A friendship made for franchising

Lifelong friends Omar Akbar and Asif Mushtaq decided the time had come for them to fulfil their ambition to work for themselves and that a CeX franchise was the perfect way.

Since opening their Complete Entertainment eXchange (CeX) store in May, Omar Akbar and Asif Mushtaq have been impressed by how quickly their customer base and turnover is growing.

"For the first couple of months it has been hectic but now we know how to run the business, we think the time is right for us to start taking it easier and have a couple of days off a week," laughs Omar from his and Asif's store in Walworth Road, Elephant And Castle, London.

The friends had met at school and went to university together before working at a business-to-business company for three years.

"With that experience of working for an employer under out belts, we thought the time was right for us to run our own business. After doing a lot of research into the franchise opportunities out there, we decided that CeX was the one for us. A lot of the areas in London had already been taken and Elephant and Castle seemed slightly random as I am from Finchley Road and Asif is from Wembley," explains Omar.

"However, when we went to see the location we saw that it had lots of potential, as the area is undergoing a major regeneration programme and we liked the fact the store was near the East Street market, which is a massive source of potential customers."

With their location selected, Omar and Asif underwent CeX's training scheme at the brand's other stores in the London area including Camden, Streatham and Tottenham Court Road.

"The training we received was excellent and gave us all the basics we needed to run a store," Omar reveals. "The support afterwards was fantastic - the head office team are willing to answer any of our questions."

Omar adds that he and Asif had great fun preparing their store for the big day: "We did our own store build and loved keeping people in suspense as it had previously been a Pizza Hut. Elephant and Castle has a very strong community spirit so everyone likes to know what is going on so the mystery helped create anticipation for when we did open."

Omar has nothing but praise for his store's staff for helping to make it such a success: "We picked them carefully looking for the right traits and experience so that the store has a good atmosphere and nice mix of people who like to chat to our customers."

Omar and Asif say that their firm friendship has helped with the running of the business but instead of splitting the tasks between them, as many franchise owner partnerships do, they opted for a different approach.

"We decided from the start that it would work best if we both learned about all the different aspects of the business by switching them between us on a weekly basis," says Omar. "In this way, it means that if one of us is on holiday the other can continue running the store without any problems."

Illustrating other successful CeX franchise owners' comments that each store has a different market, Elephant and Castle's most successful stock items surprised Omar and Asif.

"Our biggest sellers are old consoles like Xboxes and PlayStation 2s - we can't get rid of them fast enough," smiles Omar, who explains that he has also seen a growing demand of high end products like MacBook Pros.

"After our phenomenal launch, we know this is just the start and are very positive about the future of the store. We definitely have no regrets at becoming CeX franchise owners," adds Omar.

Reported by Fraser McKay