The Franchising Way to Grow

Lisa Flynn, a mother of two young boys, never relished having her children photographed. For her, birth announcements and holiday portraits meant either spending a small fortune for a professional photographer who didn't cater to colicky clientele or settling for cheesy props and fuzzy blue backdrops at the mall portrait studio. "I thought, 'There has got to be a better way to get your kid's picture taken,' " says Flynn, who was running her own marketing and advertising firm at the time. She looked into buying a franchise that specialized in children's photography but, unimpressed, created her own studio instead. In 2006 she opened Whippersnappers Studio, a kid-friendly portrait specialist in Bend, Ore., that captures kids, families, and even pets in high-quality photographs. "We never tell the kids to 'say cheese,' " says Flynn, who charges $195 for a 45-minute sitting and all the digital images that result. "Instead, we focus on capturing their unique little personalities."

Whippersnappers, which has four employees and $200,000 in annual revenue, broke even in its first quarter and has been profitable since. In 2007 Flynn decided it was time to take the concept on the road. She considered opening other company-owned studios, but that came with the risks, costs, and hassles of setting up multiple locations and hiring managers for each. It would also be time-consuming and require Flynn to spend too much time away from her family. There was a better option, as she saw it, and that was to franchise.

There are nearly a million franchised establishments in the U.S., and it's not just the usual suspects of fast food and retail. Says Kenneth Franklin, president of Pittsburgh-based consultancy Franchise Developments and a minority partner in the founding of the Arby's franchise: "I've had clients in manufacturing, agricultural, health care, and professional services."

Published: December 5th, 2008

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