How I Started The UK’s Largest Franchise Directory And Make $600K/Year
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Joel Bissitt & I am MD of Franchise UK, The UK’s largest franchise directory. For 18 years, we have assisted franchise businesses to grow by generating quality franchisee recruitment leads online.
We introduce prospective investors to franchise brands seeking growth. We provide listings in our directory & also a range of additional marketing services, including e-shots, SMS marketing & paid social media services to drive quality leads for franchisors.
Franchise UK has grown rapidly, particularly over the last 5-6 years & we have achieved year-on-year growth since 2017 with a 50% increase in turnover last year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Even from the age of 10, I used to go to my dad's furniture business & look after the shop & design furniture. My favorite TV shows were The Trouble Shooter & other business shows & I read about other UK entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson & Alan Sugar which inspired me.
I started in the business when I was 19 years old, working in a factory during the day & private work during the evenings & weekends. Later in my career, I grew various businesses, including leisure, consulting & IT, which led me to franchise as I franchised this business. Since then, around 20 years ago, I have assisted franchise businesses to grow.
Learn from your mistakes. It’s also crucial to take a chance & learn from failure.
When I started franchising the landscape, it was very different. There were some franchise websites but not many, there was also a very prominent franchise magazine. Most of the websites were either brochure sites or information overload, so I wanted to create a website that had good information but was accessible to all, and easy to read & use.
I had never run this sort of business before, but I had grown a very successful IT company via SEO which I had sold, so I was confident I could get the site to rank on search engines & drive leads for advertisers. I did not want to borrow any money or have investors, so I did most of the work myself on a part-time basis with just £1000 of funding!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I wanted Franchise UK to be really easy to use, many competitors were not at the time. I did not have sophisticated software, so I initially created the mock-ups using basic software to get a feel for what I wanted it to look like.
I designed it using WordPress, which is very easy to use & made the navigation as simple as possible, it worked very well. It was difficult to get our first advertisers, we were new & they had worked with rivals for years, but eventually, we started to get advertisers, some we still work with after all these years!
Take calculated risks & do not beat yourself up if things do not work out you try, learn from them & keep going.
In terms of funding, my options at the time were quite limited. I did not want to give equity away, so I self-funded the start-up. As we grew over time & reinvested more back into the business.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We did not have a big launch, and we had a very small budget. We mainly ran e-shots and promoted the site at events such as Excel London, the business show, and the franchise show.
We advertised Franchise UK at stands we booked beforehand and created marketing materials such as leaflets, banners, business cards, etc. It was a slow process & took years to get to around 20+ advertisers, but as we grew, we invested more into the website, reaching more people & driving more & more quality leads.
Our reputation grew with this & helped us to convince more to advertise with Franchise UK. The entire process was self-taught & over time, we realized the power of social media, including Facebook & which now has the largest number of Facebook followers of any similar UK website.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We constantly invest in the business to yield results for our advertisers & as we have grown, we have increased the spending to yield more leads, delivering value for our advertisers. This is crucial. One of the reasons we are so successful is because our advertiser retention is so high, we deliver results & look after our advertisers.
Always remember when running a lead generation business to learn from your mistakes and learn from your competitors or other industry leaders while you develop and grow.
It’s hard work, be prepared to work harder than you ever have before. Take the knocks & never lose sight of your goals.
We reach advertisers & prospective franchisees in many ways. We rank very highly in search engines from SEO practices, such as creating quality content.
SEO content is a pretty simple process but very effective. The most important thing is to make sure search engines can read your content. This can be done in a few ways if you google it.
Another thing that is crucial with content that ranks is expanding your keyword range. Look into what competitors have done and expand on it. We have over 30,000 social media followers, 36,000 email subscribers & over 12,000 SMS subscribers.
We also run paid search & paid social media campaigns so that Franchise UK & Businesses For Sale UK have huge visibility online for anyone seeking to grow a business via franchising or invest in a franchise opportunity.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We have grown year on year since 2017, growing by over 50% last year! We are working now with some of the largest brands in the world. We are a family-run & owned business & we have big plans to further expand in different directions over the coming years.
The future looks very bright for franchising & Franchise UK. Short term, we want to continue to deliver results for our UK advertisers. Long term, we plan to grow internationally, providing similar services to franchise brands globally.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Learn from your mistakes. It’s also crucial to take a chance & learn from failure. Respect your competitors & learn from them. They have been my best mentors over the years.
For quite a few years, one of our biggest challenges was using external agencies. They initially delivered results, but the service dwindled over time. Eventually, we had the skill set to handle almost everything ourselves, delivering better & more consistent results for our advertisers.
The best decision recently was that my son joined the company a few years ago. They are extremely motivated, doing a great job & will take the business to another level over the next 5+ years.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Various premium SEO tools such as MOZ, Semrush, and MonitorBacklinks
- Xero and our own CRM
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The books I have read about Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, Sir John Harvey-Jones & other leading British Entrepreneurs were the most influential in my journey. These taught me important lessons about time management and not getting ahead of myself.
It's important to grow a business and test your ideas over time. Patience is crucial, especially in the business world, if you want to build a business that succeeds long term, not for the short term ride.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
It’s hard work, be prepared to work harder than you ever have before. Take the knocks & never lose sight of your goals. Be flexible. I have never had any new startup run just like the business plan.
Take calculated risks & do not beat yourself up if things do not work out that you try, learn from them & keep going. Be good to yourself. If it’s just you at the start, as it was for me, you need to learn to manage yourself to keep yourself motivated, not too tired & reward yourself for your successes.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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