Set the West Coast Franchise Expo as your Destination

Whether you're a franchisee or franchisor, WCFE brings the right mix of people, concepts and education together at the hottest event in the West USA

In November the doors will open for the Autumn's most anticipated franchise trade show. The West Coast Franchise Expo (WCFE) is back and this year it's bigger than ever. Sponsored by the International Franchise Association and produced by MFV Expositions, the WCFE is celebrating its sixth year with more than 10,000 expected attendees and 350 of the top franchise concepts in the country.

And if that's not enough to set the WCFE apart, consider these numbers. According to FRANdata:

  • 48.5 per cent of past West Coast Franchise Expo attendees said they had more than US$100,000 to invest in a franchise.
  • 75 per cent of those that walk in the door are prospective franchisees looking to buy into a concept.
  • 71 per cent of attendees have narrowed their research to a specific brand or shortlist of brands.
  • 50 per cent of attendees are nearing a decision or have serious interest.
  • 36 per cent of attendees have researched for more than a year and are nearing a decision
  • 43 per cent of attendees are self-employed.

Today almost half of all franchised units are owned by multi-unit franchisees, a movement that's starting to emerge in the franchise industry. That's because successful franchisees know that the path to growth is to add units. The West Coast Franchise Expo draws a strong number of multi-unit franchisees and single-unit franchisees seeking to grow into a multi-unit owner, exactly the type of franchisees a franchisor looks for.

'The best candidate for our concept is a strong businessperson with multi-unit management experience,' says Mark Kienkenapp, Vice President of Franchise Development for LA Sunset Tans. 'Someone who's good at managing people and marketing their business.'

In support of this growing trend, the Expo has added a programme aimed directly at this audience. 'How to Become a Multi-Unit Franchise Owner' assists franchisees in better understanding multi-unit operations. So that franchisees get the most out of this opportunity, industry experts will be on hand to present their experiences and knowledge on multi-unit franchising. Question and answer sessions and expert panels are scheduled to discuss the challenges and opportunities that multi-unit operators face.

'We're pleased to take on entrepreneurs looking to build out multiple units in their territory,' says Patrice Fino, trade show specialist for Instant Tax Service. 'It's really all about how big a franchisee wants to build their dream. One storefront and kiosk is just enough for many of our franchisees, but for those with bigger plans, we ensure that we have a support team primed and ready to help them achieve those goals.'

Aaron's Sales & Leasing has attended the WCFE for the past four years and continues to return to keep the company name fresh in the franchise world. 'We look for prospects that have been successful in other business ventures, whether that's with other franchises or in corporate America,' says Ben Green, Regional Director for Aaron's Sales and Leasing. 'We tend to attract investors that are looking to open multiple units and manage the overall business rather than managing the stores themselves.'

In addition to learning what you need to know to build a multi-unit franchise operation, 'How to Become a Multi-Unit Franchise Owner' will also offer attendees the opportunity to network with speakers and franchise experts. The program is Saturday November 8th from 2pm-5pm. More information is available at

According to the International Franchise Association more American veterans are applying their military skills to starting a small business than ever. Through the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative (VetFran) more than 1,155 former military personnel have purchased a franchise, and more than 200 others are currently in negotiations. Created by the late Don Dwyer, Founder of The Dwyer Group, VetFran is endorsed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The programme offers financial incentives to honourably-discharged veterans looking to purchase a franchise.

'More than 300 franchisors now participate in VetFran, which not only reaffirms the vision that my father had for veterans in franchising but also ensures a strong and healthy future for the programme in the years to come,' says Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO and Chairwoman of The Dwyer Group. 'This initiative receives such strong support from the IFA and franchise community that it's well on the way of surpassing the 350 mark.'

A free WCFE seminar, 'Franchising 101 for Veterans' offers those who have served their country a chance to find out more about becoming entrepreneurs. The programme will include information about the basics of franchising, finance opportunities and a question and answer session with veteran franchisees. 'HomeVestors is an advocate of the VetFran programme,' says Jason Killough, Vice President of Franchise Development for the company. 'A number of HomeVestors franchisees are former military. Our veterans are very self-disciplined and great at following a system, which makes them ideal candidates for franchising.'

Franchisors are also aggressively seeking qualified prospects from minority and women's communities. To better prepare potential franchisees to operate their own business, West Coast Franchise Expo will offer a seminar to help this audience understand the ins and outs of franchising. 'Opportunities in Franchising for Minorities and Women' will address the pitfalls to avoid in the franchising industry, financing options, how to overcome stereotypes, mastering the franchisor/franchisee relationship, non-traditional franchising opportunities and legal considerations.

Instant Tax Service was recently ranked by the National Minority Franchising Initiative as one of the top 50 franchises for minorities. 'Instant Tax Service provides special incentives and franchise deferment options for veterans and minorities,' adds Fino. 'More than 48 per cent of our franchises - including most of our best-performing stores - are minority owned.'

At a time when you can't read a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing about the downturn of the economy, the franchising industry is bucking the trend. With record growth in recent years a recent economic analysis shows that the franchising sector of the economy expanded by more than 18 per cent from 2001 to 2005, adding more than 140,000 new businesses and 1.2 million new jobs to the nation's economy.

One franchisor that's seeing record growth is Richardson, Texas-based Wingstop. 'We recently celebrated 20 consecutive quarters of comp store sales increases,' says Bruce Evans, Vice President of Franchise Development for Wingstop. 'That's a major milestone in this economy and we attribute part of that success to a strong franchise network.'

And in today's economy where everyone is looking for a foolproof plan, buying into a franchise provides entrepreneurs and small business owners the chance to follow a proven system. That opportunity takes some of the anxiety out of opening a business. 'Franchising is a great way to start your own business especially if you're not an entrepreneur,' adds Kienkenapp. 'There are systems to follow and a proven business concept increases your chances for success in your own business.'

Fino agrees that more and more people seem to be looking for an alternative business and new ways of generating income. 'Franchising helps small business owners mitigate risk in a rocky economy,' she says. 'New business owners generally have a higher success rate when they join a proven franchise model, and many investors and entrepreneurs recognise that. It's now our job to make ourselves visible through events like the WCFE.'

To attract the strongest and most qualified leads, the West Coast Franchise Expo has covered the western region with a multi-media marketing and advertising campaign. 'We've blitzed all the markets in the west with an impactful, motivating campaign that targets the region's most qualified prospects,' says Show Director Richard Del Giorno of MFV Expositions. 'Virtually every major industry magazine and regional newspaper is advertising the event and we've placed a commercial buy on local television and radio. We expect this year to be one of our strongest events.'

Rounding out this media mix is a targeted direct mail campaign and a powerful internet presence - all geared to reaching the right qualified prospects. 'Last year's experience at the WCFE was overwhelmingly positive,' says Fino. 'Instant Tax Service generated several key sales from the event and we're pleased to be returning this year to build on those successes. Attending the WCFE also allowed us to talk one-on-one with great people looking to make a change in their lives. Meeting a diverse number of driven, entrepreneurial people is one of the big benefits of expos like the WCFE.'

Reported by: Joel Goldstein