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  • Sep 30, 2015
  • British Franchise Association
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Finalists Focus: Female Franchisee of the Year 2015

It’s no surprise that this has been a consistently strong category of the awards: the last two Franchisee of the Year winners have been women. This year, standards are higher than ever. Four women with very different businesses and backgrounds made the shortlist, but they share a couple of important similarities: each of them are standard-bearers for a nationwide brand and highly active in their local community.

0690 bfa Franchisee Female FINALIST Logo (P)Between them they’ve conquered all kinds of challenges, from mountains to cancer, building hugely successful, impressive and rapidly-growing businesses along the way. This is how they’ve done it.

Shweta Jhajharia, ActionCoach London

Two years ago Shweta narrowly missed out on this award, impressing judges so much that she received a special accolade on the night in recognition of her success. Since then she’s driven her business to even greater heights, while climbing them herself!

Setting herself a target of £1m turnover just 12 months ago, Shweta has already surpassed her goal and is now rated as one of the top three ActionCoach franchisees globally – out of more than 1,200. She’s won several coaching awards and is a recognised Growth Accelerator coach.

ActionCoach_RTThis after arriving in the UK from India in 2008, as a 29-year-old with no prior SME experience, and starting up her business during the recession.

Shweta grew her business 400% in just three months last year, took on new employees and doubled the number of businesses she’s worked with in the last year compared to the previous four (to over 1,000). Her clients have an average annual growth rate of 41%, have won numerous business awards.

And that’s the key for Shweta: her clients. She says their growth is what gives her the most happiness and she has a guarantee that if new clients don’t see the benefit of her work, she doesn’t receive a fee.

You’d think it must be all work, work, work, but not a bit of it; she has strict rules about stopping work to enjoy quality time with her husband and son and last year also found time to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro. Of course, she had no prior mountain climbing experience either. No problem.

“Goals are dreams with deadlines” is Shweta’s motto. Expect her to keep achieving them.

Bright&Beautiful_RTFaye McDonough, Bright & Beautiful Altrincham

Just five years ago, single mum-of-two Faye was working three jobs in order to look after her young family.

Now, she employs 20 women and runs an eco-friendly domestic cleaning and housekeeping business with 250 clients that’s set to turnover around half a million pounds this year.

More importantly, Faye is also celebrating a major personal milestone, having beaten cancer twice in the past three years. In 2012 she found a lump in her chest which was found to be Leiomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, and underwent surgery to remove the tumour. In March this year a second lump was removed.

This year Faye also spent time nursing her mother back to health. But incredibly, nothing she’s experienced has got in the way of her unstoppable business growth.

Over five years and through all the challenges, she has never had a month where revenue decreased or the number of hours with clients dropped. She’s surpassed all targets, expanded from being home-based to running an office, has developed additional services and won local business awards for her achievements.

It all started for Faye when she began helping out franchisor, Rachel Ray, with her children and fledgling business. Faye became the first, and now flagship, franchisee and hasn’t looked back since.

Somehow, Faye also finds time to mentor other Bright & Beautiful franchisees around the country and supports a local charity, CAFT. With very strong customer satisfaction scores and her business success it’s no surprise that she’s respected and admired throughout the Bright & Beautiful network.

“My family are the reason why I do what I do,” she says. Still only 37 years old, her future certainly looks bright.

McDSarah McLean, McDonald’s Nuneaton & surroundings

Sarah runs 13 restaurants across the Midlands and has used her business success to drive her passion for sustainability, with a number of pioneering initiatives in local nature areas.

That includes manufacturing and donating bird and small mammal boxes to local authorities for rural areas such as Coombe Country Park, Longford Park and the National Forest. Sarah’s aim is to create a lasting environmental legacy in addition to tireless work on litter collection in her communities. Since 2012, 90 boxes have been provided to local parks across Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire.

Sarah’s were also the first UK McDonald’s restaurants to formally donate coffee beans for free or a small donation to the Ronald McDonald House Charity, helping towards the £165,000 Sarah has raised in the past 10 years for overseas challenges alone.

She’s built her business on the back of the highest standards, maintaining the top rating from her franchisor since she opened her first restaurant in 2002. Consistent investment in her team, restaurants and operations have yielded exceptional results since then; sales growth in the last 12 months has been particularly impressive and well ahead of the network average.

One site has grown by almost 50% in five years and was showcased at the company’s Worldwide Franchisee Convention last year; another has been used as a training restaurant for McDonald’s for five years. Last year, all her sites achieved a 5-star EHO rating and one even won a gong at the Loo of the Year awards!

With over 60 apprentices becoming shift managers, there’s a consistency that ensures her ethos is present across all her restaurants – and giving her time to pursue her passions through her business. As she says: “When you have a platform for doing the right thing, it becomes a springboard for positive activities."

PuddleDucks_RTCarolyn Sharpe, Puddle Ducks Newcastle

A former accountant who left a promising corporate career to open a baby and children’s swimming school, it’s fair to say Carolyn made an inspired change in direction.

After having her son in 2009, Carolyn, 34, says her priorities changed completely. She set up Puddle Ducks Newcastle in the hope it would offer her a better work/life balance to spend more time with her family. She wanted a fulfilling challenge along with great family life.

She had a goal to teach 500 babies and children per week. Five years on, Carolyn’s team of 20 teaches over 1,200 children weekly in over 20 swimming pools across the north-east and she’s been named Puddle Ducks Franchisee of the Year in 2014 and 2015.

Her most important KPI? Enjoying sports days, school holidays and being there to take her sons to school/nursery and put them to bed every single night.

Recently Carolyn developed opportunities for Puddle Ducks classes at DW Fitness Clubs across the UK after striking up a local relationship. It’s typical of the belief and support she has in the brand: stickers on her car proclaim her as ‘Mrs Puddle Ducks’! She also gives back to her community thanks to her work with local premature baby charity, Tiny Lives.

An ambitious deal for multiple venues that doubled her business was a risk she rightly calculated worth taking – making the best of both her passion (she swam in British nationals as a teen) and her former corporate life!

Carolyn’s focus and emphasis on leading and motivating her team has been critical – she’s had three teachers leave in her first five years. Not many businesses can match those numbers but it’s all adding up for her.

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