Marla Custom Blinds is offering cut-price franchises.
Angela and Martin Froud, founders of the blind franchise, have decided to offer a selection of locations at a reduced price, under £5k for their first franchisees.
The Frouds have 15 years of experience in blinds retail and now have a loyal customer base for franchisees to draw on.
FS Blog: Tell us how you started your business?
Angela Froud: At that time I was home looking after my children, but I wanted to get back to work. I started making and selling hand-sewn curtains on my own before moving into blinds. The opportunity to work from home meant I could run my business around my family, you could say I tailored the business to fit in with my kids.
This flexibility has become integral to our business model, we understand people need help finding a work-life balance, Marla Custom Blinds has flexible hours and is a work from home business.
While I really enjoyed making curtains it is very labour intensive, and soon there was a greater demand for blinds. That’s when Martin got involved and we haven’t looked back since.
Martin Froud: I came on board initially to help out with some measuring and installation, while Angela concentrated on the sales. That soon changed when we started to deal with commercial clients. At that stage, as our sales continued to rise, I started going on appointments as well as installations.
FS Blog: How did you cope with such rapid growth?
Angela: We’d found a good local supplier who was working hard to meet our demand. He decided to sell-up and we had the opportunity to take over his equipment and start making the blinds ourselves. Within a year of trading we had moved to our own premises and now we’re selling blinds across the county.
Martin: My background is in manufacturing and I’ve worked for myself before, this experience helped us expand from the home-based cottage industry we once were, to manufacturing most of the blinds we sell.
FS Blog: So, why do you make your own blinds instead of buying in from larger supplier?
Martin: So we have absolute control over the quality of what we sell, and can be confident to offer a five-year guarantee on everything we make. We might not always be the cheapest, but you definitely get what you pay for in this industry. If we wanted to we could use budget fabrics and invest in cheaper machinery – but that would be a false economy.
We’ve invested heavily in this business and worked hard to uphold a good reputation – we’re members of the British Blind and Shutter Association, and committed to a number of local fair trade schemes such as ‘Buy with Confidence.’ This attention to detail and the high standards secures our business as many customers come through referrals and recommendations.
Angela: We’re as obsessive about customer service and after sales care as we all about the quality of our blinds. When the occasional problem happens, Martin tries to see the customer on the same day to resolve the issue. The customer feedback we’ve had over the years has been excellent.
FS Blog: What made you decide to franchise your business?
Martin: Before developing Marla Custom Blinds with Angela, I was a franchisee with a well-known supplier of commercial chemicals. The experience taught me a lot about the benefits a franchise can bring to both franchisees and franchisors.
Franchising gave me the chance to be involved in a sector I had no experience in, which is great, but I soon realised it wasn’t for me because there was an element of hard selling involved. So I sold my franchise and took my experience as a franchisee into Marla Custom Blinds.
FS Blog: But how important is selling in running a Marla Custom Blinds franchise?
Angela: Very important – if you can’t sell your business will fail. But this business doesn’t need the hard sell because it’s almost always the customer that makes the first contact.
If you’re comfortable meeting customers and have no problem going into homes and businesses offering a quality product at a good price, then you’ll be fine.
FS Blog: What are you looking for in a potential franchisee?
Martin: You don’t need any experience in this business, so almost anyone could do it. There is an element of DIY skill required to fit the blinds, but if you know one end of a tape measure from the other, can drill a hole and fit a screw you’ll have no problem.
We’re really looking for dedicated and hard working people who uphold the same ethics we do, and who believe in a high level of customer service. That’s why we place so much emphasis on training and support – to ensure our franchisees treat their customers with the same care and respect that we’ve always done.
Angela: Marla Custom Blinds would suit a husband and wife team perfectly, just as it has for us. If one person can sell and the other can take care of the installations, you’ve got the ingredients of a successful partnership. However, determined individuals would do equally well with the right choice of people behind them.