Whatever your achievement goals, ChipsAway offers a serious earnings opportunity. Megan Dunmore speaks to a franchisee who has achieved his goals with a ChipsAway franchise

Sandip Kalkat promised himself that by the time he was 30, he would own a Maserati sports car. That, he felt, would be the ultimate symbol of success. But by the time he was 28, it had become clear to Sandip that he was never going to make that kind of money as someone else's employee. So just two years ago the former IT Project Manager and self-confessed 'car nut' decided that in order to achieve his life's ambition, he would break out of employment and launch his own lucrative business.

'I had fancied doing something on my own for some time,' he recalls, 'but an offer of voluntary redundancy came at the right moment and gave me the push, as well as the capital, that I needed to make a firm decision.'

Sandip was attracted to the idea of franchising as a lower risk route to self-employment, and so started to research the various opportunities available to him. As his passion had always been cars, he was particularly interested in automotive franchises.

'I wanted to find a business that would give me a real buzz as well as the opportunity to make a lot of money,' he says. 'Although I'm ambitious and want a good lifestyle, for me, enjoying what you do is really important. After all, to make a success of your own business, you have to be prepared to put in the hours and work harder than you've ever done before. You've got to love it!' Sandip looked at a number of different franchises, but he kept coming back to automotive paintwork repair specialists ChipsAway International. He admits that he was surprised to find that ChipsAway was a franchise organisation: 'I'd heard of ChipsAway of course, but never realised that I could own and run a ChipsAway business myself.'

Repairing minor paintwork damage to original standard appealed, the unique ChipsAway technology and huge potential marketplace impressed, and Sandip accordingly signed up for one of the company's free Open Days to find out more.

He visited the Midlands-based ChipsAway headquarters and spent the day with other potential recruits, watching repairs being done, talking to existing franchisees about their experiences and questioning members of the management team. He had a chance to try his own hand at a repair and was surprised by how easy it was.

'I was very excited by everything I'd seen and heard at the Open Day,' Sandip says, 'so much so, that the next week I went along with my deposit!'

In common with most new ChipsAway franchisees, Sandip had never done anything of the kind before, but says he found the paint process easy to learn, and the ongoing advice and support from the ChipsAway management team invaluable. Within a couple of weeks he was brimming with confidence. 'I was eager to get out there and get started,' he reports. 'My first repair took me three quarters of a day, my customer was delighted and I was well proud of myself. With practice, you get better and better of course. Nowadays a similar repair takes me an hour and a half.'

In addition to comprehensive training, ChipsAway franchisees benefit from a tailored, high impact launch on their territory, supported by a Business Developer - an established ChipsAway franchisee who mentors the new franchisee on a one-to-one basis until they are 'fully fledged'. As motorists represent ChipsAway's prime target audience, these launches tend to be held in a busy shopping centre or car park over a weekend.

'My launch was fantastic,' Sandip confirms. 'It was cracking weather, and we staged a promotion from Friday to Sunday. I was absolutely astounded by the response. Over the weekend, I wrote £18,400 worth of estimates and booked in £5,000 worth of confirmed work. As a result, when I opened my doors for business on that first Monday morning, I had immediate repairs to do and plenty of work on the books - unbelievable for a new business!'

At the start, Sandip estimates that he was repairing between seven and 10 cars a week. Currently, he averages around 20 a week and is never short of work. Much of Sandip's work is on prestige cars, although he undertakes Motability work and has some fleet customers too. 'The key is getting your name known,' he explains. 'After that first launch, a few of my mates helped me drop leaflets into houses on my territory, just a few streets at a time. Once people have had a repair done, they tend to come back and they also tell their neighbours and friends. I'd say that most of my work now is from word of mouth recommendation.'

Sandip has just turned 30 and, yes, he has attained that longed for Maserati (which he bought outright). It's not quite the love of his life, he jokes - Sandip gets married in just under six weeks - but pretty close!

His ChipsAway franchise has delivered the lifestyle Sandip aspired to. He has a fabulous car (a far cry from his first Ford Fiesta LX, he says), a hectic social life and is earning substantially more than he could have hoped for in his previous career. But best of all, he says, he loves every minute of every day.

'I still work very long hours, but I have brilliant holidays and party hard at the weekends. Before, I was part of a big organisation and couldn't really see what impact I personally made in my work. With your own business, you can see your input and take a personal pride in your work. This business must be one of the few where your customers smile at you and say 'thank you, that's absolutely brilliant' as they hand over the cheque - that means a lot.' Sandip operates from a personalised ChipsAway VW Transporter, customised as a fully equipped mobile workshop, which enables him to provide his repair services wherever is most convenient for his customer, whether at home or at work. He plans to have a second vehicle in operation within the next 12 months and in the longer term may open a ChipsAway CarCare Centre to cope with the increasing workload. 'My ultimate goal is to retire early and have a place in Spain,' Sandip muses. 'After all, you've always got to have a dream!'

ChipsAway developed the first ever SMART (Small and Medium Area Repair Technology) system for repairing minor damage to automotive paintwork in Pennsylvania, USA. The concept was launched in the UK 10 years ago offering a high quality, low cost and convenient alternative to traditional body shop repairs.

ChipsAway International has remained the dominant brand in the SMART repairs sector, with over 350 successful franchisees in operation nationwide and Master Franchisees in 11 countries worldwide.

With 30 million cars on the roads in the UK alone, and an estimated 10 million repair opportunities annually, the ChipsAway franchise is set to grow and grow, creating for Sandip Kalkat and hard working, ambitious people like him an opportunity limited only by their dreams.