It was at the National Franchise Exhibition in Birmingham back in October 2002 that Dream Doors first showcased its kitchen door replacement concept. Started in Hampshire three years before that, it had already piloted two franchised operations nearby.
Founder and managing director Troy Tappenden says of the brand’s origins: “I started this business because I was sick of working hard for other people and seeing little reward for my efforts. And to be honest, I dreaded going back to work each Monday. Like a lot of people, I lived for the weekend.
“I’d looked at franchises myself but hadn’t found anything that really sparked an interest. Plus, I didn’t have lots of money to invest. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to buy a Dream Doors franchise – at least not the retail franchise it is now. It cost me £500 to place my first two adverts back in the late 90s. And that was all I could afford to risk. I got nothing from the first advert, and saw that as £250 wasted. Fortunately I got six appointments and four sales from the second advert. If that hadn’t worked Dream Doors wouldn’t be here today!”
When Dream Doors launched as a franchise, it was a much smaller investment that could be run part-time and from home. While this provided a reasonable income for its franchisees, greater returns would be achieved from retail premises; ten years on, with a significant revision to its business plan more than five years ago, franchisees are now contracted to open a showroom within six months of trading.
“Starting from home has benefits,” Troy explains. “Franchisees get to learn at a steady pace without making expensive mistakes. But the business only becomes real when the showroom is open. Typically it quadruples turnover, and in some cases it has increased sales eightfold.”
What about franchisees, and their recruitment? “I’ll admit we made some mistakes in our early days,” he says. “Initially we recruited kitchen fitters and practically-minded people. They were great on the installations, but many couldn’t sell or manage a business. And some just didn’t want to open a showroom. We parted company amicably with a few, and adapted our recruitment policy. Now we only look for ‘white collar management’ individuals, or people with good sales and organisational skills.”
Since changing its franchise model, Dream Doors has achieved consistent growth. Franchisees’ sales have increased by an average of 18 percent each year since 2007, while 2012 is set to be a record year with like-for-like sales up 25 percent. Total turnover for all Dream Doors franchisees, from those in their first year to those in their tenth, is up 45 percent year-to-date.