Unique French Style Franchising

14 years ago France Baudet started a business that she knew had franchise potential. With three French beauty salons established, Cannelle is now ready for national expansion.
Stuart Anderson interviews

Some people start a business because they want to be their own boss. Others because they want to build an asset. France Baudet reveals that her reason was rather more basic: "I came to the UK from France with a degree in management, but I couldn't be an employed manager of any sort because my English was so bad!"

In a decade and half France has gained command of the English language, although she is still slightly self-conscious of her accent. "Sometimes I leave a message on the salon answer machine and when I hear it I don't recognise myself!" she admits. The accent however does add authenticity to her French beauty salon, situated just off the retail high street in Oxford and just down the road from the University.

France launched the Oxford Cannelle salon in December 1997, offering a variety of treatments from hot and strip waxing and manicures to facials and massage and newer, longer lasting treatments such as laser hair removal. "At that time there were only three beauty salons in Oxford and the quality of service was poor," she comments. "The treatments were mainly confined to waxing with a bit of manicures, pedicures and facials. It was very basic and not what I was used to, having been a regular customer of salons in France."

After canvassing the local competition, France returned to her native country to gain inspiration for what would become a revolution for Oxford's beauty salon patrons. A second trip to take in a French beauty product exhibition secured a relationship with a supplier. "The final priority was to secure the right location - this is paramount - so I hired a specialist company who found a fabulous site in Summerton," she recalls. "This is quite a wealthy area and ended up being the best choice I made in setting up the business. I then hired a French beauty therapist to assist me in creating the salon and training my other therapists in the unique French style of beauty treatments, which has helped to completely differentiate Cannelle from other salons in the UK."

The local reaction to the opening of the salon, France reflects, was "amazing". The business achieved break even within six months and after 12 years operates at an annual turnover of £500,000. This immediate success re-enforced the suspicion in France's mind that she could eventually expand her concept via franchising. However, she made the commitment to expanding the Cannelle brand under her own steam first to prove its suitability for replication.

"I needed a new challenge so expansion was always going to be on the agenda," she explains. "The salon was working perfectly and after three years I was keen to step ahead. I found a salon which was performing very badly but in a nice location in Henley on Thames and decided to take it over and convert to Cannelle in 2001. It took some time to turn it around but I got it generating a profit in the third year and then expanded again into a third location in the very centre of Oxford."

With three salons established - and her English language skills much improved - France has found herself in the position of being able to progress with her desire to franchise the business. "Beauty salons have been franchising in France for a long time so I knew the concept was suited to franchise expansion," she observes. "I can't afford to open 20 salons myself, but I know that the systems and the business concept I have in place can be cloned nationwide."

France commissioned Franchise Development Services Southern franchise consultants Gordon Patterson and Gary Rigby to assist in creating a professional franchise package and is now seeking suitable individuals to launch Cannelle franchises around the country. The format that franchise owners will follow combines the interior design and treatment room setup pioneered in the Henley salon with the range of treatment options and high turnover capability of the Oxford salon to create an opportunity that promises significant returns.

"The fact that I'm not a hands-on beauty therapist has helped me to create a business model which requires no previous beauty industry experience on the part of the franchise owner," says France. "I'm looking for people with an interest in beauty who like working with people and are very customer service orientated. The first franchise owner will help me to establish Cannelle as a successful franchise concept so I am co-funding the licence fee element of the franchise package by 50 per cent to recognise this. It's a very exciting time for me as franchising marks the culmination of the ambitions I have had for this business from day one."