The Babyprints business model has been built in response to the tremendous demand forits product, developed five years ago. With the launch of its national franchise expansion programme, Paul Cullen explores the historyof Babyprints'development

When Colin and Lynsey Hart (above) welcomed their new born son Jack into their lives five years ago, little did they realise that more than just a baby had been born.

Proud mum Lynsey wanted to record every moment of Jack's development and was particularly interested in capturing a lifelike replica of his tiny hands. After six months of experimenting with a variety of modelling and moulding techniques, the early prototypes were so detailed and realistic that friends and family were soon requesting their very own keepsake casts of their children's hands and feet.

This overwhelming reaction to Lynsey's work means that her artistic endeavour has been transformed into a business that's set to break the mould. 'I loved the idea of a home-based business,' says Lynsey. 'Once we'd developed the technique and made our first casts, we looked at selling them because people really liked them. Customers would come back with repeat orders and requests from friends who had seen the work.'

The Babyprints Boom By 2004, Babyprints was no longer a commercial toddler. The original concept had evolved into a brand, as Colin explains: 'The Babyprints product now has a defined format. Our pictures and casts are always mounted and framed in the same way. When we started, we would outsource all our framing. The trouble was, when people came back for a repeat order, the particular style of frame they had previously ordered would be discontinued. By doing it ourselves, we can guarantee the same quality Babyprints product every time.'

POSITIVE IMPRESSION After five years developing the business, Colin and Lynsey were ready for new opportunities. 'We wanted the business to grow but we didn't want to employ huge numbers of people,' says Colin. 'I mentioned the idea of franchising to one of our customers and her reaction was so positive - it was one of the factors that finally persuaded us to switch to franchising.'

In July 2004, the first Babyprints franchise opened for trading in Potters Bar. The company now has 12 franchisees established nationwide, one in Madrid, Spain, and is looking to welcome between five and 10 franchisees every year.

Hands On... 'As long as people keep having babies, there's no reason why this business shouldn't continue to grow,' says Colin. 'We've divided the UK up into more than 140 different franchise opportunities. Each territory has at least 20,000 babies - that's a fantastic platform on which to grow your business. This is a low cost franchise with the opportunity to earn very good money.'

The Babyprints franchise requires an initial investment of £9,250. For that, franchisees can expect a comprehensive training package as well as marketing support and business advice. 'Our franchisees can pick the telephone up any time and give us a call,' says Colin. 'It is very important for us to have a strong working relationship with our franchisees. We plan to get everyone together at least once a year. We want everyone to be as passionate about this business as we are.'

The ideal Babyprints franchisee should be pro-active and able to work closely with people and young babies.
'There are no hard and fast rules about who would make the ideal Babyprints franchisee,' says Lynsey. 'The ideal candidate could be a mother who wants to return to work but would prefer to make money working from home and spending time around their children.

'It's great fun making the casts and we have both met lots of people who love what we do and come back on a regular basis. They will have to work hard but we are here to give them all the support they need. There is no substitute for actually seeing a finished Babyprints impression or cast. The reaction of a happy customer always makes the business worthwhile.'