'The best thing I've ever done!'

With big plans for this year, Amanda Feather explains why running an Oakleaf company-owned franchise is the best thing she's ever done

I think people can tell if you love what you do - it shines from you," says Amanda Feather, who runs Oakleaf's company-owned franchise selling period mouldings. It is apparent that this is a woman who is extremely happy with her lot. Amanda started working at Oakleaf in June 2000, and soon realised the potential of getting out on the road and taking product samples directly to customers.

A people person, she found it easy to get on with customers and create good sales opportunities and before long it became clear that the visits were proving to be a resounding success. When Oakleaf decided to establish its own company-owned operation, Amanda was the logical choice to run it. "Before coming to work at Oakleaf I'd renovated a couple of historic buildings, which gave me a good understanding and skills to transfer to this role," she says. "Still, all you really need to run a franchise like this is an eye for design and people skills!"

Amanda often visits customers with her fitter, who can assess the situation and explain any issues to the customer. While there is no obligation, Amanda finds that most customers want to order a fully fitted job, rather than just the products to fit themselves.

Typically, franchise owners will sell a high volume of beams and accessories and there are a growing number of high value orders being reported through the franchise network. These have included reproduction oak beams and planking for a swimming pool in London (order value of £40,000), RSJ coverings for a barn conversion in Wales (order value £12,000) and beams for a recent pub refurbishment in Edinburgh (order value £18,000). Managing Director Jonathan Banister believes that, with little effective competition for the range, speedy delivery and sheer ease of use, the business has great potential for growth.

Amanda's business is going well and turnover is increasing. "I have big plans for this year," she confides. Despite having a full-time job running the offices at Oakleaf head office and various other commitments outside work, Amanda fits in the running of the business into her evenings and weekends. "The great thing about this franchise is that it's so flexible. Anyone can do it and fit it in around their lives - it doesn't have to be a full-time commitment. The best thing about it is that I've found there's a real social element to it as well. I've met some lovely people and I've often been invited back once a job is over for dinner, or a barbecue. I have to say it's the best thing I've ever done."