Oakleaf: A Franchise Moulded for success

Moulded from almost 40 years of experience, the Oakleaf franchise is proving successful for franchisees nationwide. Rachel Spaul interviews the Harrogate franchisee

'A really enjoyable business with great potential,' is Alan Gilbert's verdict on the Oakleaf franchise. He joined as a pilot franchisee in Harrogate five years ago from a background in agricultural machinery sales and has recently renewed his franchise agreement for a further term. Alan explains: 'I saw Oakleaf in the local paper and it encompassed everything I wanted from a business. I felt confident in Oakleaf because it is an established company.'

Oakleaf is a family business dating back to the early 1970s providing replica oak mouldings such as beams, panelling and pelmets to a variety of customers including stately homes, new-builds and homeowners. Jonathan Banister, Managing Director, confirms: 'We remain a family-owned and run business committed to the satisfaction of our customers throughout the world. Over the years we have developed an enviable reputation. The market for these products is diverse with franchisees experiencing a varied source of work, which includes high levels of repeat and referral business.'

Working from home, franchisees sell and in most cases arrange fitting of Oakleaf products in designated territories of 100,000 A-C1 customers. Typically franchisees sell a high volume of beams and accessories and there are a growing number of high value orders being reported throughout the network. These have included a wall panelled library in Leicestershire with an order value of £30,000, the complete restoration of a Scottish manse with an order value of £27,000 and the installation of a billiard room into a new property, which had an order value of £40,000.

With no direct competition and alternative material being expensive, difficult to source and install, the business offers high profit margins. 'I have a varied customer base including domestic households, hotels and country houses,' reports Alan. 'Most recently, I fitted new beams for a golfing clubhouse.'

As part of its second phase development plan, Oakleaf has substantially revised its offer, including increased assistance provided to new franchisees with their local marketing campaign. Jonathan states: 'This is an exciting time in Oakleaf's development and a good time to join as a franchisee. The business model is straightforward and easy to operate, franchisees don't need a van or a large storage area as we deliver direct to customers, enabling them to concentrate on building their business and promoting Oakleaf locally. Head office provides ongoing training and support including technical and interior design advice.'

Alan has grown his business through high levels of repeat and referral business, local shows and trade fairs. 'I'm very pleased with the business and am achieving turnover targets. There's still great potential as this is a niche market with little competition. This is a terrific business to be involved with, I enjoy the variety, meeting different people and the satisfaction of completing the job and seeing the finished product.'