Meet our Franchisees
"Card Connection's displays always looked better than any competition I saw."
Gayan Weerakkody took over the Card Connection franchise area of Oxford last year from Ron & Shirley Maynard who retired after 20 years as franchisees! It was a hard act to follow but now Gayan who works with his wife Anjana, who delivers and merchandises Card Connection’s extensive range of high-quality greeting cards and accessories, such as wrap and gift bags, to 170 retailers across the region.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise?
Before joining the Card Connection franchise network, I worked as a forecourt manager for BP for 10 years. This was in North London and I covered five different shops. Because of the nature of the work, it often involved weekends and evening shifts which was hard when I had a young family.
Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose your industry? And why your franchise?
A local franchisee used to deliver to my BP store and the displays always looked better than any competition that I saw at other retail outlets. I did some research and was also impressed with the size of the 100-strong National Account network which Card Connection franchisees supplied to, in addition to the many independent retailers. I could see from the sales figures this really was a viable business and one I would enjoy.
I also liked the business model where Card Connection’s franchisees use a proven system to place the quality range of greeting cards and gifts in retail outlets on a ‘consignment’ basis. This means the stock and display equipment are installed on free loan to the retailer. This is one step beyond ‘sale or return’ as Card Connection customers never have to buy the stock initially, only paying for what they sell. Card Connection’s award-winning merchandising service provided to retailers by local franchisees has proved popular with retailers and supported franchisees in business for more than two decades.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
The Card Connection training was excellent and consisted of 2 days at head office in Farnham, Surrey. Then my area franchise manager joined me on the road for 3-4 weeks. He was there to help and support me every step of the way, so I could learn on the job. The Card Connection concept is straight forward so after a few weeks I could do everything on my own, with my franchise manager just a phone call away if I ever needed further help.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I’m on the road typically around 8.30am and visit between 7-10 retail stores, delivering the greetings cards and accessories and merchandising the displays to ensure they look attractive for customers. I’m home by around 4.30pm to pack-up the van with the stock for the following day which my wife Anjana has picked and prepared.
What challenges have you faced?
Buying the Card Connection franchise in Oxford meant moving from London at the same time which proved demanding at the time! However, now the move is out of the way, I think the main challenge I face is to get the seasons completed. Normally, I deliver to my retail customers on a six-week cycle. When Easter, Mother’s Day and then Father’s Day all come close together I need to move to visiting every five weeks so I need to manage the increased workload carefully.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life? If so how?
Yes, absolutely! I now have evenings and weekends free to spend with my family. Life has become very ‘civilised’! Plus, we’ve managed to fit in a family holiday! Being self-employed is hard-work, but because you are making money for yourself it is motivating and I enjoy what I do every day.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
I would encourage new franchisees to research the geographical area they will be working in. You need to consider competitors and the market too. A good territory can really help pave the way for success.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
I think to be successful you should work smart. There is little point in working harder and still earning the same money. Therefore, I’m quite focused on working with good retail accounts rather than servicing huge numbers of smaller, less profitable stores. I think with any business, standing back and evaluating what is working and what is not is a valuable and important, ongoing exercise!
What are your plans for the future?
I have 170 retail customers currently and ultimately, I would like to grow this to 200 stores. We rent our home at the moment, so I believe growing the business to this size will enable me to buy a house for my family.
Would you do it all again?
Yes, I really enjoy being a Card Connection franchisee.