Bank Worker Buys Children’s Party Franchise


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Former bank worker Elaine O’Dwyer tells FS how she bought a Go-Kart Party after being made redundant.

The mother of two enjoys running her Warrington-based children’s party franchise with neighbour Tahir Muhammed.

FS Blog: Why did you choose franchising?

Elaine O’Dwyer:
My decision to investigate franchising was driven predominately from a lifestyle perspective, wanting the ability to work hard, achieve goals and still have time to take my children to school and do their homework was really important to me. With redundancy on offer it was a great way to re-address my work/life balance.

FS Blog: What did you do before taking up a franchise?

Elaine:
I spent 15 years as a risk manager in the banking sector, working for various high street banks which gave me a sound financial background.

I attended an introductory course ran by the bfa (British Franchise Association) to ensure I considered all of the available franchises in the marketplace and chose the one suited to both myself and my family.

FS Blog: How did you raise the finance?

Elaine:
I was fortunate to receive a large redundancy amount, this coupled with savings and family support I managed to finance the business, the van and some working capital.

I did however build a robust business plan that I still use today to ensure I did the appropriate market research, operational cost analysis and financial projections to ensure I was buying a viable business.

FS Blog: Tell me more about the training and support you receive from the franchisor…

Elaine:
I attended my first Go-Kart Party meeting armed with four pages of questions, the two hour interview became in excess of four hours of information gathering and support.

From that day on the support has continued to be fantastic, from training days, to the management team travelling up north for two days at launch time, to assist me with venue interviews and operational roll-out.

Any new ideas I have, are warmly received and investigated, the head office team are always happy to help and listen to my progress.

I have built up my network of franchisees that are always there to give me advice, praise success and hear me moan about knock backs.  Geoff at Go-Kart Party based in Leeds has been so supportive and a real guru in my new world of children’s parties and family events.  

FS Blog: How has this training given you confidence in your work?

Elaine:
Well, I have recently travelled over to Bolton to “Pay it forward” – our newest recruit has been spending weekends with me for the last four weeks to learn the ropes and get a sense of working life.

We launched Go-Kart Party Bolton last week with an event at a community centre which was a real success and I enjoyed being able to support my colleagues and launch them in their new business venture with confidence and direction.

FS Blog: Any challenges when owning a franchise?

Elaine:
Working capital is probably something that at first I did not consider as much as I should, initial operational costs can be kept low with a slow build up but I wanted to expand fast and offer a superior service which would stand me apart from others during a recession.

This expansion and superior service comes with costs – advertising, posters, event equipment coupled with invitations, certificates, trophies and party goodies all resulted in amazing growth, but I have needed a higher upfront investment then I planned.

FS Blog: What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?

Elaine:
Ask yourself this question, ‘At school did you do your homework well before it was due or on the bus on the way to school?’ If you’re a ‘bus person’ then in franchising, regardless of the amount of support you get from your franchisor – would you do something if you didn’t have to? That’s what success looks like for me, doing the things you don’t have to, but want to!

FS Blog: What are your plans for the future?

Elaine:
Already I have gone from a basic party package to introducing food options, party goodies and am currently working on cakes to offer the full party experience to those customers who lead busy lives and want my help in organising the perfect party.

I am also planning an ‘arrive and drive’ session and I am also working with the council to promote the go-karts as a positive activity for children in less affluent areas, to ensure every child has the opportunity to ride a go-kart at Go-Kart Party.