Bette Fetter, founder and owner of Young Rembrandts , an Elgin, Illinois-based drawing program for children, waited 10 years to begin franchising her concept in 2001-but for Fetter and her husband, Bill, the timing was perfect. Raising four young children and keeping the business local was enough for the couple until their children grew older and they decided it was time to expand nationally.
"We chose franchising as the vehicle for expansion because we wanted an operating system that would allow ownership on the part of the staff operating Young Rembrandts locations in markets outside our home territory," says Bette. "When people have a vested interest in their work, they enjoy it more, bring more to the table and are more successful overall. Franchising is a perfect system to accomplish those goals."
Streamlining their internal systems and marketing in nearby states helped the couple bring in their first few franchisees. With seven units and some time under their belt, they then signed on with two national franchise broker firms. Now with 30 franchisees nationwide, they're staying true to their vision of steady growth. "Before we began franchising, we were teaching 2,500 children in the Chicago market," says Bette. "Today we teach more than 9,000 children nationwide, and that number will continue to grow dramatically as we grow our franchise system."
Bette advises networking within the franchise community-become a member of the International Franchise Association and find a good franchise attorney as well as a mentor who's been through the franchise process. "You need to be open to growing and expanding your vision," Bette says, "but at the same time, be a strong leader who knows how to keep the key vision in focus at all times."