Girlboss: Starting a Franchise – Recap

Co-written by Lucy Guo.

Girlboss is a series of events that encourage and support aspiring female entrepreneurs by sharing the stories of successful business leaders, and connecting them to the Orange County community at-large, including the National Association of Women Business Owners. Last Thursday evening at the Paul Merage School of Business, we were proud to present Girlboss: Starting a Franchise, featuring Kelli C. Holmes and Stacey O’ Byrne of TEAM Referral Network.

In this Girlboss event, Kelli, CEO, founder, and franchisor of TEAM Referral Network, discussed her decision to start her own business, including the many challenges and obstacles that come not only with starting a business, but starting a franchise. The night’s other speaker, Stacey O’Byrne, is the CEO of Pivot Point Advantage and Kelly’s first franchisee. As the current manager of four TEAM Referral Network locations, Stacey spent much of the night sharing her journey as a franchisee and her own unique experiences leading up to her current position.

TEAM Referral Network is a business referral organization that connects businesses providing different services to each other, so that clients of any one business can be referred to others in the TEAM Referral Network. It is one way of investing in marketing and can be the best tool in growing a business.

Unlike most ventures, which demand stability and growth, franchising is designed to implement the systems already created by a company, and plugging that into a different territory.

The training and support from franchisors is what makes some franchises better than others, the speakers shared. Some franchises might try to grow too fast without having enough resources, which is why the system sometimes collapses. Becoming a franchisee means using and promoting a brand that already exists, and has proven its success.

TEAM stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More”. It is a business of relationships, which is important for an entrepreneur. “Business happens by relationships,” said Stacey. “People do business with people they know, like and trust”. She herself has built two seven-figure businesses with no digital presence, just word-of-mouth marketing.

Despite these entrepreneurs’ personal and business growth, many entrepreneurs struggle to sustain their startups; only about 36 percent of small businesses are owned by women.

Kelli and Stacey have both felt pressure, too. Both of them faced lawsuits for trying to compete with big businesses and even previous employers already in the industry. They refused to back down. Kelli said, “if Goliath comes after you, become David.”

After the panel, Noor Haggag and Bhumi Ramani, two second year UCI students, commented, “It’s so great to learn that there is more than one way to do business. Before we thought that e-commerce was the best way to start a business, but Stacey and Kelli have really demystified what franchising is and the best way to go about it”. Indeed, the knowledge they provided and their offers to mentor those in attendance made this event priceless.

The biggest success tips Kelli and Stacey had to offer were this:

  1. Maintain flexibility. The most flexible person controls the situation.
  2. Success exists outside of your comfort zone. The more you can stand to be uncomfortable, the greater your chance of success.
  3. Surround yourself with the right people. Focus on like-minded, positive people who want to add value and make an impact.
  4. The time will never be right. Don’t exhaust all your resources trying to make the website, brochure or the digital marketing perfect. Otherwise you’ll never start.
  5. Sales drive everything in successful company. Be willing to spend hours a day selling in the beginning.
  6. Build the give back into your business. Find a way to give back. Kelli gave away free memberships into the TEAM Referral Network for nonprofits. According to her, finding a way to give back will make you feel wonderful about being successful.

Both Kelli and Stacey, proud members of the Orange County Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, continued the spirit of giving back by each giving away five student memberships for the organization!

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