Every neighborhood has one, the person you go to for advice on how to fix a leaky faucet or how to reupholster a chair or what color paint is best for the family room. In their neighborhood, Florence Jones was the go-to neighbor for design, technology and how-to for home improvement projects. Susan Mintz was the go-to neighbor when it came to paint color and home renovation. These long-time neighbors and work-from-home moms joined forces in 2007 to join the booming home improvement industry: they combined their creative talents and strengths to create Arlington Color Consultants, and later, America’s Color Consultants, a national franchise for women who want to work for themselves.
We recently spoke with America’s Color Consultants co-founder Susan Brackna Mintz to find out what makes the franchise special, what they look for in potential franchisees and, lastly, what's next for the franchise, both in the near future and long term.
What’s your background?
Personally, I have a public relations/event planning background, having operated by own business in Washington, D.C. for 23 years. Concurrently, I helped family and neighbors with their design/home improvement projects. In 2007 my neighbor and friend, Florence Jones, who had a graphic arts/design business, and I started a paint color consulting business in Arlington, VA. Over the years, the business model was refined and the decision was made to offer the opportunity to others who wanted a different kind of profession. America’s Color Consultants was formed and we worked with Franchise Marketing Systems to get all the legal background work completed. We launched in 2015 and signed our first franchisee in January 2016.
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What’s special about the franchise?
America’s Color Consultants is the nation’s first in-home paint color consulting franchise. It is founded and operated by two women who were formerly work-from-home moms. It provides a niche service in the home improvement/redesign industry, helping individuals who are overwhelmed by the choices in paint color/finishes, etc. in today’s marketplace.
What is the idea behind the franchise?
To offer a low-cost entry to business ownership for artistic, creative individuals who can utilize their art/design knowhow to bring in additional household income while enjoying a flexible, satisfying profession as a paint color consultant.
How many units are there?
One (just signed this week!). The co-founders each have a color consulting business branded with the name/logo.
How does it compare to its competition?
There is no franchised competition, rather interior designers or in-store paint consultants (where found) are our competitors. Since we help people find the perfect paint color for their home, in their home, we can take into consideration lighting, furnishings and personal tastes and desires of the client. We don’t push our personal design esthetic. We find we are unique in the field.
What's your franchise’s motto?
“We Make Choosing the Perfect Paint Color Easy!”
What is the total investment to open a franchise?
$8,500 franchise fee and whatever the individual needs to set up a home office that they don’t already have (computer, phone, printer, etc.)
What do you look for in a potential franchisee?
Someone with a background or training in art or design, or even someone who has a natural talent in working with color. Most importantly, the individual has to be personable, patient and willing to forego their own tastes for that of their client. We take an educational approach to our assistance, so clients understand why we are offering the selections we do, and why (ultimately) they love them!
Can you describe a typical day in the life of a franchisee?
Depending on the personal demands faced by our franchisee (we insist on family first), a typical day would include phone calls, a trip to local shops and paint stores to market the business and network, one to two client appointments, preparation of the Plans Booklet for previous clients, Quickbook entries and follow-up phone calls.
What type of initial training do you offer new franchisees?
A week of hands-on training at our headquarters in Warrenton, VA and yearly organization-wide training of three days for trend/color updates, business practices, etc.
What kind of ongoing support do you offer?
Daily availability via phone, Skype, email. Of course we will also offer in-person help or retraining, as necessary.
What's next for your franchise, both in the near future and long term?
We hired both a local Franchise Consultant to add more franchises in the Washington, D.C/.Baltimore/Annapolis/Richmond corridor and Franchise Marketing Group to handle advertising and marketing on a larger scale. We will add franchisees on the East Coast before expanding to the West Coast and Midwest. We want to grow an average of six franchisees a year for the first five years.
What advice can you offer potential franchisees?
Affordable business opportunities do exist! We are offering all we have learned in the past nine years to other individuals who want to pursue an artistic career, have flexibility in their lives in order to maintain a healthy relationship with their children and/or aging parents and really help people who are at a loss when it comes to choosing color. Running your own business does require organization and motivation, but the rewards are plentiful and Florence and I (as well as all the other franchisees) are there to help along the way.
What motivates you to keep going?
The creative nature of the color consulting work (I operate Malibu Color Consultants in California) makes every day different. Working with people who really want help with their color choices is both fun and satisfying. The sale of franchises is a totally different animal — knowing our system works and is perfect for so many lifestyles and is offered for a very fair fee — getting that message out is more difficult than I thought it would be.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
We recently brought on a Franchise Sales Consultant and probably should have done that sooner.
Please tell us your secret to success…
A good attitude and knowing our concept is sound, fair, unique and staying the course will bring success. But always being willing to listen and learn is definitely the other half of the equation!
What is the worst job you have ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked as an assistant to a partner in a big consulting firm many years ago and his lack of respect for the work I and other assistants performed made me realize I needed to work for myself.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Houzz — to both get and share ideas with my clients. Who doesn’t love a million photos of great spaces? I also use the tools and resources provided by Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Pittsburgh Paint, Farrow and Ball and local paint manufacturers both online and at their special events.
Do you (or did you ever) have a mentor?
Sadly, no. But I would probably recommend someone finding one, if possible.
Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Your business is an extension of you, so always present your best self. In a service business, (like mine) word of mouth is everything. Always be aware of what you say and to whom you say it. Also, be kind.
Where can people find out more about America’s Color Consultants franchise opportunities?
Visit the website here.
Where can people find America’s Color Consultants on social media?
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