Easylife Kitchens - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Franchising Q&A

Easylife Kitchens

Becoming an Easylife Kitchen franchisee is easier than you think and offers good return on your investment.

How was the franchise started? What background do the executives come from? 

The business idea took root when Allen Lombard turned his love for all things DIY into a business and, along with friend Richard Baker, commenced production from a small factory in Fontainebleau in May 1992.

At the outset, the plan was to manufacture kitchen cupboards as component kits and sell them in the form of “flat packs” to the DIY market.

In January 1993, Lombard and Baker rented a 350m2 unit at a factory in Strydom Park, while retaining the Fontainebleau showroom. Today, the entire factory in Strydom Park is owned by Easylife Kitchens. The business is managed by two dedicated franchisors, one who manages the entire Cape region and one who manages the rest of the country. The two factories are located in Johannesburg (Gauteng) and Bellville (Western Cape) and supply over 30 franchises countrywide.

EasyLife Kitchens’ Full Disclosure Document contains information on and the CVs of the directors and the current executive team. Of great interest is that the group majority shareholder and managing director of the Johannesburg region has been with the company for over 25 years.

 What are your criteria for choosing a franchisee? 

We look for self-motivated individuals with a creative flair as well as business and management experience. All successful applicants undergo a psychometric assessment to ensure that this is the right business for them. It is a prerequisite for every franchisee to work full-time in the business and to have cash freely available to meet the start-up costs.

 How much do I have to invest before I can open my doors? 

Currently, there are two different franchise models. The total cash investment for a studio franchise is around R600 000 (R600K) and for a full franchise around R1 400 000 (1.4m).

 How much liquid capital is needed to cover the franchise until it breaks even? 

The R1.4m for the full franchise and R600k for the studio franchise should be enough to carry you through the first few months of trading with running expenses. Before signing the franchise agreement, a detailed budget and three-year forecast are done with each successful applicant to ensure that there is sufficient cash flow available from the start.

What are the ongoing fees? How do your royalties and marketing fees work? 

Marketing and advertising fees are calculated and divided by the number of franchises as per the franchise agreement – all franchisees vote on this annually. No royalties are charged on sales, but a small percentage is paid on the franchisee’s purchases from the factory – the more you purchase, the lower the percentage. This is detailed in the Easylife Kitchens’ Full Disclosure Document.

How strong is the franchise company financially?

The franchisor is financially very stable. The Johannesburg factory building is owned and paid for in full, and a full auditors’ report is available and supplied to all successful applicants.

How many other locations are there and what is your success rate? 

Currently, we have over 30 franchises nationwide and are aiming to open 20 more over the next five to six years. The success rate is dependent mainly on the franchisee and their commitment to the business. A full list of franchises that have opened and closed is available in our Full Disclosure Document.

How much money can I make?

The franchisee writes their own paycheck: it all depends on their commitment. Our aim is for the initial investment to be paid back after three years, while the franchisee earns a market-related salary from day one. Profitability is also area dependent, but this is discussed in detail during the budgeting process.

What sets you apart from your competitors? 

Four main areas set us apart. The first is that we have two full-time training managers and dedicated training facilities – one based in Gauteng and one in the Western Cape. The second is our franchise model whereby the store owner ensures the best service delivery to our customers, and the franchisees’ collective knowledge and experience is shared with the group. Thirdly, our marketing, this definitely sets us apart due to the size of our company. Last, but not least, our association with the Italtile Group, which has a shareholding of over 25 per cent in Easylife Kitchens Management (Pty) Ltd.

What support do you offer beyond the initial training?  

Training is our main focus, we offer ongoing training based on annual feedback from the franchisees regarding their current training needs. As a franchisor, we take care of the heavy lifting and now offer an “accounting service” and a “sale and design” service to our franchisees. There are yearly store visits from all directors and bi-monthly franchise meetings where we share and learn together.

How do you resolve disagreements or disputes? 

The franchisor’s motto is that once you need to reach for the franchise agreement to resolve an issue, the relationship is already damaged. We prefer to resolve disagreements through open and honest dialogue. The franchisor values the opinion of franchisees and will often make decisions based on a majority vote.

What are your expectations of your franchise owners? 

Franchise owners (franchisees) need to follow the basic rules. They are expected to communicate openly and honestly at all times, but most importantly, they need to challenge the “status quo” as this is how and where growth takes place.

What is the extent of my territory and how will it be protected? 

Franchisees are only allowed to advertise within a 5km radius of their showroom, yet they are permitted to sell kitchens to anybody anywhere. We believe that customers buy from people based on their service and skills, hence installations and sales are not controlled by territory.

What kind of input will I have in marketing and advertising? 

Independent industry experts do presentations at the annual advertising meeting and the process is put forward for all to vote on. Therefore, franchisees have full say.

What is a typical day like for a franchisee? 

A franchisee’s role in their franchise is multifaceted and encompasses finance and administration, sales and marketing, motivating and managing their team, project management and client liaison. A typical day will include most of these activities; and franchisees need to have excellent time management abilities and must be hands-on in their franchise. The franchisee also needs to be fully committed to driving the success of their franchise and must be willing to go the extra mile and put in whatever effort is required to complete all the tasks at hand on any given day.

Can I speak with current franchisees about their experience? 

We strongly encourage all prospective franchisees to set up meetings with current Easylife Kitchens franchisees to better understand the challenges and opportunities. A list of all current franchisee’s contact numbers is available in the Easylife Kitchens Full Disclosure Document.

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