I've Been Kinda Poking Around Franchise Opportunities / by Dana Wood

The challenge: To suss-out - in a very low-key, blue sky kind of way - franchise opportunities that fit A) my existing skill-set and B) the way I might want to spend my days and mental capital going forward. Another key consideration: My husband, who would, if I find something I'm dying to do A) provide financial backing and B) possibly be involved in the day-to-day operations.

There's a rainbow here. Can you see it?

There's a rainbow here. Can you see it?

For the moment, however, let's take my husband out of the equation, and zero-in on how someone with my specific career background might possibly find a franchise in her future. 

Re: my existing skill-set: First and foremost, it's in writing - for magazines, primarily, but also for brands and entities. (And by "entities," I'm thinking of projects like providing copy for a digital revamp of a family-owned hotel in Jamaica, and several book proposals I ghosted for clients.) 

Besides writing,  I have a fair amount of expertise (and a massive interest) in beauty + wellness. 

So bearing those two big skill-set buckets - writing and beauty + wellness - in mind, I'm able to narrow the franchise opportunity field waaaaay down.

Many franchise opportunities (let's call them "FO" from now on) are in food service, an area I have zero desire to be in. There are also quite a few in what I call "boy" fields - Jiffy Lube, Ace Hardware, etc. And several FOs fall into a gray zone - neither "girl" nor "boy" in vibe - like Kumon Math & Reading Center, Cruise-Planners and The UPS Store.

While i might consider one of those "gray zone" franchises down the road, for now I'd like to try to hone in on a handful that are a true slam-dunk. 

Recently, I thought I'd possibly found one in HERLIFE magazine. 

It's such a great concept: Local magazines in major metro markets - all under the HERLIFE banner - that celebrate key female movers and shakers in that area. Think CEOs, entrepreneurs, shop-keepers, artists, etc.

Along with beauty + wellness, I absolutely love writing profiles - especially of subjects who haven't already been profiled 800 times before. Immediately, even though I've only lived in FLA for a hot minute, I could see myself lining up cover stories with sharp women in my midst.

In addition to the focus on local businesswomen, HERLIFE features content that's very much in my wheelhouse: Fashion, food, beauty + wellness, etc. 

I shot off an email to the HERLIFE corporate HQ in Kansas City, MO, to inquire whether the Tampa / St. Petersburg area was up for grabs. There's a HERLIFE South Florida, which has been up and running for a few years now, as well as another 10 or so sprinkled around the country.

Immediately, HERLIFE founder Lindsay Aydelotte emailed me back: "Let's talk," she wrote.

The following week, Lindsay and I did talk.

But before I get into the nitty gritty of that phone chat, I did some morning-run recon with my FLA bestie, Common Language founder and chief strategist Michelle Bauer.

Michelle and I attended FIT together, but unlike me, who stuck it out in New York for the next few decades, she headed south, and has been based in St. Petersburg ever since. Not only is Michelle a fantastic, through-thick-and-thin friend, she's seriously business-savvy, and can connect dots like nobody's business.

She and I talk about work stuff constantly, often while we're trotting around Snell Isle eyeballing all the gorge homes, or along the downtown St. Pete waterfront, eyeballing all the gorge...H20.

"You'd need a real powerhouse to handle the ad side," Michelle said when I told her about my HERLIFE Tampa / St. Petersburg idea. "This is a tough market for that. Local magazines have already come and gone, including a few really good ones."

Since Michelle is also on the Board of Governors of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, she obviously knows what she's talking about re: the viability of drumming up advertising from local businesses. 

Point taken. If I were to push ahead with this franchise-magazine idea, I'd need a kick-ass publisher. Having toiled at Conde Nast for so many years, I've had the great fortune to work alongside several kick-ass publishers. I know what goes into those jobs, and that the best publishers not only have major money chops, their people skills are also off-the-hook. I admire kick-ass publishers greatly; they are indeed a rare breed. 

As it turns out, I wouldn't need to worry about tracking down the publisher of my dreams, someone to slay the money dragons while I concerned myself with the words and visuals pieces of the puzzle.

Here's why HERLIFE isn't an ideal fit for me, which I learned in my phone chat with Lindsay Aydelotte: A big chunk of the content is generated corporately, out of Kansas City. The franchisee's main role is to make the money happen, either by farming it out to a publisher and ad sales staff, or, I guess, slogging it out alone. 

In other words, I would have no control over the words and visuals pieces of the puzzle. The pieces I'm good at. The pieces I love. 

Onward...