Brought To You By SeoSamba . . . Comprehensive, High Performing Marketing Solutions For Mature And Emerging Franchise Brands . . . To Supercharge Your Franchise Marketing, Go To seosamba.com.
Nora Farhat already owns one location of British Swim School, another Buzz franchise with 200-plus locations that provide swimming lessons for children. She has been running her swim school for seven years and also owns a Mathnasium tutoring center.
Always eager to fill any gap she notices in a market, Farhat, who works with her husband, Neil, jumped at the opportunity to open a Pool Scouts unit.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Pool Scouts opening
- Recent success with British Swim School & Mathnasium
- How Buzz Franchise Brands sets its franchisees up for success
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio. Brought to you by SeoSamba comprehensive high performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands. To supercharge your franchise marketing, go to seosamba.com. That’s seosamba.com
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Lee Kantor here another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio and this is going to be a good one. Today on the show we have Nora Farhat and she is a multi unit, multi brand franchisee with Pool Scouts, British Swim School, Mathnasium. Welcome, Nora.
Nora Farhat: [00:00:49] Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:51] Well, I’m excited to learn about your journey. How did you choose did you choose all three of those brands simultaneously or did you start with one and evolve? Can you tell your your story a little bit?
Nora Farhat: [00:01:03] Yeah, absolutely. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I picked all at the same time. You know, it was definitely a journey. I think that is certainly the right word. I started out my my career pretty much in corporate. Like most entrepreneurs, I was pursuing corporate type jobs. And then I always wanted to have my own business, but I didn’t quite know how to get there. I didn’t know how to start it. I didn’t have a craft. I didn’t have a specific skill set, I didn’t have a product. But I definitely always had the energy and enthusiasm I’m going to call it as an entrepreneur. But I started out in corporate and just through years of working through corporate jobs, owning my own business was always something in the back of my mind, and there was a point in time where I was working overseas and I was looking to transfer back to the US and I thought, you know what, this is probably the only time I can choose to either go get another job or I could potentially just pursue this. And that’s kind of what started my journey of franchising. So it was how do I give myself this chance of how do I take a risk on myself? After years of working a corporate world, I kind of knew where my skill sets were. I knew I was an operator, and that’s kind of actually what attracted me to franchising was I loved the idea that these models were proven out and you really got to take a concept that was already in the market and then just really bring it into a community and kind of run it the best way that you can.
Nora Farhat: [00:02:33] So just based on that starting point, that’s when we started to do some research working with some franchise consultants, and I ran into British Swim School. That was my first franchise and that was really just mainly, you know, through a lot of research, it seemed like it allowed you to either start off small and it allowed me to grow it the way I thought would make sense. And it was a kids business and I had young kids and they needed swim lessons. So I was actually probably the consumer of the product that I was out there kind of looking for. So that started us out with British Swim School. British Swim School Starts is swim lessons. It focuses on survival lessons first, stroke development second. And we start as early as three months and we go all the way to adult swimming. And that model really just kind of worked for us. It worked really nicely and we were able to be very successful with it. And after a few years later, we were going and driving our kids about 30 minutes from town for a really good math program. It was a math learning center and this is pre COVID time, but I recognize the importance of math skills and every time I would make a drive, I would just be like, Man, this is missing in my community.
Nora Farhat: [00:03:50] And then I thought, Well, am I waiting for somebody to open it or is it the right fit for us? So that’s kind of what led us to our second business, which was magnesium, which is a math learning center, and it focuses on working with kids, on filling their gaps or keeping them advanced in math. And it’s anywhere from first grade to kind of 12th grade is usually the range that it goes to. So with my British swim school experience, we still had that. Then we were able to kind of build magnesium. Then the pandemic made me realize how many people started to build or own home pools. And through that, through just kind of getting the phone calls, how do we service our pool? Where do we go for this service? Kind of looked around again where, you know, entrepreneur at heart. I was like, we have a problem here and I think we can figure out a solution. And that kind of led us to our third, which was pool scouts, which is a primarily residential home pool cleaning service and some maintenance work. So that’s kind of our journey. I don’t see it that it’s it’s ending any time soon, but it’s kind of one played off the other and it kind of kept building from there.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:04] Now, at the beginning of the journey, you mentioned you worked in corporate, a lot of folks who work in corporate. Their first move and leaving corporate is to be a consultant to the same people that they’re working with in corporate. How what was your thought process in and around that? Were you saying, look, I’ve just got to pull the ripcord. I don’t want to do this at all anymore and I’m just going to go in a totally different direction. Did you consider doing consulting and you just felt that this was just more of the same and you were looking for a dramatic change, like talk about kind of the mindset at that stage where you were right at that cusp of where you were and where you wanted to go.
Nora Farhat: [00:05:47] Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, that’s such an important point because I think this decision could go so many different ways for people. I would have not left a a job to go pursue a business just blindly. I guess let me just kind of put that out there. I think, you know, there’s the financial side of it, there’s the experience side of it. For me, it was a transition period. Regardless, I had been living and working overseas. I was in the Abu Dhabi Dubai area for about eight years, and at that time when I was looking to transition with my family back to the US, I could have gone and pursued, just kind of stepped back into another corporate job or just transferred with the company that I was working with. But then I thought, what a rare opportunity. Instead of going and jumping from one corporate career to the other is where I get to kind of experience this. You know, I knew what funds I had available. I knew what timeline I had in mind in my mind. And honestly, my kind of leap was, if this doesn’t work or if this takes longer to kick off, then I think I want I’ll go back and get another job I trusted in my skill sets enough and I knew I had enough networks and you know, I could probably hopefully get another job down the line.
Nora Farhat: [00:07:04] So my plan was I’m going to take this leap of faith a little bit. And again, everybody’s situation is so unique, right? Like everybody knows what their own individual financial status is and timing and their spouse and so many different factors play into it. But for me, I knew it was the right time for me. I knew that I could take this on as that 24 seven kind of project. And I also felt like I had been working for this for years. I knew where my background was strong, I knew what I brought to the table, and I was really comfortable with that. It really just took a chance for me to kind of take a leap and faith on myself. But I recognize that that’s not everybody’s journey. I know I have spoken to so many people where maybe that’s not the right decision or they might look at it as This has to be something that works after hours. You know, I still need my job and I need to be there and that’s completely okay. So but for me at that time, that was kind of that leap that I was able to take, and I recognized that that was a rare opportunity and I would not do it otherwise if it was not. Everything was kind of aligning the way it should for me.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:11] So when you decide to make the leap into a different kind of career path and a different industry, now the world is your oyster. There’s thousands of choices when it comes to a franchise specifically, and other choices would have been to buy an existing business. And wherever you were moving to, I mean, there was there was a variety of choices that you could have made in this regard, but you decided to go the franchise route. Now, once you go down that path, then there’s a whole other bunch of choices, because no matter who’s advising you, they’re showing you only a sliver of what’s all of it that’s available. They’re not showing you the entire universe of franchises. They’re showing you what they represented, their companies represent. How did you kind of navigate those waters and and find, okay, these are the people I trust these people because it’s the Wild West out there. There’s a lot of great franchise people and there’s a lot of not so great franchise people. So how did you kind of get the lay of the land and know, okay, these are the good people. These people, I think I’ll just keep an arm’s length. I believe what this person is saying, this person, I’m a little skeptical. How did you kind of navigate that?
Nora Farhat: [00:09:24] You know, it’s interesting, but sometimes ignorance is a little bliss in this situation. I think I didn’t know how to start a business, and I think that that’s an interesting perspective. I think I was in the mindset of I want a business. I am not sure if I have a personal trait or something that I want to sell myself. Let me look at a franchise and then it was more just navigating exactly with my instincts. It was kind of going through and saying, I know what I want to spend X amount of money because you and I both know that that’s an important factor when considering a franchise. Some franchises, you can’t enter the market with less than $1,000,000. Others are going to tell you you need a minimum of this amount. So for me, it was also how much money am I willing to put into this venture? And, you know, what am I interested in personally? Honestly, I could have gone in so many different directions, but I didn’t let all of that inundate me too much. I think it was I like things very black and white for myself. So for me it was more, Hey, this is kind of the money. These are the fields, these are the areas I would be interested in. And then a franchise consultant said, Hey, here’s the 50 lists of different businesses you can potentially do. And I said, Well, let’s narrow that down.
Nora Farhat: [00:10:37] I know these are my skill sets. And then it was just kind of going on my own instincts. I think you have to sometimes if you keep checking and checking and recheck. You can keep circling that for a long time. I’ve run into people that say I’ve been searching for a franchise for the last three years or 40 years and they’ve talked to everybody. And I just thought, wow, they drown themselves with too much information. You know, you almost have to step back a little bit and just be like, wait a second, what is the right fit? First, you have to know what you’re looking for in order to find it. If you blindly let everybody give you the sales pitch, you’re going to feel a bit overwhelmed with it. I think the trick is first, figure out where your lines are, where your parameters are, and then how what meets my needs. Because there’s businesses out there that you can. There’s every type of business. There are small investment businesses there, service industry, there’s product businesses. But I think for me the very first step is what am I willing, what am I looking for and what am I willing to invest into this business? And actually what attracted me to our British swim school model. It wasn’t like the other swim schools where you would have to spend millions of dollars building out a facility, because I wasn’t ready to take that kind of jump yet.
Nora Farhat: [00:11:52] I didn’t know anything about that business. It was more, Hey, here’s a program. This is an excellent program, and I learned a lot about the program. So I love the program. But then it was you can start off with renting facilities, you can start off this way. My business, from the day I signed the contract, which started off as just renting facilities to today, I have my own million dollar buildout type facility. It just it transitioned into that. But it was not a decision I would have made when I first started seven years ago. So I think the first trick is what exactly are you looking for and what can you invest before you start doing a lot of that research? Because exactly like you said, you can get inundated with just too much information and I’m not looking for sales pitch. I have to look at the numbers. It has to make sense for me. You know, is this profitable? Is this a service? Do I see this working? And my biggest factor always is, is this something that I would buy? Is this something I would invest in? And even as you hear my journey, everything I kind of invested in was something I already decided that I would be a consumer of that product or service.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:00] Now, when you were going about this process and you were learning as you were going along and becoming more educated at every step, were there certain things that you were able to you know, maybe it was your gut instinct. Maybe it’s just your, you know, kind of your natural gifts of understanding business and people. But there are certain things that when you talk to a franchise or franchisor that were like, okay, these are kind of must haves. I need these qualities. This makes me feel comfortable when I hear too much of this. This makes me a little uncomfortable. I’m a little skeptical of this. Like, were there certain kind of signals that were like, okay, this is a green light here. This is a yellow, this is a red that you can share with the listeners who are going through the same process, like things that are kind of must have things that are run away from us, from based on your experience in dealing with a variety of these folks?
Nora Farhat: [00:14:01] Yeah, absolutely. I think it was just more my instincts. I don’t love too much sales pitches, so if somebody overselling me something, it always makes me step back a little bit. For me, it’s a little bit of a red flag because the reality is everything sounds great, right? We know that we everything can sound incredible and great. So sometimes with some businesses, it was almost like an oversell or urgency. I don’t believe in urgency. I don’t believe there’s only ten territories left. And if you don’t act fast, I find that I don’t I didn’t care for people who would put like, kind of arbitrary, like time time limits on me. I didn’t think it was necessary. I think a good business is a viable business in a good area. So for me, an over sales pitch was always kind of a little bit of a red flag for me or a time limit. There is no time limit to run when you’re not even ready yet. And again, granted, there’s always time parameters, but the idea that it’s selling out or that it’s an urgency that’s it’s kind of like a car sales dealership. And if you don’t sign today, you’re going to lose out because somebody’s behind you. Well, then maybe it wasn’t meant for me. I’m very comfortable with that. And I think that to me, those are my personal red flags.
Nora Farhat: [00:15:19] I know everybody has different ones. Also, any business that I could not see myself fully doing, some businesses were very sales like it was. You have to go. You have to go meet people. It was very driven by actions that I would have to take. And then I thought from all my strong suits, I don’t love sales. I could do sales, but I don’t love it. Like that wasn’t who I was as a person. And I knew if I had to show up every single day and go off in. These sales pitches. It wasn’t going to be the best fit for me. So for me it also depends on is whatever I’m signing up for something that I also fit within my skill set and something that I love. I don’t necessarily believe you have to hire somebody for Oh, I don’t want to do sales. I’ll hire somebody. I don’t believe that. Especially when you’re first starting your business. You have to first be the one that’s leading it. You’re fully comfortable with the business before you kind of start staffing it like that. So for me, it was knowing also my skill sets. I didn’t love a heavy sales side of it. Okay, I’m going to stay away from that a little bit. Deadlines, things like that were definitely red flags.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:28] So now when you got involved with Buzz, a franchise brand, and they had a brand that you were excited about, and then then then there were complementary brands that seemingly were also part of the evolution of your business. Did that once you were comfortable there? Was that pretty much it? Like now I’m part of the family. Now I’m going to kind of let’s bring as much value out of this relationship as we possibly can.
Nora Farhat: [00:16:56] So it’s interesting. So for everybody kind of listening. So Buzz owns British Swim School. Buzz Brands franchising, owns British Swim School, and they own pool scouts, both franchises that I have. When I originally signed with British Swim School, it was not owned by Buzz. It was owned by Rita Goldberg, who had developed the program. So that’s what I bought into. And then a few years later, that was sold off to Buzz, and that was a new corporate office kind of getting to know their style, what they do. Well, by the time I was looking for the pool business, it wasn’t specifically that I was like, Oh, I’m already in the Buss family. Let me see what they have. It was actually what I liked about it. It was actually the opposite. It was, Hey, we think that there’s a real need here. Who are the companies that do this best? And then through that due diligence is how I kind of looked back around. And obviously I knew Buzz. I knew what they brought to the table. I knew their strong marketing backgrounds. So those things were definitely attractive, but it was not what ultimately made my decision. So it was really more it was just, you’ve got to do your own due diligence and then you can kind of go with maybe what you know as well, right? So it kind of helped definitely played into making my decision, but it wasn’t the only factor. We looked at other companies that provided the same service we were looking for, but we did not feel maybe as confident or, you know, we didn’t necessarily I didn’t see it was maybe the right fit. So and sometimes there is no wrong answer. There’s just what is the right answer for you at that moment? And that was kind of that decision to stay within the Buzz family and do pool scouts.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:34] Now for you personally, now that you have experience in multiple brands and in multiple industries, really, have you thought of, hey, why don’t I do the a brand of some problem that I’d like solved and start your own franchise?
Nora Farhat: [00:18:52] You know, I can’t say I’ve never thought of it. I have thought of everything I have even you know, I think it’s a natural progression. I think as you grow, as you open businesses, as you know what it takes to run a business, I think the more you more options you have on the table. So definitely that’s something that I have thought of, I have considered. But right now I know that that’s not where I’m at. It’s not necessarily my next step today. I, I really love kind of taking concepts, bringing them to my community. That is a big part of how I built my portfolio. So I think I really like that route right now. But could that change? Absolutely. I think that experience is priceless. And I think a lot of what I’ve gained with multiple brands and working with franchises is that very diverse experience of being able to know. I know the difference between the different levels of support and what support I need and how to best kind of get that. So is it on the table? Hopefully in the future? Absolutely nothing is off the table. But for today, right now, you know, I love kind of where I’m at. I love being able to bring some of these brands and into areas that they’re not currently operating. That’s also very exciting for me.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:04] So what do you need more of right now? How can we help?
Nora Farhat: [00:20:08] What do I need? Famous last words. I think most business owners would say more staffing, but other than that, I think it really just comes down to. I think that the community as a whole, I think business owners, you know, there’s so much out there, there’s so much in the market, there’s so much about, you know, customer surveys and employee satisfaction. I think there’s so much mixed things out there. I think like everybody, I think ultimately is, you know, you want brand recognition. You want to make sure that you’re doing the best that you can. And I think that there is already some great services out there that provide a lot of information. But content is key. I always say to people, especially other business owners, speak openly and speak honestly of your experiences. I’ve spoken to business people that only highlight the best of the best, and then I’m sitting back here at night going, Oh, how is it everybody else figured this out? But I haven’t, you know, or I’d face a certain challenge and I’d be like, What is happening? But the truth is that’s not unique to me.
Nora Farhat: [00:21:13] So I think that the number one thing our industry needs is just more honest conversations, you know, putting it more out there, right. What is actually that growth? What did it take for you to build that? There is no black and white kind of answer for everything. I want the gray. I love, you know, kind of more of those personal stories and people saying, hey, this really does take seven days a week. This takes a lot of my time. You know, balance is kind of nonexistent. I left a a corporate job, but I’m also working 100 hours a week now. I bought a lot with that. Right. I got flexibility, income. I’m controlling my revenue and my income. There’s so many positives, but there’s also kind of that hard side of it that I think sometimes people glaze over, especially people that have been in the industry. And I think it’s okay to have both conversations because I think people should know also what they’re what they’re working with and how to get that motivation to kind of keep moving forward.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:11] Yeah, I, I hear that a lot. Like a lot of times, especially in the media and especially on social media, you’re just seeing kind of the highlight reel and you’re not seeing kind of the day to day. And a lot of people are hungry for that good, the bad, the ugly. So I know what I’m getting myself into. It’s not something that you’re necessarily dissuading me from doing something. You’re just telling me what to expect so that when something unusual or seemingly unusual is happening, I realize it’s not unusual. This is just part of the journey.
Nora Farhat: [00:22:44] Absolutely. And honestly, I find it kind of encouraging. I don’t see it as a negative. I don’t see if I tell somebody, you’re going to work a lot of hours, that’s not negative. That’s your baby. That’s your business. You want to hustle at your business, you know? But I see it as just a little bit more transparency. There’s many times in my own journey where I didn’t know what that next step was. I didn’t know where to go from there. Right. It was almost like I had to keep taking small steps and allowing it to keep developing. And there was many times, I think, within my own journey in full transparency, where I was like, Oh, this is just not going to work. This is not right. This is not working. And then it was like, wait, wait, wait, step back. Now let’s solve the problem. You know, I have to also kind of go through that. So for me, when I hear of a struggle, it isn’t necessarily like, Oh, see, it’s all bad. No, not at all. It’s kind of encouraging. It’s kind of like, Oh, okay, they went through it and that means we’re going through it and that means we got to just keep moving forward. And I think that that’s such an important part of the entrepreneurial kind of process, is just figuring that out too, like, hey, not every day is great, but you’re going to figure it out and just kind of look at it as one thing at a time, right? Don’t get overwhelmed with the details.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:58] Yeah. One of my favorite books is by a guy named Ryan Holladay who wrote The obstacle is the way that obstacles aren’t there to just mess you up. They’re just part of the journey. And part of the journey sometimes means going around the obstacle, over the obstacle through the obstacle. That’s just part of the journey. It’s not there to sabotage you or to stop you from getting where you want to go. It’s just there. So just deal with it.
Nora Farhat: [00:24:24] Absolutely. That is the best way you could have said it. Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:28] So if somebody wants to connect with you or learn more about your brand or brands, what is the best coordinates?
Nora Farhat: [00:24:35] Absolutely. You can find me at Nora Farhat pretty much on any platform that could be LinkedIn or you can find me on Instagram and it’s just Nora and Ray and my last name, Farhat F r h a t. So that’s pretty much the best way to kind of link up with me. Or you can find us on British Fool.com, you can look up our Detroit locations. We’re in the Michigan market or pull scouts or magnesium. You look us up, you’ll definitely find us.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:02] Well, congratulations on all the success. And thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Nora Farhat: [00:25:09] Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:11] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.