It's a wonderful life

After enjoying success in other areas of franchising, Raf Ali decided that gadget retail brand CeX was a perfect fit for his next business venture. Now, three years on, he owns three CeX stores in the North East and is edging ever closer to achieving his goal – owning a Porche 911.

Before Raf undertook the decision to move into franchising, he was a computer programmer for a large retail bank. But in 2006, he decided that he wanted to take control of his own life.

He explains: “I run a number of existing mobile phone franchises in the North East and CeX seemed a logical ‘fit’ with my existing businesses.”

Raf obtained the finance necessary to buy into the rapidly expanding gadget brand through a combination of part equity from his house and financing from the bank.

He adds: “I was lucky to be part of a new CeX franchise store opening. I rolled up my sleeves and got involved in every aspect of the business, which I found invaluable. To open my first store, I had a detailed support team, including an inspirational franchise manager and on-going in-house support once my business was open, helping it become quickly established.”

But, like any new business venture, there were a few initial kinks that needed ironing out. Raf says: “The biggest challenge initially, three years ago, was brand awareness. People didn’t know us. Having now opened my third store in the North East, it’s great because customers already know us.”

CeX, as franchisors, proactively encourage their owners to be entrepreneurial and push to open more stores in other territories. For Raf, opening a second and third store was made easier because of the benefit of his experience.

Raf makes it clear that investing in CeX has been a life-changing decision. He adds: “I am in control of my own destiny. It has been very rewarding to see my businesses grow and the development of my employees and their own career progression.”

For CeX franchise owners across the board, the idea of taking control of their professional life holds wide-ranging appeal. Raf, having achieved flexibility and a better quality of life, is in a position to offer guidance to investors looking for a franchise. He adds: “Understand what it takes to run your own business and the demands it will place on you, your friends and family. Do your research, understand the franchise you are interested in and talk to existing franchise owners.”

Now that Raf has established himself as the owner of three burgeoning CeX locations, he is showing no signs of slowing down. His aims of driving a Porsche 911 and engineering a situation where his businesses run themselves are both on the horizon.

Finally, when Raf was asked if he would take on the CeX challenge if he could go back in time and do it all again, his answer was unequivocal: “Yes, I get a buzz out of being involved in successful brands like CeX.”