Some of O2E's young entrepreneurs repping their brands. Photo: O2E Brands Some of O2E's young entrepreneurs repping their brands. Photo: O2E Brands

About 10 years ago, our first brand, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, went through a period of hyper-growth, thanks in large part to an appearance on Oprah. The franchise partners who came on board around that time were young and relatively inexperienced in business, but made up for it with sheer determination and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Things have changed. Today, entrepreneurship is still a desired career path, but the conversation is dominated by words like “tech” and “startups.” The concept of franchising doesn’t appeal to the smartphone generation—when we mention the F word to Millennials, their eyes glaze over.

I know that franchising is seen as a formulaic way to launch a business. The Subways and McDonald’s of the world have given most people the idea that franchising equates with top-down corporate management and a lack of creativity.

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I think it’s time to change those perceptions. Done right, franchising is an entrepreneurial growth machine.

At O2E Brands, we have a group of millennial partners who understand that franchising can be a launch pad for quick growth in difficult markets.

Brent Sharpless and three friends graduated from university two years ago. Although they had solid jobs in law, insurance, and finance, they were hungry for more. For these four young men, running a business provided the opportunity for collaboration, flexibility, and creativity beyond their monotonous suit-and-tie workdays.

After doing a lot of research, they decided to buy a WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise, sister-brand to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? They saw franchising as an entry point to entrepreneurship in Toronto, not the final step. “It wasn’t about painting,” says Brent. “It was about owning a business, but having resources to draw on and support if we needed it while we made our mark in a competitive space.”

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A widely-cited statistic is that nine out of 10 startups fail. In a market flooded with new gadgets and apps, even the biggest tech firms have to constantly innovate to stay relevant. Even in the home-services industry, breaking in means going up against well-established behemoths. In this competitive startup landscape, few are destined to make it.

Even if you manage to become profitable, launching a business is incredibly stressful. In the early years of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I worked 80 hours a week, dealt with a revolving door of bad hires, and sometimes couldn’t pay myself. After toughing it out myself, and watching Brent and his friends succeed with a little support and creative freedom, I’ve come to see that there is an easier way into business ownership. It’s a type of startup crossover, blending certain aspects of franchising with the creativity and freedom of entrepreneurship—a totally new, powerful beast.

Our way of franchising, which Brent and his friends have leveraged so well, uses crowdsourcing and peer mentoring to ensure systems are agile and evolving. Building a thriving franchise means tapping into skills that are critical to any startup. Each franchise’s success is dependent on our partners having the passion, creativity, and entrepreneurial grit to make a dent in their market.

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New partners in our system go through an intensive, two-week program where they get the same kind of education you’d find in a business incubator. They’re paired with experienced owners, so they can learn the ropes from someone who’s done what they’re about to attempt already. We offer capital to partners who are willing to test new marketing strategies and share their results across the network. And we never just summarily impose rules from HQ—we involve everyone in decision-making and forge our way forward together.

Our model is modern, agile, and draws on the expertise of our entire system to build something bigger. We don’t want our franchise partners blindly following directives—we want systems that improve over time, and make our businesses more profitable for everyone. For that, we need keen innovators and vocal entrepreneurs.

“Franchising” doesn’t sound the like the right word for our model, and it sure sounds old school. That’s why we don’t use the “F word” at O2E brands anymore. To me, “entrypreneurship” better describes what we’re doing: We help aspiring entrepreneurs find an entry point to entrepreneurship. Entrypreneurship mixes franchising and entrepreneurship, functioning as a gateway for those who otherwise don’t have access to the expertise or capital to start out on their own.

The O2E Brands system is built on some fundamental rules and processes that are the foundation of the O2E Brands system, of course, and I understand that entrypreneurship isn’t exactly the same as launching a business from scratch. But it is a chance to take a tested idea into a new market with freedom, flexibility, and support. Our partners benefit from the knowledge of mentors as well as access to capital and shared best practices, while maintaining control of day-to-day operations in their own shops.

Entrypreneurship takes an old idea and turns it into something new: an exciting, unexpected way into entrepreneurship. Embrace it, and you can drop the F word to start building the successful business story you’ll be telling 20 years from now—just like I did.

Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine. I’m a strong believer in ongoing personal and professional development and I like to show others how to use goal-setting to take the lead in their own business. I’m passionate about people, and I’ve created a corporate culture where we are all building something bigger, together. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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How has your business changed the industry its in, or innovated on an old model? Let us know by commenting below.

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