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Popular IFA Educational Foundation pilot program to inspire young entrepreneurs to franchise future gains place on annual convention schedule.

By Jennifer Kushell


During the International Franchise Association’s annual convention this year, there was a palpable buzz in the air. Fresh faces wandered the halls, breakout rooms spilled over with curious onlookers, and a pulsating energy emitted all around the first NextGen in Franchising Summit.

Spearheaded by the IFA Educational Foundation, this pilot program gained such rapid and widespread enthusiasm that it has been adopted as a new session during franchising’s biggest event of the year.

Eduardo Navarro has been a busy entrepreneur since leaving Las Vegas with a “whole new perspective on what’s possible.” Le Mime Ice Cream Rolls is his winning concept. But it’s much more than an idea, it’s a growing business with serious potential to scale.

In Mexico, “people are scared of franchising because they’re not sure if it’s a good investment” he said. The market is still evolving, and that means Navarro has to contend with misconceptions about franchising (particularly in the investment community), and limited quality mentorship.

Navarro was one of 50 winners of the global contest that attracted young people from 44 countries to submit ideas to that ranged from early stage concepts to scalable growing enterprises.

Le Mime currently has one retail store in a Guadalajara shopping mall and two mobile units (converted Volkswagen buses), retrofitted with equipment to make the custom crepe-like ice cream rolls, staffed with smiling, talking mimes serving product. Keeping up with demand is one of Le Mime’s biggest challenges.

Improving efficiency and turn times are just a few of the countless process refinements Navarro is working on for his operations manual. To prove his business can work as a franchise, he’s focused on refining the model, fleshing out the pros and cons of retail growth versus expanding rapidly with mobile units, and opening more locations.

Connecting with the Mexican Franchise Association after the NextGen Summit, he discovered they didn’t know about the program.  But now they do.

Aziz Hashim, managing partner of NRD Capital and a champion of the NextGen program since its beginning, is also vice chair of the IFA International Committee. When he introduced NextGen to the World Franchise Council meeting during IFA’s recent annual convention, the initiative received a standing ovation. From that day on, a number of franchise associations began following NextGen winners both during convention, and in the following months.  Aline Rodriques, an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, was beckoned to the Brazilian Franchise Association’s final briefing to present, in Portuguese, her concept and experience with the industry for the first time.

John Evans, the Canadian founder of Everline, an aspiring franchise system specializing in municipal street line painting (parking lots, handicap access, special zoning signage, etc.), connected with Lorraine McLachlan, CEO of the Canadian Franchise Association. Evans has since spoken on “young entrepreneurs in franchising” during the CFA’s recent conference and has become an advisor to NextGen.

Now that Evans’ commitment to franchising is strong, he’s eager to get actively involved in the IFA community. Meeting Jani-King CEO and President Jerry Crawford at the general session where the NextGen winners were first introduced to the 4,000 attendees was a big highlight for Evans. Excited by his concept, Crawford explained how much Jani-King spends on parking lot maintenance alone (bringing a big smile to Evans’ face), and suggested that they meet to explore opportunities.

Jibu, the safe drinking water franchise started by Peace Corps volunteer Galen Welch, based in Kampala, Uganda, received a lot of attention as well. Coca-Cola was just one company whose interest was piqued. Jennifer Beall, founder of a baby stroller and car seat cleaning and installation company, Tot Squad, announced its official launch to franchising the first morning of the summit. A subsequent CNBC article “Guess What Franchise Concept is Red Hot” mentioning NextGen and featuring Tot Squad, attracted more than 300 franchise inquiries. Beall now represents NextGen on the IFA Convention Committee and has been mentored since by David McKinnon, chairman of Service Brands International.

NextGen winner Andrija (Andy) Colak wants to expand his concept, Surf‘n’Fries, to the United States next. Based in Croatia, Colak started franchising six years ago, and has opened 40 units in 11 countries. His “air” fries and special sauces are sold from Hawaiian-style carts in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Bosnia Hungary, Turkey, Herzegovina, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Monte Negro, Macedonia, Vietnam, and Norway. Colak has spent every week since the Las Vegas convention talking to industry insiders, negotiating deals with potential partners, evaluating requirements to enter the United States from Europe, and exploring the best financing routes for this new expansion.

David McKinnon “crashed” the winners’ roundtable event, where he spent hours mentoring the young entrepreneurs. McKinnon has since been instrumental in guiding the strategic direction and growth plans for the program.

Alexander Walzl, an Italian law student studying in the United Kingdom who presented the winning concept for bread-recycling concept Panarium, realized he is not ready for franchising. “At the summit I learned I need to look at things more pragmatically. I was a little too optimistic about my prospects. I thought a good idea alone was enough. I also didn’t realize franchising was a much broader concept beyond the fast food models.”

This bright young man, whose first trip to Las Vegas and the IFA convention, was admittedly overwhelming at first, spent every moment of his trip attending every session, social event, and networking break he could. “The only time I wasted was on sleeping.” Now he is committed to gaining “far more experience, as quickly as possible.” That millennial concept has inspired his new summer plans to tour and meet with as many of the best franchise companies and leaders as he can. Walzl is willing to document his adventure for the NextGen website because, he says, “Spending the summer experiencing first-hand the world of franchising would be a dream come true for me in my career.”

Rhys Richards, a former Japanese noodle bar owner, learned about the contest from the Franchise Council of Australia. As he told The Franchise Review, “To be recognized as one of the first Young Entrepreneurs in Franchising global winners allows me to discuss … new ways of taking franchising into the future.”  Richards has since switched careers to become a business consultant and broker “to connect with franchisors and franchisees in Australia and develop a model to limit the potential risk of failure to those young entrepreneurs who wish to take an equity in a franchise that they are passionate about.”`

For updates on winners and finalists and other NextGen information visit To learn how you or your company can get involved with the program, contact Gionne Jones at

Jennifer Kushell is CEO of YSN and producer of NextGen in Franchising. Find her at

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