International Expansion with Local Engagement
As Chief Sherpa at Sherpa Group, Vicki Prout is well placed to spot a great franchise model when she sees one.
Vicki’s background and subsequent rise in the world of global franchising is a unique story. After joining the Navy and with over a decade of serving the Navy and her country, Vicki decided she would enter the small business arena. Starting with a pet food delivery company, buying a local promotional products business, then taking the step of developing that in the UK for four years, and then moving on to become the International Development and Marketing Director for Cartridge World.
It was in this position that Vicki gained invaluable insight into the world of franchising, growing the Cartridge World franchise from 436 stores to over 1600 stores in 42 countries.
Building from principles learnt in the defence force and over 15 years’ experience in the franchising sector, Vicki established Sherpa Group in 2009. The company draws on Vicki’s in-depth understanding of relationship building, team orientation, franchise recruitment marketing, brand development, strategic development and implementation, and has seen her earn accolades including as FCA National Chair for Women in Franchising as well as being voted SA Franchise Woman of the Year for a record four years.
With hands on experience and a wealth of knowledge to draw upon, Vicki has experienced franchising at all levels and is well versed to the challenges faced in business expansion. Sherpa Group were tasked with the role of completing an Australian market entry analysis for New Zealand based franchise, sKids – Safe Kids in Daily Supervision to ascertain the feasibility and viability of bringing this well-known Kiwi company to Australian shores. With the knowledge that she gained from this analysis about sKids and knowing its growth potential, using the famous ad slogan from Remington back in the 1970’s, Vicki says, “I liked it so much I bought the company.”
In reality Vicki became the major shareholder AU, and has since become equal director with Dawn Engelbrecht from sKids NZ for the international rights – operated, staffed and resourced from her local offices in Adelaide.
Sherpa Kids Australia
Vicki explains, “I proudly became the Master Franchisor for Australia in July 2011 and worked part time building the model and completing all required documentation, whilst at the same time ensuring that Sherpa Group continued to thrive. “It was hard work combining and juggling the two roles but also exciting and extremely valuable to my consulting work as I was living through the advice that is given to my clients, every day.
This has made me a stronger consultant as I experienced the ebbs and tides of the franchise journey every day.” Twelve months after combining the role of consultant and franchisor, the first Sherpa Kids franchisee was on board and the business has since grown.
Vicki continues, “Numbers tell half the story of what we’ve achieved in our first two and half years in a market with entrenched competitors in both the commercial and community sectors. “Launched mid-2011, we have representation in eight countries and support 22 Australian franchisees, three Area Developers and 25 on-site outside school hours care service (OSHC).
Customers from over 600 families currently send 1000 children to us for 2600 sessions per month. “Between 2012 – 2013 the business doubled in size and will double again by the end of 2014.
“The other half of our story is showing you how we achieved this success so quickly. We chose the business model of franchising to change the OSHC provider landscape. After preparatory research we could see the Australian market was stale and unprepared for the launch of the National Quality Framework reforms in January 2012. Franchising was the answer.”
Sherpa Kids is values driven. If you love the business and you agree to do your best to follow the tried and tested rules for running an OSHC business, they:
- grant you the right to run a copy of the business
- show you what you need to do
- give you the tools to do the job
- support you in your efforts to do it.
In return franchisees pay a fair price for the brand, goodwill, extensive training and operational support and should aim for a healthy return on their investment from as little as $35,000 plus GST for a greenfields territory.
The franchisee purchases an area known as a cluster – approximately 8 – 10 primary schools.
“Choosing local people as our franchisees is part of our success and ultimately their success. Our group is extremely multicultural and all diverse with their own attributes.” Sherpa Kids have working mums who’ve experienced or witnessed firsthand the problems associated with a lack of quality after school care through to ex-lawyers, practising accountants and recently teachers have joined the network. “Many take an interest in the business that is larger than the balance sheet. We are, after all, working with children and families. Local franchisees are best placed to engage with local stakeholders, from the school principal to the fresh fruit merchant. Local franchisees empower the brand at a local level, where their customers live. They develop trust, which grows market share. They are the true community citizen” says Vicki.
Vicki had the realisation during her research that many people were receiving their Certificate III in Childcare and then some growing bored in the industry.
“Sherpa Group has coined the phrase ‘HUMAN AGRICULTURE’ by this we mean WE GROW PEOPLE . We constantly adapt this adage and ethos with Sherpa Kids via our business model. We are providing people the opportunity to potentially grow and enhance their own personal development and if they wish own a business in an industry they are extremely passionate about. Our staff, our franchisees staff can work within the business day to day but at the same time are trained in elements such as marketing, finance and business skills they can utilise throughout their working career.”
We wish to be known for the service that serves its community. Not be known for the number of services we have! Our brand has a massive heartbeat this is underpinned by local heartbeats and little people heartbeats!
Over the next 12 months, Vicki and business partner Dawn Engelbrecht will be building on the development of Sherpa Kids International as this adds value to the existing business partners by strengthening the global brand.
Focusing on North America, Sherpa Kids International are looking for State Masters in the USA and Area Developers for Canada and are looking for people who can build upon the worldwide success of Sherpa Kids.
With Master Franchisors already in place in the UK, Ireland, and South Africa alongside Australia and New Zealand,Franchising USA magazine was able to speak with each Franchisor to discover why Sherpa Kids is so unique.
John Geers, Sherpa Kids UK
“Sherpa Kids England was incorporated in October 2012, operating two After School Clubs in the London Boroughs of Barnet and Redbridge and opening a third in the London Borough of Harrow in April, after a recommendation received from the Head Teacher of one of the original two, just six weeks into operation.
“There are millions of working parents in England who do not have the flexibility in their working hours to drop their children off and collect them from school at the times when schools open and close. During the school holiday period they are either forced to take time off work or pay for expensive child-minders. Breakfast, After School and Holiday Clubs provide a cost effective solution for parents because of the economies of scale that come with looking after children in a group setting.
“Sherpa Kids England has an offering unique due the fact that our operating model is a combination of best practice from several countries under the Sherpa Kids banner. In practice this means that the standards of care and the experiences planned for the children by Sherpa Kids greatly exceeds that required by law in the UK. Furthermore, 2014 will see UK legislation relax standards even more – thus making the Sherpa Kids model a clear leader when it comes to quality out of ours school care.”
Dawn Engelbrecht, sKids – Safe Kids in Daily Supervision NZ
“Safe Kids in Daily Supervision (sKids) started in 1996 and I took over with my business partner Bev in 2006. We were originally franchisees in the system (Bev since 1998, myself since 2000) so we had a clear vision of what the brand could do and where we wanted to take it. As of today we have 55 franchisees operating at 118 locations in New Zealand.
“There is an increasing need for both parents to bring in an income and most working hours do not accommodate school hours which tend to be a shorter day (i.e. 9-3) and parents want to know that the people looking after their children are well trained professionals who put their child’s needs first.
“Our strength is that we are local providers offering a local service on-site at their local schools backed by a National Support office.
“We ensure that there are a variety of planned activities each day for the children to participate in as well as healthy afternoon tea and homework time and have recently launched two new services; sKids Active which is a sports based life skills programme and iHub which is out of school care designed for tweens so our focus over the coming months will be to grow these services across the country.”
“As one of only a few female franchisors in South Africa, I want to lead and inspire other women to take up the challenge of running their own businesses. After working in the education industry for 20 years, I have a passionate commitment to learning in South Africa.
“As such, I was keen to join this tried and tested franchise business and offer an out of school hours programme that works. Sherpa Kids aims to establish quality onsite OSHC programmes throughout Southern African primary schools. These programmes are structured, engaging, fun and educational with an emphasis being on stimulating child care and not passive child minding. Sherpa Kids brings South African parents internationally benchmarked, structured and standardised offerings for before school care, after school care and care during school holidays. Sherpa Kids has licenced, fully accredited sites in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom that are successful stimulating child care systems that have been running for over 15 years.”
John Miles – Sherpa Kids Ireland
“Following months of research I quickly came to the conclusion that the Out of Hours School Care market in Ireland was at best fragmented and at worst nonexistent. This definitely, for me, was the business opportunity I had been looking for – the chance to be the first mover in a fragmented market offered the challenge and potential rewards that I craved.
“My first hurdle to jump was to answer the question of branding – how was I to take full advantage of this situation in the shortest possible time frame? It would take years to build up a recognised brand and the processes and procedures of running a business involving childcare looked onerous. I searched instead for a proven provider operating in another country and that is when I came across Sherpa Kids. It provided me with everything I required – a recognised international brand, set up support, business support and a whole set of rigorous process and procedure guidelines.
“On my return to Ireland after meeting with the team in Adelaide I was good to go and feel extremely confident at this early stage of development that I have been provided with the tools and ongoing support that will be the cornerstone of a brand new service in the Irish market place.”