Our Franchisee Case Studies
Take your first step to being part of a growing success story
We have welcomed a variety of franchisees into our group over the last 9 years, with a wide range of previous experience, including the armed services, retailing, teaching, construction, banking, the public service sector, manufacturing, and sales. We think it’s important to share some of their thoughts about joining the Ableworld family and how they feel their Ableworld journey has progressed.
Ableworld Southampton has been run for more than five years by director Jeff Newman. Despite him being completely new to the mobility industry when he began his franchising journey, Jeff’s store has seen tremendous growth in its short life and now turns over in excess of £1m annually thanks to his hard work. The dedicated in which jeff has spent time and money improving Ableworld Southampton store to make it the best it can be, adding features, including a specialist stairlift showroom area with more than 10 models for customers to try out and a training area for local occupational therapists. Jeff said that the success of his first store has only made his aspirations even bigger and has encouraged him to begin branching out.
“We can’t think of any limit and we only limit ourselves. This is our first branch and it’s been amazing and has exceeded my expectations. I put a lot of hard work into it and now I have got the base. It’s really important to get the infrastructure right, the right staff, the systems and the vans. Ableworld Southampton is up to a level now where I can start looking at other places to launch. A second, a third, a fourth.”
Managing Director of Ableworld UK, Mike Williams, praised Jeff for the work he has put into building a “strong foundation” and said that their upcoming strategy for targeting the local council and NHS with their products was a fantastic one.
“We feel it’s great to welcome franchises into the Ableworld family, as well as running our own stores, as its much better for a franchisee to really get into the local community and get involved. They care about things in the local areas. It’s their business, they have ownership of it and so it drives innovation.”
Going forward, Jeff is now concentrating on marketing their business even more, hoping to increase the already impressive 40% of business that comes from word-of-mouth recommendations.
Gerald and Maria Roper gave up their long teaching careers and started their own business with an Ableworld Franchise. They were both very much part of the community in Colchester, Essex. They wanted their business to reflect that involvement and eventually they found what they were looking for – the local franchise of Ableworld, the UK’s leading mobility company.
The couple had always cared about the community. Gerald was a church treasurer, rugby coach, and school governor, while Maria was a charity worker and ran local playgroups.
Gerald said: “The Ableworld franchise really appealed to us because it would help people who were finding life hard. Friends had told us how difficult it was to get hold of suitable equipment to help their parents.
“They said they didn’t find the people they had spoken to particularly helpful and that was one of the things that took us in the direction of Ableworld. We were very impressed by what the company offered and the help they gave.”
“A science-teacher in a Colchester school for 20 years, Gerald comes from farming background and had also worked as an accountant. “I knew about the world of business and the sort of franchise we wanted,” he says.
“Everything started so well - business boomed and the couple won Ableworld’s most promising newcomer award. Then, sadly, in 2015 Maria passed away. Gerald had nursed her. Now he had to pick up the reins of the business they had created. “It was hard and the hours were long,” he remembers.
“Today the business he and Maria started together is booming, and along the way Gerald was also awarded the Ableworld Franchise of the Year 2018.
Training extends over seven weeks, followed by a launch programme and marketing support. About a third of the initial franchise fee goes on marketing activity based around the opening. Trainers are on hand during the first few weeks after opening to deal with any queries and problems.
After that, a franchise support manager makes regular visits and there’s continual in-house training on all aspects of the franchise.
Gerald remembers: “We liked the idea of offering customers good products at realistic and competitive prices. The ethical side of the business appealed to us. Some customers are vulnerable people and while we are happy to sell to them, we don’t want to be putting them under any pressure.”
He is justifiably proud of the customer feedback which arrives at the franchise. A typical testimonial reads: “The service we got at Ableworld, Colchester, was up and beyond anything we have ever had from anywhere else. The shop is great, with everything you need for your disability.”
Gerald’s franchise has three staff and stocks a wide range of products ranging from mobility scooters to bath and toiletry items. It also installs stairlifts using its own specialist engineers. “I’m delighted with the way the business has gone, but I still have ambitions to make it bigger.” Gerald says.
As a previous Franchisee of the Year, Gerald, not surprisingly, believes franchising is a great way to start a business because of the expertise and backing from people “who have been there and done that.”
Ableworld has proven systems and processes which take away a lot of the risk and worry from a start-up. “It’s long hours and hard work,” Gerald says. “But so are most wage-paying jobs. The difference is that you get the benefit, rather than someone else.”
“We are all about people keeping active in their own homes,” Gerald says.”We respond quickly when they’ve got a problem and often it can be solved without spending a lot of money. For instance, four-wheel walkers are not expensive but people constantly tell us how they have changed their lives.
“A typical reaction is: ‘It’s got me active and walking again and given me the confidence to get out and about.’ That sort of thing makes our job really worthwhile. Of course you want to make money, but making money for the benefit of society is a real bonus.”
South Wales (Bridgend and Cardiff)
The South Wales branch is owned and run by James Studdart and his wife Leanne. Prior to taking the franchise, James was employed in sales and had previously been involved in the manufacture of specialist chairs. Leanne was a local hairdresser. They are one of several couples who came into franchising as a way of pooling their talents and the opportunity of working together in a family business.
James said: “I liked the idea of the franchise model as you have the backup of the larger company behind to help you grow your business. I felt that customers feel at ease when they think they are dealing with a larger more established company.
“I quite liked the idea of working in this industry after spending time manufacturing some of the products Ableworld sell.”
James and Leanne have been so successful with their initial store in Cardiff that they opened another store in Bridgend, enabling them to help more customers in South Wales. Working within the Franchise network has opened fantastic opportunities for working with and helping the local community. Throughout the pandemic, James was able to work with local Nevill Hall Hospital and Princess of Wales Hospital to donate essential goods to help them through uncertain and challenging times.
James said “I went into Ableworld as it looked like a nice company to be involved with, all the staff that I spoke to all had very nice things to say about the company and it showed that they cared about their customers and the company they worked for.
“I think with Ableworld that the model really works if you have a 5-year plan. Obviously you need the finance to back this up from day one and I feel that if I had looked at this model in that way it probably would’ve priced me out of it, but I do feel that this is the right approach when deciding on Ableworld.”
Ableworld Broxburn is owned by franchisees Billy Hutchinson and Robert McKenzie.
Before joining Ableworld, Billy and Robert were service engineers for hospital and care home equipment. They realised there was an ever growing need for products that help people live more comfortable and independent lives at home rather than in care. They looked for an opportunity to get involved in the sector. They quickly found Ableworld and investigated the franchise opportunity. Convinced franchising would give them a much better chance of success than going at it alone, they bought an established Ableworld store not far from Edinburgh in 2019.
“The support we’ve had right form the beginning has been excellent. Head Office training covered every aspect of setting up and running our business and we also went out in the field shadowing the engineers which led to us gaining the required qualification to carry out stairlift installations and repairs ourselves. Neither of us were form a retail background, so we knew we had a lot to learn. By the time we opened the doors though, we were very confident we would make a huge success of it – and it’s been great! It’s been hard work, but incredibly rewarding from both a business and personal perspective. Knowing that we are building a business that truly makes a positive difference to people’s lives every day is great feeling.” Billy Hutchinson.
Stuart and Jacky Simpson were Ableworld's first Scottish franchisees. Stuart is an engineer by trade and Jacky a college lecturer. Together with their small and loyal staff they have establish a good business on the outskirts of Glasgow. Here they give their thoughts on starting the franchise.
“Franchising seemed to be a safer route to owning our own business and the mobility sector seemed to us to be growing and adapting all the time.”
“We chose Ableworld from a number of other options because we very much admired their ethics and the value they place on customer care.”
“Initially, we had training in the administrative aspect of running our own franchise and also a shop. We were then given extensive product training by Ableworld and also many of the suppliers themselves."
“Training is always on offer should we feel it is necessary, either directly at Head Office or from our Franchise Support manager; occasionally our key suppliers offer in house training especially the stairlift supplier."
“Obviously the major differences are that, with a franchise, we don’t have to worry about pricing and sales – especially the legal minefield; product range or negotiating with suppliers; HR policies and customer care policies and procedures. These functions are all carried out on our behalf by Head Office.”
Stuart and Jacky recently renewed their franchise for another 5 years and are looking for to continued growth and success.