Franchise Vs Solo Start Up

So you want to start a business? Should you go solo or hook up with a great franchise?

I always have people calling me and asking me for advice about how to start a fitness business, or other businesses. They want to know where to go and what to do. They also want to be their own boss and become financially free while doing something they love.

Many people who reach out wonder if they should launch into their own solo venture, or whether a franchise offers a better opportunity. I tell them there are benefits and challenges to both and which is right depends on their personality and goals, but ultimately the franchise route offers a faster and more reliable way to the success and financial freedom they want.

Going it solo

Starting out on your own to build a business from the ground up is an exciting adventure. You get to be 100 percent boss with the freedom to put your vision into the business from day one. You also get total control over your products and services, operating processes, and take home all of the profits your business makes.

But as someone who has built a business from the ground up, let me tell you that it can take a while to see those profits. I’ve been at this for nine years and I can’t even count how many times I looked at my bank account and felt queasy in my stomach. When you start a business from the ground up, you will lose sleep, work long hours and end up paying yourself last.

In the first few years after I decided to start a fitness business, I would show up first thing in the morning to open up studio and I didn’t know if people were even going to show up. I would be coming in at five in the morning to do childcare and closing the doors at the end of the day. It takes a long time to build your brand, develop a consistent cash flow, and recruit amazing staff.  It’s not easy!

And when you go it on your own, the odds are against you when it comes to success. Approximately 80 percent of new businesses go under in the first year. And of those that make it through the first year, another 50 percent will fail in the first five years. That’s only 10 percent of businesses that make it through to five years of operations! Most businesses also don’t see consistent revenue for the first five years. So you have people who have this vision and they’re all excited about opening a business, but at the end of the day a lot of them have just created a job for themselves. The stats are against them.

As you can see, building your own business from the bottom floor is not for the faint of heart. But if you’ve got the drive and are willing to stick it out to make your unique vision a reality, it could be for you.

The franchise formula

For those who don’t mind following some directions on the path to business ownership and financial freedom, a franchise could be the way to go.

Successful franchises are built on formulas that have been proven to work by people who have invested a lot of time, energy and money into their business models. In the case of oranj, we ran our Kelowna studio successfully for three years but we needed to prove it again in another market. So we opened another studio in Fort McMurray and were once again successful. I calculated the trial and error investment for proving our concept and it amounts to $2 million. A $2-million investment just to prove the concept was successful!  Wowzers!

When you buy a franchise, you have a proven model along with someone who can hold your hand to make sure you won’t fail. You get to learn from their mistakes and capitalize on their wins. And you’ll start out with all the tools you need to succeed: brand awareness, proven staff training procedures, a detailed marketing plan, bulk buying power and more.

That said, deciding to go with a franchise does have its strings attached. You will have to pay franchise fees, follow a certain set of rules set out by the company, and also have the cash to buy the franchise and pay for the associated startup costs.  

So before buying a franchise, it’s important to look at the requirements and ask yourself some questions to make sure it will work for you. Do I pay flat fees or are they based on a percentage of profit? How much freedom to I have to put my own vision into the business and tailor it to my community? Do I have access to the capital needed for startup?

You should also look at your five and 10 years goals. Look inside and ask what you stand for as a business owner. You are going to be living and breathing this for months and years to come. What kind of hours are you willing to work, where do you live and what kind of capital output can you manage?

The oranj example

At oranj we charge flat franchise fees. So if you’re working your butt off, you can reap the profits. We also based our model on lululemon’s, which places our managers as experts on their communities. They get to decide what kinds of events and classes they are running. It adds a very local feel to each of our franchises.

And we also operate with a “Triple P” bottom line – people, planet and profit. We want to be financially profitable but also make a difference in the world. That’s why we’re 100 percent vegan; we reduce, reuse and recycle, hire locally, reduce our carbon footprint and make sure all our staff are empowered and happy.

Venturing out into business ownership, in particular when you’re spending a lot of money to buy and start a franchise, is a major undertaking and not something you should launch into without plenty of self-reflection and research. So whether you choose to go solo or buy into a successful franchise, be sure to do your homework and most importantly, go with your gut!

For more details on franchising check out

Who You Are

As I launch my new website and started brainstorming content for my first blog post, the topic came naturally to me – the Fort McMurray wildfire. that instigated a mandated, city-wide evacuation and destroyed several neighbourhoods, leaving others severely smoke damaged. With my life over the past month turned upside down by this horrific event, I knew that my first entry here needed to touch on an approach that can help you deal with the experiences and difficult emotions you might feel around this disaster – and others like it.

When you have no control over the external events around you, the only thing you can control is who YOU are in any given situation. This is one of my favourite quotes that I often share with my yoga students in class. Little did I realize that over the past month I was going to have to put regularly put what I preach into practice on many occasions.

When I was messaging my staff during the fire to see where they all were and if they were OK, the common response I received was: “Sheila, this is straight out of a horror movie.” My heart was breaking as I saw my community go up in flames. I watched the television with tears rolling down my face and thought back to my yoga practice and the mantra: “The only thing you control in any situation is who YOU ARE.”

As the fire burned on, it was inspiring to see so many people choose to step up in this crisis; to help others, save homes, and lead through example. After we knew all of our staff members were safe, our oranj fitness team wanted to help. So we pitched in the way we knew best…through yoga!  We initiated a fundraiser called Hand to Hand[CP3]  that saw our shareholders challenge our oranj fitness communities to raise up to a total of $32,000, and promised to match whatever was raised. In the end we collected over $20,000 that was matched with an additional $20,000 from oranj, for a total of $40,000 in donations to the relief effort.

The culmination of this extremely powerful initiative came when my staff and I hand delivered these funds to the people evacuated from Fort McMurray. You can learn more about the fundraiser and its results in this this video link summary.

When I was teaching the fundraiser yoga class [CP1] in Edmonton on May 24th, I touched on the fact that we were all heading back to Fort McMurray in a week. This was going to be an emotional experience for everyone.  I reminded everyone to think about our theme: “The only thing you control in any situation is who YOU ARE.” Fort McMurray set the bar high during the evacuation. We were cool, level-headed, caring, and supportive of one another. As we all head back into town we need to make a conscious choice of who we want to be in this situation; what we want to stand for and what we want to represent. 

I personally choose to be loving; supportive of my staff and community; strong, and calm. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day; the raw emotions, the fatigue from clean up, and the fear of the unknown. There’s so much unknown that endless questions can swirl around in your head. What will happen to Fort McMurray? Will the town be ok? Will the businesses be ok?  Will property value go down? Will it go up? Will I get sick from the smoke smell in the air?  Will insurance cover my entire claim? What will I have to do to make my studio operate again? Will I have staff to work in my studio?  These are just a few questions going on in my head, and I’m sure the list is endless for you too.

When these questions start filling up your thoughts and you can’t seem to let go of the fear, just stop, take a step back and assess the situation. When you feel overwhelmed, anxious, teary eyed and upset, I want you to take some deep, slow breaths – maybe even roll out your yoga mat and run through a few sun salutations; linking your breath to movement. If you don’t know sun salutations, just sit down on your mat or in the grass and meditate. Calm your mind, take some deep breaths and try to relax.  I want you to think about the intention you want to set for yourself. Who you do want to be? What do you want to stand for? What do you want to represent?  The only thing we control in any situation is who WE ARE. 

Fort McMurray, we are in this together. We will rebuild. We will come back even stronger than ever before. And it all starts with you. We can’t do this alone; we have to unite. We have to care. We have to lend a helping hand, and sometimes even a nice big hug!  I can’t wait to get my studio up and running again; to see your smiling faces, share some much-needed workouts with you, and to help create a space where we all feel welcome again.