Southern Regional 2021 Winners

Penny Colin 2

Penny has worked in the Greeting Card Industry for 20 years and got the inside track on how Card Connection operated as a franchisor when she joined the company as a Regional Sales Manager in 2013. Impressed by this successful business model, she set a 5-year plan to own her own Card Connection franchise.

In 2017 her husband Colin, started working for a Card Connection franchisee whose area was up for sale, so he was able to see if it was something he would like to do. He took to it like a duck to water, immediately seeing the benefits of a better work life balance.

Within 8 months Penny and Colin took the plunge and bought the Reading franchise area, in a short space both going from being employees with an agreed income to franchisees directly rewarded for their efforts they put into the business.

They rented a house in the middle of their territory, with a small garage as their warehouse; enabling them to hit the ground running. As it was September when they took over the business, they launched straight into Christmas deliveries, meaning their dining room was repurposed as a seasonal picking room. With Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter and Father’s Day quickly following, they didn’t get to sit down to dinner in the dining room until July the next year!

Usually new franchisees would expect to see a first year decline in turnover as they got to know their customers and the seasonal effects on their operations, however, Penny’s experience of overseeing over a dozen Card Connections franchisees while she was a Regional Sales Manager for the franchisor really paid dividends. This, plus Colin’s excellent relationships he’s built with store owners, meant they managed to grow the business by 2%.

Year 2 saw no let-up by Penny & Colin, grabbing the prize as regional winners for the highest gift bags and gift wrap sales, all helping them to ending the year with an overall 4% growth in their business.

In their third year they realised the growth of their business, plus the success of Card Connection’s newly launched Collection Range meant they desperately needed more space. Moving to a larger rented house with a double garage, Penny and Colin set themselves a 2-year plan to buy their own home, only to see the Covid Pandemic hit the world. In March 2020 the business literally ground to a halt overnight, and as like many others did, they furloughed as per Government guidelines.

Fortunately, it quickly became apparent that the public’s demand for greeting cards to keep connected to loved ones they couldn’t see in lockdown was enormous. They managed to post stock out to some customers desperate to refill their empty card displays, and as soon as restrictions allowed, they worked relentlessly 7 days a week to keep up with demand. Unprecedented sales followed, ending their 3rd year with a massive 15% growth in turnover.

Now in their 4th year of running the business, lockdown extensions pushed their half results to show a fantastic 17% growth. With June almost upon them they picked up the Card Connection’s award for Regional Franchisees of the Year 2021.

Although their franchise is very demanding, they’ve loved every minute of watching their hard work pay off, not just with increased turnover, but also the satisfaction of a job well done. The cherry on top of the cake is they have bought and moved into their very first home and overseen the building of a bespoke garden unit as their warehouse.

Summing up their Card Connection journey, Penny says, “In short, this business has provided us with a steady income, the ability to buy our own home and have amazing work life balance. What more could we ask for?!”