself, take the risk, as chances are slim that many people are enticing investors with the same unique business model. The very notion of asking for money to start a french fry franchise was enough to turn heads. Do some research and run with it because people are waiting for the next innovative, niche concept.
Scott Nelowet is the CEO of French Fry Heaven, a rapidly growing snack-only franchise. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.