Katie tells us,
“My parents Elvin and David Bennett had operated Cube Datastore under the DataSafe Storage Ltd franchise for seven years, and during that time created a well established and successful operation. They set up the franchise in 2001 – the same year I graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in Transportation Design.”
“I didn’t join the family business straight away; rather I worked in events management following my degree. This was a fantastic experience. Working for a dynamic company like On a Roll Entertainment Ltd and it gave me strong business grounding and the drive to run my own business. I joined my parents’ company in 2007, which was then located in Edinburgh’s Dunedin Street. I was really proud of the tight operation they had been running all these years. It was a thriving business with dedicated and loyal customers.”
We wondered why Katie’s parents had chosen to start in business with a franchise rather than start up a stand-alone business.
“It was an obvious choice for my parents to start with a franchise because they had the advantage of buying into an established company’s systems, marketing and branding. But of course, all these things come at a price. DataSafe Storage provide a recognised brand and support and in the early days this was important but it was my parents’ hard work and personal dedication which fuelled the business growth.
It became clear that there was only so far we could go within a franchise because ultimately DataSafe Storage had final control over the way the business operated.
I could see it would be better to be independent and have real ownership of the business rather than simply leasing a franchise which we were pouring our hearts and souls into.”
So, it was the desire to have overall control of the business that drove your decision to move away from the franchise model?
“Yes. I wanted to be able to invest in the very latest records management technology so that we could provide clients with a full audit history of every box, file and hard drive that we archived. Had we stayed with DataSafe Storage this would not have been possible as we would have been obliged to keep using their software.
I also wanted to relocate the business to more central premises. To do these things I needed to be an entrepreneur rather than a franchisee.”
Even though there were good reasons to move out of the franchise it must still have been a big decision.
“Yes. Buying out of the franchise was a big move financially, but a worthwhile investment as it was our only option if we were to take the business to the next level. On leaving the franchise, we were able to move to larger premises in the Granton area of Edinburgh in and invest in cutting edge records management software. The new record storage and management software, produced by O’Neil Ltd, allows clients to log in online at any time to view exactly what they have in storage, what’s been accessed, by whom and when. It is very powerful customer tool.”
She added: “We have fireproof safes for storing digital media and are taking in around 150 hardware backup tapes a day. All of the boxes held by Cube Datastore have a unique barcode which can be located instantly with a scanner. A further 182,000 files also have individual barcodes to allow quick access to key documents.
The purpose-built base on the Granton Waterfront in Edinburgh is both secure and accessible, with room for the expansion of Katie’s ambitious business plan. Currently two dedicated vehicles and delivery staff offer a 24/7 collection and delivery service for clients.
And has the decision been the right one?
“Of course, now I am out of the franchise I am free of loyalty fees – all profits made by the business can be invested back into keeping our facilities and technology up to speed with industry requirements and, unlike many other data storage companies, Cube Datastore does not charge penalty fees to clients wishing to remove items from storage. This policy ensures customers choose to stay with us for commitment to a high level of customer service.”
And have there been any downsides?
“Not really. I thought some of our clients might have an issue with the name change and re-branding, but if anything the service we provide has improved and so far we have received very positive feedback.
Within months of June’s franchise buyout, Katie also negotiated an MBO with her parents.
That seems like another big step.
“I could see the company was really going somewhere, and my parents were keen to take a step back, so when the opportunity of a management buyout arose I was grateful of the opportunity.
I’m picking up where they left off in terms of service and customer relations, but I am also working on growing areas of the business like digital media storage and document scanning.
I have ten years to pay back the MBO loan I took from my parents, but I want to do that in five years rather than ten. I want to grow profits while growing the business to make sure I can do this.”
So from the experience of Katie and her parents’ it is clear that there are some real benefits to starting a business with the support of an established company with a good reputation. A franchise can be a great way to get started. Once the business starts to grow and it is time to introduce your own ideas and realise your own vision a franchise may be a little restrictive. But as Katie has shown, it is possible to move on and establish a fully owned business if you have the will and ambition to go it alone.
We wish Katie well!