- Premises Based
- Home Improvement
Dream Doors specialises in kitchen facelifts. This involves swapping the old doors and drawers with made-to-measure replacements, adding new worktops, a sink and taps. We also provide full kitchens, appliances, bedroom doors and innovative storage solutions.
A facelift can save up to 50% off the cost of a new kitchen and takes as little as 2-3 days to install. With much less disruption in the home, Dream Doors has always appealed to an older demographic, with 90% of customers over the age of 50.
Dream Doors is part of Neighbourly, the world’s largest parent company of home services brands. The company hosts regular discovery days at its training centre in Northamptonshire
Dream Doors was established in 1999, opening its first showroom in 2001. The company now has a network of franchise showrooms that stretches from the west country into Scotland.
As a mature brand, some resale opportunities arise, but with 100 showrooms now open, over half of the UK is already covered.
Franchise territories are determined through a mix of geography (postcodes) and demographics (homeowners aged 45+).
The induction programme is 13 weeks long, including 10 days at Neighbourly’s state-of-the-art training centre in Northamptonshire, and covers all aspects of the business, from marketing and sales through to product terminology and project management. There are no practical skills required, but training is given in kitchen surveying and measuring.
Franchisees and their staff attend regular business coaching courses. Field support is ongoing throughout the franchise, beginning with a weekly visit. There is no charge for the business coaching or support.
There are two defined roles for a busy Dream Doors franchise: sales and management.
Many franchisees are couples; one partner will sell, visiting customers in their homes (mostly daytime appointments), while the other will manage the showroom and the administrative tasks.
For single owner-operators, either a salesperson or a showroom manager can be employed.
Sub-contracted kitchen fitters (or employed for more established franchises) look after the installations.
Dream Doors Bristol has traded on the city's Gloucester Road since 2009. Last year it was taken over by Barry Payne, a seasoned home-improvement professional with a remarkable story to tell.
Barry had spent the last seven years building his own property maintenance and construction company. On a late summer's day in 2012 he was working on a customer's roof; this was an average job on an average day. The sort of job Barry had completed dozens of times before. And then he tripped, fell backwards through the scaffolding and landed on a plank several feet below.
“It was a serious accident and I ended up with a broken back,” Barry says. “By then I was running our company, but still had a very hands-on approach. My doctors advised me that, while I may be able to return to such physically demanding work, it would have a negative impact on my long-term health. Fortunately my son was able to take over the company, and it continues to trade successfully with him at the helm. I, on the other hand, had to down tools for good.
“But I refused to let that get me down; I shifted my focus and challenged myself to find another way to remain in a trade I both enjoy and understand. And that's when I discovered that Dream Doors Bristol was up for sale. The showroom hadn't fulfilled its potential and the previous owner admitted as much. It was the perfect match for me.”
That under-performing franchisee gave Barry a rare opportunity to buy into an award-winning franchise at a discounted price. And the location couldn't have been better. Barry's wife Emma, a corporate lawyer, was now working from offices in Bristol, renting a flat in the city during the week and returning to their Worcestershire home at weekends. Purchasing the existing Dream Doors franchise meant the couple could work and live in the same place again.
“We still have our property in Worcestershire, but rent here in Bristol,” says Barry. “We both work hard, and still don't see that much of each other, but we spend more time together than before!
“Dream Doors is a great fit for my skill set and one that's left me excited and energised by the challenge ahead. And it has been challenging at times! But I'm relishing being back at work – and still being in charge – while also benefitting from all the support I get from Dream Doors.”
He adds: “We increased turnover by almost 30% last year, and I know there's so much more we can achieve in this area. 2014 is set to be very good for us – we sold more than £75,000 in just the first two months of this year.”
Ex-teacher and active charity trustee Lesley Wallace opened her Dream Doors showroom in Thatcham, Berkshire at the beginning of the year. It took six months of toil, and a significant investment, to turn a run-down building into a state-of-the-art kitchen showroom. But with such doom and gloom on the high street, what made Lesley ditch her career in the relatively stable education sector and plough her life's savings into a franchised retail venture, and in a new industry to boot?
“I wanted a different challenge after spending years working with schools and charities,” she says. “And while my job was rewarding in lots of ways, it was also very restrictive.
“Well, I got what I wanted as it's been a challenging few months! But I believed in this business from the outset. It's such a fantastic idea that almost anyone who takes pride in their home would be interested in. Now we can invite the public into our showroom so that they can see for themselves just what is possible with a Dream Doors kitchen transformation.”
As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry – especially the practical side of the business – Lesley had a difficult transition to make. Like most Dream Doors franchisees, she left a comfort zone and had to quickly learn how to manage experienced tradesmen, and become versed in alien terminologies. But none of this was unexpected, and Lesley appreciated the candour of Dream Doors managing director Troy Tappenden in their early meetings.
“Everything has panned out exactly as we were told it would,” she says. “Troy has been honest from the start, painting a realistic picture with real figures. He identified areas of strength and weakness very quickly, and made sure we had more help in the areas we needed it most. I'm really enjoying being a business owner, despite the stress, and have absolutely no regrets at all.
“We were victims of our own success in the first few weeks. We found this showroom before training and used it as a base while it was being renovated. Because of that we had some big early orders, in fact we hold a Dream Doors record of more than £25,000 for our first three sales! And that was from a time when we really were still learning.”
But while saving money and convenience are important to customers, Lesley says it's the service they get from franchisees like her, whose livelihoods are at stake, that makes Dream Doors stand out. “You can sell the best products around, but if you don't deliver on your promises you won't be around for long,” she says. “We build relationships with our customers, and we respect their investment and their homes. After all, they're trusting us with one of the rooms they use the most.
“That personal approach is reflected in the feedback we get. Our first ever customers sent us an email just before Christmas. They went away while we completed the work, and said how delighted they were when they returned. They were particularly impressed with the attention to detail in the kitchen and said that they wouldn't hesitate before recommending us to anyone else. Comments like that make all our hard work – and the last six-months of stress – worthwhile!”
Disheartened with a career that he felt was stagnating, events manager Mark Edmans visited the British & International Franchise Exhibition in London. He admits the visit was primarily to assess a rival exhibition company, and that, at the time, he had just a passing interest in franchised businesses. Three months after the show Mark bought the Dream Doors Chilterns franchise which he now runs from its showroom in Chesham with the help of his sister, Amanda.
Mark discusses his experiences so far:
What did you do before starting a franchise?
Before joining Dream Doors, I worked as an operations manager for an events firm. I'd also had sales and marketing experience from my time living and working in Australia. My sister, Amanda, worked in administration before leaving to help me with the franchise.
Why did you make the move into franchising?
I wasn't happy with my career, and felt I was under-appreciated in my last job. I visited the franchise exhibition in London for some inspiration. I wasn't necessarily looking for a franchise, but as my job involved careers events, and Venture Marketing Group are involved in a similar field, I thought there might be some synergy there.
After speaking to a couple of franchisors, and for a long time with Dream Doors, I realised I could use my existing skills to work for myself. From that moment I was convinced it was the right move for me, and that I really didn't want to carry on working for other people.
What made you choose Dream Doors?
After spending time with the personnel involved with Dream Doors, I immediately became comfortable with them. I could see this was a genuine franchise, and that there's lots of support in all aspects of the business. It's also very much a people business, and one that capitalises on my sales, marketing and management skills.
How has working with family worked out?
It's great having Amanda in the business with me. As my sister I trust her implicitly, and have no issues with passing on any confidential information. I also know that family will put more effort into this business than an employee who, when 5 o'clock on a Friday comes along, will forget about Dream Doors until Monday morning! Equally, because we live separate lives away from the business, we can take time off independently and leave the other to look after the business.
We have very defined roles, working in a similar way to typical Dream Doors ‘husband and wife’ teams. I deal with the sales and invoicing, manage our fitters and do most of the running around, while Amanda handles the paperwork, and looks after all the finance and day-to-day accounts.
What plans do you have for your business?
We've just had a great year, our first full year in a showroom. We were joint winners in Checkatrade's franchisee of the year award handed out at the Dream Doors annual conference. Checkatrade is an independent consumer monitoring scheme, and the award takes into account feedback and scores from customers, as well as how professionally and diligently a business is run. That was a great achievement, and one we're very proud of. A business like ours relies on its reputation, and we work really hard to make sure our customers are totally satisfied. Without that, we have no business.
This year we plan to increase sales, building on the successes we've already had and promoting ourselves in all corners of our franchise territory. There's definitely room for growth here.
“Dream Doors is the best thing I have ever done!”
Design teacher quits profession to take on kitchen makeover franchise
Matt Jones, the new owner of Dream Doors Truro, worked as a design technology teacher for 12 years before taking on a franchise. He'd spent some time searching for a business for sale in the West Country, but was struggling to find an opportunity that excited him. Then he stumbled across an existing Dream Doors franchise for sale in Truro and, after researching the kitchen makeover brand in depth, he felt confident the business could meet both his financial and personal goals.
“I wanted to be my own boss and have control over how I work and the money I earn,” Matt says. "Dream Doors ticked all the boxes. I have my freedom now, but what's also nice is I’m using some of my old skills as a design technology teacher to help customers design their dream kitchens.”
Matt admits that quitting full-time employment was quite a risk. He had a young family to support and would be leaving the security of a regular pay packet. What’s more, jumping head first into a business that was already trading - and in an industry in which he’d had no previous experience - left little room for error. But Matt had seen what other Dream Doors franchisees had achieved and, reassured by the brand’s success and its reputation in the franchise industry, he felt the potential rewards far outweighed the risk. Nine months on and those rewards are no longer potential - they’re real. And, as he explains, Matt is more than pleased with his decision to join.
“Dream Doors is the best thing I have ever done!” he says. “Sure it can be hard work sometimes, but it’s definitely worth it for what I get out of it. The training provided was top-notch too; I always knew what I had to do and how to act, but I learnt so much during that period that is bound to help me way into the future.”
Matt’s final words are for anybody else thinking seriously about buying a franchise: “Listen to all the advice you’re given; you don’t know everything and that’s okay. You buy a franchise to learn from other people’s experiences, so just listen to the professionals and embrace change as that’s how you become a success.”
Before joining Dream Doors and launching his franchise in Swansea, Lavine Jones held several lucrative positions for high street brands, working his way up to become an operations director for O2. But, while he thrived on responsibility and appreciated the financial rewards on offer, Lavine had never felt fulfilled in his career. That changed when he decided to open his own Dream Doors franchise; here Lavine tells us what first attracted him to the proposition:
“I could instantly see the value in the Dream Doors service as well as the potential prospects for a franchisee,” he says. “The fact that customers could save up to 40% is a big deal, no matter the business. So, to me, it’s obvious why so many have warmed to Dream Doors”.
Like many people leaving behind the security of a salaried role, Lavine was a little apprehensive about his transition from employee to franchisee. He had previous experience in interior design, although was only just joining the kitchen industry. Lavine was driven, with personal discipline and the ability to learn from those around him. He also recognised that everyone involved with Dream Doors shared his hunger for success.
“As soon as I met Troy (Dream Doors' founder and managing director) I knew that this was the company I wanted to invest in,” says Lavine. “His passion for the brand is infectious. I've worked closely with my business development manager since the outset too, and his skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for the business have definitely helped us get to where we are today.”
Lavine admits that his journey so far has had its fair share of challenges. For a start, he must travel from his home in Cardiff to Swansea every day, and back again. On average Lavine drives 100 miles daily!
“There were no opportunities in Cardiff when I approached Dream Doors. The nearest available territory was in Swansea,” he says. “But I believed so much in this business that I was prepared to travel, and that belief has paid off. The benefits of being able to work with my wife, and see more of my kids than I ever did when I was employed, far outweigh the hassles of the commute!”
“This is the best experience I've ever had,” Lavine adds. “But it might not be right for everyone. My advice to anyone starting out in a franchise is to be patient and be prepared to put a huge amount of time and effort in. You'll need to be humble at times too, and be willing to change the way you work. Do that and you could have a fun, rewarding and lucrative business of your own.”
Dream Doors, has just appointed its long-standing business development manager, Andy Hart, as the new franchisee for the Brighton Area. Andy has worked for Dream Doors since 2007, starting out as a design consultant for the Gosport-based showroom, and then progressing to join the management team supporting the brand’s 75 franchisees. After a successful career as an employee, Andy decided it was time he put his money where his mouth is and bought a franchise near to him.
“I have loved my time at Dream Doors,” he says. “And it’s been satisfying to see the franchisees I have helped train and support build successful and profitable businesses of their own. Now it’s my turn!
“I know the products so well, and I know for a fact that the Dream Doors model works. The service we provide is incredibly versatile, we can offer as little or as much as any homeowner could possibly want in their kitchen, which is a huge selling point for clients.”
Andy chose the Brighton area as it was home to many in Dream Doors’ prime demographic; those of an elder age, typically retired and looking to revamp their tired old kitchen.
“I’m excited to be working in the area, and to be working with local fitters that I’ve introduced to the business,” Andy adds. “We’ll continue to provide a superb product and a cost-effective service to local people for many years to come.”
Troy Tappenden, MD of Dream Doors and long-time friend of Andy’s, had this to say:
“Although it saddens me that Andy will be leaving his role as an incredible BDM, it also brings me joy that he is still part of the Dream Doors family and is following his aspirations. I have no doubt that someone as talented as Andy will perform well as a franchisee and will quickly build his very own successful business.”