Technology Answers Demand for Franchises

Startup Journal:

THE PROBLEM: Demand for franchises outpaces an entrepreneur’s ability to sell them.

Ken Sully picked up the phone in his San Diego office 18 months ago and a man introduced himself as Rick Wetzel. Mr. Wetzel and his wife, Elise, had recently opened an eBay drop-off store in Pasadena. The store, iSold It LLC, would photograph its customers’ candlesticks or cameras, list them on eBay, ship them, process checks, and take a commission on the sales.

After a splash of press, the Wetzels (who also own the chain Wetzel’s Pretzels) were drowning in inquiries from people who wanted to buy franchises. Mr. Wetzel wanted to know if Mr. Sully would be interested in becoming chief executive of iSold It.

Mr. Sully’s background — with Mail Boxes Etc. as vice president for development when it was a fast-growing start-up, and some dot-com ventures — gave him the critical experience to take over as the iSold It CEO.

When he came aboard, the Wetzels had sold and opened one franchise. But they were sitting on leads from the hundreds of calls a week. Where to turn first?

THE SOLUTION: Just as online technology gave rise to the eBay marketplace, it would allow iSold It to scale up efficiently and fast. The company devised an online system to collect data from all inquiries and respond with email packages of information. “We don’t mail anything,” Mr. Sully says. Potential franchisees register for conference calls, held four times a week, allowing salespeople to present the concept to dozens of people at once.


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