Beat job blues with ChipsAway

Struggling to find a way forward in a challenging job market, Stuart Yorston was encouraged by his father to investigate franchising. Now a successful business owner with ChipsAway, Stuart is on his way to buying his first house

Little did Geography graduate Stuart Yorston suspect that only two years out of university he would be running his own highly successful business. Like most students, Stuart had assumed that once he completed his degree he would settle into employment, following a career related to his subject.

However, in common with so many other graduates, Stuart found himself in that familiar 'Catch 22' situation of not being able to secure a job without experience, but unable to gain the necessary experience without a job. Eventually, having got nowhere with his job hunt and encouraged by his father, Stuart decided to look at franchising. 'Dad has worked in the banking industry for many years and knows a lot about franchising,' explains Stuart. 'He felt that it would offer a secure route to self-employment for someone like me and said that if he'd been 30 years younger he'd have done the same thing himself.'

Stuart and his father began researching the various opportunities available, discarding most as being unsuitable, until they came across market leading SMART (Small to Medium Area Repair Technology) repair specialist ChipsAway and registered to attend one of the company's informal and free Open Days. 'I'm a practical, hands-on person and definitely didn't want an office based nine-to-five sort of a business,' Stuart says. 'Job satisfaction is incredibly important - I couldn't for example see myself delivering parcels all day every day for a living!'

Although Stuart says he approached the ChipsAway Open Day with a healthy scepticism, he admits that both he and his Dad were totally won over by the professionalism and the open, friendly approach of the ChipsAway team. 'We were really impressed and decided to go ahead,' Stuart recalls. 'ChipsAway have a strong relationship with the High Street banks and so they helped us sort out the funding. I trained in March 2008 and launched the following month.' Stuart's launch weekend was organised by ChipsAway, which distributed flyers locally and arranged advertising in the local newspaper. The result was overwhelming: Stuart wrote dozens of estimates and booked enough work over a single weekend to keep him busy for the first three weeks of trading. 'It was brilliant,' he confirms. 'To have so much work and so many customers lined up on that first Monday morning of running your own business was such a great feeling!'

Stuart has continued to be busy and has kept new enquiries coming in with periodic promotions and leafleting around his area. Even though now he has a steady stream of new work from word of mouth recommendations, his leaflet drops have proved highly effective at spreading awareness of his business and building up his regular customer base. 'Last time I had 10,000 leaflets distributed in my area - which only cost me a couple of hundred pounds - I had such a good response that my diary was booked up for another three and a half weeks. Bearing in mind that I can process three times as many cars as I could when I first started, that is a serious amount of new business. Essentially, I'd paid for the leaflet drop within the first half day!'

Stuart is more than happy with his decision to buy a franchise rather than slogging away at the jobs market, which in the recent climate has become tougher than ever. 'The recession hasn't touched my business at all,' he says. 'If anything I'm seeing a positive effect as customers decide to do up their old cars to sell them and buy a new car while there are such good deals to be had. I get great job satisfaction and I've got plenty of money in my pocket. Although I'm saving to buy a house with my girlfriend, I'm still able to do everything I want to do - including enjoying a pint of beer in the local pub at the end of a busy day!'

ChipsAway is one of the most successful franchises in the UK with around 350 franchise owners operating nationwide and a network of Master Franchisors overseas. ChipsAway's unique SMART system enables franchise owners operating from fully equipped mobile workshops to make high quality repairs to minor car bodywork damage, quickly and cost-effectively, restoring paintwork in a matter of hours.

Reported by Megan Dunmore