WOWCOW is a funky super chilled yogurt & desert lounge with a cult like following. The first in Australia and with 6 years under their belt they have recently launched their franchising campaign. Carl Harwin, their founder and CEO sits down with QSR Media to explain what sets them apart and their plans for the future.
QSR Media: WOWCOW launched its franchising campaign last year; what kind of result did you get?
Carl: A very positive result. From the opening of our first store in early 2007, we’ve had interest from people wanting to invest into the business. They’ve questioned whether we were ready to franchise from Day 1, and it’s taken us a long time to make the decision to franchise. We improved the model; we put the systems in; we developed the offering to suit the Australian taste profile; we took our time. We work exclusively with the countries leading franchise recruitment company Franchise Selection to filter our constant flow of leads and handle all recruitment. So on the back of one very successful store in Australia, I think it’s a pretty good start. So, yes, we’re very happy with the result so far. WOWCOW has three groups of franchisees training in both our company stores Darlinghurst and Newtown, which is very exciting for us. In addition, we are going national this year and we’re working on a deal overseas at the moment.
QSR Media: What have been some of the challenges along the way?
Carl: There’s been a lot of challenges. I think the biggest challenge for us is getting the point out there that we’re not another ice cream or frozen yogurt shop. Our product offering as well as the in-store experience offers a true point of difference compared to what's out there in the marketplace both here in Aus and overseas. We’re definitely a crossover into the dessert category priding ourselves on the ‘healthier alternative’.. It’s just getting that across to people who are looking for franchise opportunities and just letting them understand that’s the difference and trying to stand out. It’s trying to differentiate yourself in various ways, and it's now definitely starting to happen for us.
QSR Media: Site location is obviously critical; how do you approach it?
Carl: When you’ve felt the pain of closing a store – and I have in my previous business in South Africa; I’ve built a very substantial food brand – you eventually realize to never rush into it- take your time. And the approach has to be – for some it’s more scientific; for others it’s more gut feel. For us it’s just sort of in between. I have some methods that I use: counting traffic and looking at which side of the road and the way the store represents. There’s a lot of little things that go into finding the right site, including spending enough years really understanding your business and listening to your customers.
QSR Media: Where do you see the business going in the next 12 to 18 months?
Carl: The business is ramping up. We should have close to 10 stores in the next 18 months. Again, this overseas opportunity is very interesting, so we might have something very exciting happening not too far away from Australia. Basically we’re just going to keep growing it from there. In Australia, we are looking at territory development deals with the right partners and the right master franchisees overseas. We want to make sure the support is there to keep the standards high wherever we grow and I will always ensure WOWCOW remains ahead of the curve as a market leader.
QSR Media: What type of franchisees are you trying to attract?
Carl: We’re trying to attract various franchisees, and depending on their strengths, this can range from owner-operators looking for a one-unit opportunity to multi-site operators, even area developers deals in other states in Australia. So there’s definitely a combination that we’re looking for, depending on who’s the right fit and the opportunity that presents itself at the time.
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