Here, we speak to Lena Thompson about how she found her home in her Woking Driving Miss Daisy franchise.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?
Having obtained a degree in Computer Science I spent last 20 years working as a computer programmer, technical consultant, workflow analyst, etc. Before launching Driving Miss Daisy, I was working in London as a contractor for IT department for UK export finance.
As IT was never my passion and I was definitely not inspired by my job, I started looking at other opportunities when I came across this opportunity. It was a complete change from my career and opened a lot of doors to new & exciting possibilities.
Can you also tell us about the franchise you have bought?
Driving Miss Daisy provides one to one companionship and wheelchair adapted transportation for the community. Our clients range from 6 year old primary school kids to 95 year old art enthusiast.
It is not only for elderly or people with health issues. We are literally suited for anyone who cannot (or will not) get out and about on their own.
Some of our outings included trips to Royal Albert, wedding in Devon, shopping, garden centres, doctors, school clubs, etc.
Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose your industry? And why did you choose your franchise?
I loved the concept of making differences in peoples lives. After researching Driving Miss Daisy, their message completely resonated with me. Even though I had no sales or business skills, I knew that this is what I wanted to put my energy into.
How did you raise the finance?
HSBC & Hitachi loans
What training and support did you receive to help get your franchise launched?
I attended a 5 day workshop in Portsmouth, which is where their Head office is. We covered all range of topics such as First Aid, compliance, health and safety, marketing, business planning, Dementia etc
How would you describe your role as a franchisee?
I mostly focus on marketing and presentation side of the business. My other passion I discovered is social media marketing where I spend many hours attending courses, webinars and lectures. This helped me to accelerate the business growth via social media platforms such as FB.
I also do presentations and meetings with care homes, nursing homes, day centres etc. by building relationship with their managers and event coordinates we find that Driving Miss Daisy becomes their preferred transport supplier as we do provide the best service.
What marketing and promotion did you do initially to launch your franchise?
Leaflets, FB advertising, Visiting Hospitals, nursing homes, care homes, independent living. Attending networking events, email campaigns, …
What have been the biggest challenges so far in getting your franchise launched? And how have you dealt with them?
The biggest challenge for me was the mindset of the people we deal with. Hearing the words companionship and wheelchair made people associate us with charity rather than business. We are also being compared to taxi companies and some even seem to get annoyed that we charge a fee.
Some elderly people do not realise that it is a lot more expense to run their own car than use us from time to time. I do find that as the word gets around we get less of the negative responses and more people who understand the value we provide
What’s your plans for the future?
Expand into London
Any advice for someone considering franchising?
Do not give up, even when the phone is dead and no emails come through. Just carry on with networking, marketing and it will all come together. Also, invest into Social media advertising.