Leather furniture is synonymous with luxury and elegance, but its beauty is fragile. Canadian franchisor Fibrenew International is offering exceptional opportunities in the UK market to selected individuals to participate in this US$100 million dollar industry. Tom Albrighton reports

Leather furniture in the home is frequently damaged by pets, children, sunlight and every day wear and tear, observes Fibrenew's CEO Michael Wilson.

'This specialised market, combined with opportunities in the aviation, automobile and marine sectors, provides our franchisees with an unparalleled opportunity to build and grow very profitable businesses.'

Fibrenew specialise in the restoration of leather, and its unique proprietary process can also be applied to vinyl and plastic trim. 'The potential customer base and opportunity is unlimited,' says Michael. 'In Canada we have refurbished all the leather furniture in the Prime Minister's office, and re-dyed the leather seats on his plane. All the leather furniture in the National Art Gallery was recently re-furbished by Fibrenew. Our clients have included the World Trade Organization, the Government of Canada, Air New Zealand, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, BMW, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Chrysler and Ford to name just a few. We also offer our services to every car dealership, body shop, furniture store, rental agency, and insurance company in the country.' Burns, tears, cracks, fading, pen marks and scratches on any leather item can be restored to new again by Fibrenew franchisees, who can also repair cracked dashboards and plastic trim in automobiles. 'Plastics make up much of our world,' says Michael. 'We can repair most plastic items from window trim and plastic bumpers on cars, to the wing tips on some types of aircraft.'

There are still many untapped markets for Fibrenew, and enterprising franchisees can be the first to unlock them. 'The opportunity is unlimited, and the real opportunity in Britain is in leather,' says Michael. 'I recently visited the UK and the hotels where I stayed in London and Bath were full of leather furniture. Every piece needed refurbishing, but no one was providing the service. Almost every car I looked in, which had a leather interior, required some restoration.'

Franchisees can work full or part-time to suit their own personal priorities, 'but to build a viable business one should create a premium service by offering rapid response, and quality work,' says Michael. 'This requires full-time effort. You basically decide your own future. If you work hard, you can make a lot of money. What you will get back from your business is commensurate with what you put in.'

Fibrenew's franchisees are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds. 'We have franchisees from every walk of life: engineers, nurses, teachers, realtors, mechanics, IT specialists...every vocational and educational background is represented,' says Michael. 'The common denominator for success is a fire in your belly for wanting your own business, and doing whatever it takes to make it happen.

'For an investment of £25,000 Fibrenew will grant a protected franchise territory. We also provide a return airfare from the franchisee's home to Calgary in Canada; two weeks of intensive training; plus a kit comprising tools, chemicals and equipment shipped to the franchisees' location at our expense. Also, our instructors are fully qualified to train an individual in every aspect of starting a Fibrenew business. The class size is limited to seven trainees per session.'

Although franchisees work independently, there is a robust and reliable support network with ongoing technical support provided via phone and the internet, plus an extensive online Technical Library. 'Our intranet is very dynamic,' says Michael. 'Franchisees can log on with a problem and receive help from a colleague anywhere in the world. Ours is a global community.'

Ongoing assistance is provided to franchisees by F.I.S.T. - the Fibrenew International Support Team. 'They have all been 'Fibrenewers' for over 10 years, are experienced in providing the solutions to any franchisee's problems, and are well placed to provide an immediate response to any concerns,' Michael reports.

The company has 153 franchises in 10 countries around the world and is now expanding into the UK. 'In their first year of business, Fibrenew franchisees have earned from US$20,000 to in excess of US$100,000,' reflects Michael. 'In the second year, this should increase significantly, if the required effort is put in. The business growth will depend upon how many people you want to employ - most franchisees hire at least one technician. A Fibrenew franchise is also an asset which can be sold for a considerable profit when you decide that it's time to retire.'

Fibrenew is committed to supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in the third world by supporting the work of Opportunity International. 'This organisation lends money to poor women who would otherwise not qualify for credit,' explains Michael. 'These women use the same business principles to build a business and repay their loans, as a 'Fibrenewer' would in successfully growing their franchise.

'Fibrenew welcomes all serious enquiries from motivated individuals in the UK who are interested in a single franchise unit, or a partnership at the Master Franchise level.'