Six months after her first Ableworld franchise in Newark-upon-Trent, Donna Wilson opened the doors on a new store in Lincoln.

Although it is quite unusual for a franchisee to open a second unit so quickly, Donna had the advantage that the first store in Newark was a resale. In other words she purchased an on-going business which already had a customer base and presence in the local community.

Donna's success highlights the growing incidence of women in franchising and we interviewed Donna to find out her views about her experience of being a franchisee.

Tell us a little about your background

"My background has been mainly in Custodial Management in the Civil Service, retail and hospitality retail management. I have a BSc degree that will be conferred this year - one that I've been studying for since 1993!"

Why did you decide to invest in an Ableworld franchise?

"I invested in an Ableworld franchise because of their ethical values and no pressure sales approach. My personal experience of being mother to a special needs child, gave me a great insight into what practical support was and is lacking. As an end-service user, I know how important Ableworld is for the community. The products we sell simply aren't easy to get hold of by other means. Or when they are, the prices are very expensive. Why should vulnerable people in society pay high prices for products that they desperately need? Ableworld are set to change that and I'm all for it."

How did you find the training?

"The training was very thorough, and covered training of the whole till system, stairlift awareness training, customer services, accounts, marketing and product training. It was a lot of information to take in, but it does make sense the more time you spend in store."

What has been your experience since you joined the Ableworld network?

"I've met and had the privilege of helping people with many needs and disabilities. Some of my customers are very poorly; giving them a little comfort and better quality of life is very rewarding."

How have you staffed your store?

"I have two full-time assistant managers and a full-time engineer in Newark. The engineer will also be able to cover the new Lincoln store so I have recruited two more store staff – a manager and assistant manager."

What has been the highlight since you started?

"Getting franchise of the month in November 2014, a month after taking over the Newark franchise and just recently opening a second store in Lincoln."

What has been your experience of the support received from Ableworld?

"Everyone has been lovely and supportive. I've spoken to other franchise owners, and they've been very encouraging. It's nice to get help and advice from others with more experience running their franchise. Head office have been brilliant, you can pick up the phone and get help with any aspect of the franchise. Nothing is too much trouble and you can pick the brains of many years of experience."

What are your plans for the future?

"My plan was to expand into Lincoln first and then to other surrounding cities. My long-term plan is to offer specialist advice as a seating and positioning consultant. My larger stores will have dedicated specialist sections with consultation areas."

Have you perceived any particular challenges in becoming a franchisee?

"The challenges have been learning how to write a business plan, obtain funding and learning sage when I had no experience of it before. However, this is why I joined a franchise, to get help and advice."

Finally what would you say to anyone considering franchising as an option?

"Go for it, only you can hold yourself back. Make sure you've done your homework and worked out the viability of the business in the short and long term before you take it on. It's great working for yourself, you can grow your business and determine your own destiny."

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