This month Vicki Mowat, one of Riverford Organic Farm’s franchisees talks about why she chose a franchise business and how it has transformed her work and home life.
To find out more about Riverford Organic Farms Franchise click here to visit their profile page.
Riverford delivers fresh organic produce to the homes of local people via their network of franchisees (vegmen and ladies). They have won numerous awards including the Best Retailer at the Observer Ethical Awards five times, and the RSPCA Good Business Awards.
Vicki and her Husband wanted a career they could feel proud of, this also prompted a relocation of their family from London to Bath.
"We’d always had dreams of running our own business – working together, being our own bosses and being in control of our own destinies. There were several reasons why we chose a franchise instead of starting a business from scratch ourselves, a franchise provides a proven business model.
Riverford in particular offered lots of support and information early in the process about what we could expect our income to be; it provided a positive cash flow from day one; and it meant that we could focus our efforts on what we do best, rather than having to think about every single strategic and operational aspect of running a whole business.
We chose Riverford because we were already passionate about the product. When living in London our lifestyle was pretty hectic with two young children and two full-time, very busy jobs. We were juggling work and childcare like crazy - it was a bit of a military operation, especially when one of us had to be away for work! Our Riverford fruit & vegbox was one of the key things that kept us healthy and organised as a family – it arrived like clockwork every week with no effort on our part, we always knew we could throw a healthy supper together and felt confident that we were buying fruit and veg with ethics!
So we felt that if we valued this product so much, we’d feel really proud to be part of the company. When we looked into it in more depth, it felt very in tune with our values. And I’d always wanted to move back to Bath (I did my first degree here), when we heard that the Bath franchise was up for sale, it felt like serendipity.”
“We spent a huge amount of time working out what our income would be, and whether that would work for us as a family as it was a reduction from our two full-time London salaries. We were given good advice from Riverford while doing our financial projections – we were advised to consider whether we would be financially secure if our actual performance was lower than our projections.
Obviously we thought a good deal about how to finance the purchase of the franchise too. We engaged an accountant to carry out due diligence for us, so that we could reassure ourselves that we really understood what we were taking on and that there would be no hidden surprises.
It’s also important to think about the level of support that comes from the franchisor – what they provide in terms of training, brand, marketing and communications support, whether there are robust systems in place that will enable you to run your business effectively.
We also spent a lot of time thinking about our careers: owning a franchise is totally different from being on an established career ladder within an organisation, you do have to spend time thinking about whether it’s the right path for you.
For us it was also a big lifestyle change as we weren’t just changing our work, but were also uprooting our family, moving house to a much more rural area and changing the children’s school, so we had to seriously consider the impact it would have on our family.
I think it’s wise to reflect a lot: it’s easy to get carried away with the dream. If you’re doing this as a couple you have to frequently stop and communicate openly about your hopes and fears, and check that neither one of you is doing it just because you think the other wants to! It’s a change that will affect the rest of your career and life, so it’s important to keep checking that it’s right for everyone”.
“I’d say it’s a great thing to do as a woman if you’re at a stage in your life where you need to juggle family life with a desire (or need!) to work. It’s certainly made me a much more relaxed and available mum. But it wouldn’t be for everyone – you really do need to think very carefully about whether it’s right for you and your family, and how it will impact your future career path. If you’re doing it with your partner, consider if you really can work together effectively, that advice applies equally to men and women!”
“It’s been a hugely positive move for our family. I am now able to take the children to school and collect them every day, and participate in school and community activities which would have been out of the question in London.
We no longer worry about what we’ll do for childcare during school holidays or if one of the boys falls ill – though during these times I tend to get up really early so that I can get plenty of work done before the children wake up! The flipside is that you do work at weekends and it’s more difficult to take holidays – and the children do have to understand that sometimes mummy has to close the office door and get on with some work…”