- Home Improvement
- B2B, B2C
Apollo Blinds is a franchise network where franchisees sell and install quality made-to-measure window blinds, curtains, shutters and awnings.
It is part of the Hunter Douglas Group (the world’s largest window blinds company), so franchisees have access to the widest range of window blinds in the UK.
The company was founded in 1972, and the franchise model is based on a partnership approach with its network of franchisees that has been developed and refined over a number of years. It now has more than 50 active franchise areas – including both mobile businesses and showrooms.
The market opportunity
Apollo Blinds has experienced strong trading conditions, despite national lockdowns and other restrictions since March 2020 – because there has been a huge consumer appetite for home improvement. There is strong demand for quality, made-to-measure window blinds, shutters, awning and curtains that are installed by experts.
NEW for 2021: new payment pathways to join Apollo Blinds
Apollo Blinds has introduced new ways to join their network, with options to suit a range of circumstances. The new payment options reflect the different financial circumstances of people joining the network. It’s based on varying deposit levels, lower upfront investment and longer terms to spread the investment of becoming part of Apollo Blinds.
Apollo Blinds is different from many other blinds businesses because franchisees don’t just sell superior window blinds – they expertly fit them too! Its customers love the complete peace of mind they get that their new made-to-measure window coverings are fitted by experts, so they work precisely as they should for years.
Another of Apollo Blinds’ key strengths is the breadth of its ranges: it often has window covering solutions that local competitors don’t have access to, and new franchisees can get very busy very quickly. Its most-successful ones have learned the importance of taking a little bit of time to plan their days effectively. For example, they plan sales appointments and installations in the same area on the same day to reduce costs and travel time and to increase productivity and profitability.
All products are made to measure, meaning that franchisees’ money won’t be tied up in stock. Upon order, deposits are taken, with the balance due on the day of installation. These two factors (strong cash flow and no costly stockholding) in particular mean that opening an Apollo Blinds franchise represents a low-risk investment.
Apollo Blinds provides an initial five-day induction training programme at its Glasgow head office. This training is pitched according to a new franchisee’s DIY skills and product knowledge and is then backed up with further training and ongoing support in the following areas:
Apollo Blinds franchisees will tell you that no two days are ever the same – but if there were an ‘average’ day, it would revolve around:
Nicola Pearson has owned and operated the Apollo Blinds Buckinghamshire franchise since 2017, after calling time on a high-flying 18-year career in advertising.
Firmly recognising it as “the best move [she’s] ever made”, Nicola went from the boardroom table to her dining room table to start her own business from home, and she’s never looked back.
Looking for an opportunity to be her own boss, to use the marketing skills she had acquired during her career and to make more of her passion for home décor, Nicola sought a franchise business within the interiors market.
Nicola says: “I had gone as far as I wanted to go in my previous career, and I needed something that could fit around my life, rather than fitting my life around work.
“I loved my job working within some of London’s top media agencies and had achieved a lot, but I wanted to carve a different path that would give me more control over my working hours and more flexibility. As a mum of two, commuting into the City everyday had also become challenging.
“The idea of owning my own business had always appealed to me, but the reality of starting something from scratch is scary, especially when you have dependants and a mortgage to pay. Going from being a PAYE employee to self-employed is a big change, but a franchise business offered me the support of an established business yet lots of potential to grow. It didn’t feel as much of a leap as doing it all on your own.
“I met with a lot of franchise businesses and did my research, but I knew immediately when I met with the franchisee recruitment team at Apollo Blinds that they were for me. Apollo is a well-known brand, and the franchise business has a proven track record, with plenty of scope for growth and long-term potential. The figures stacked up, the business model worked, and the opportunity offered me the autonomy and control I desired and the flexibility I needed.”
After a solid 18 months trading as a mobile franchisee within Buckinghamshire, Nicola took on a second Apollo Blinds franchise in nearby St Albans. Exceeding her sales targets for both businesses year on year since launch, she now employs a fitter to help with the installation side of the business.
“I think a key part to being your own boss is knowing what you’re good at and bringing in people to help with the bits you can’t manage yourself, be it through a lack of time or skill. I outsource what I can, from call handling and accountancy to the fitting.
“Doing this gives me the time and head space to focus on the areas of the business I can do well, such as sales and marketing, meeting customers, and talking fabrics and interior design. I love the social aspect of the job: since working with Apollo, I’ve really got to know my local community. I’m known as a local business owner – I even sponsor my son’s junior football team, which fills me with such joy!
“Running your own business is no walk in the park: it takes hard work and dedication. Nothing is handed to you, but the rewards are worth the effort. I can do the school run, walk the dog, go for a run and fit my lifestyle around my work, which for me is living the dream.”
Nicola offers this advice to anyone looking to venture into a franchise business:
“Research, research, research! The more informed you are about the business – the network, market size, investment, head office support, products, margins, everything – the more you can be confident that the business is, or isn’t, for you. Dig under the surface to understand the potential pitfalls and danger zones. Do wider business research within the sector you’re looking at.
“Go to exhibitions. Meet other businesses in the network in real life and interrogate them. Who will be the competition? What are the nuances between the different territories on offer? Talk to other franchisees and do field research – what can you offer that is better, new or different?
“I also think the business opportunity has to fit with you as a person – what lights you up. I have a real interest in interiors, so talking about the products and options with customers is really enjoyable for me. And being able to build rapport with customers is key to this job.”
Apollo Blinds currently has resale opportunities in:
The business had been established for four years before the franchisee voluntarily left the network due to a change in their personal situation. There is strong awareness of the Apollo Blinds brand in the city and surrounding areas – as a result, there are high levels of customer enquiries (the second highest in the Apollo Blinds network).
The current franchisee is looking to retire, having traded for ten years in the city.
This is currently a showroom-based business in Willsbridge (six miles from Bristol city centre), and there is a rolling one-year rent agreement at £450 PCM (no VAT). Complete flexibility exists, as the franchise can also be run as a mobile business – as it isn’t reliant on any passing trade.
The turnover is £150,000 with £40,000 gross profit.