FROM HERE TO THE WORLD: Top 10 franchises to originate from the Eastern Cape

BY GRAEME LUND - JULY 24, 2014

Franchising is a huge industry and one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy.  Basically, franchising enables entrepreneurs to sell their successful business models to other investors - be it individuals or companies.

While the failure rate for new business ventures is horrifically bad, franchises have often enjoyed a 90% success rate making them viable business options for the risk-averse investor and financiers.

To give a picture of the sector locally, the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) has compiled a list of 681 local franchises. Of this, only 160 are FASA members. This compilation is by no means complete and one can expect many more franchises to exist.

As one would expect, most of the franchises on the FASA list are based in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal. The Eastern Cape is home to a mere three FASA members with another three being on their list of non-members.

Business Link Magazine identified another five franchises for our ranking giving the Eastern Cape a total of 11 franchises that are based or originated in this province. It has to be said that the Eastern Cape seems to struggle with successful business models.

Below is a list of the top ten Eastern Cape franchises. They have been ranked on their number of franchises and received extra weight if they have franchised nationally.

No 1 Spec-Savers

Spec-Savers was started in 1993 by Brian Dowley in Port Elizabeth and has since grown to a staggering 246 stores countrywide. The franchise has since expanded into Africa with stores in Namibia and Lesotho.

Starting as an optometrist in Uitenhage in 1974, he had established 26 practices by 1978 under the name Foresight, a name that applies to Brian just as appropriately as his optometry business.

It was at this time, when franchising was still a relatively new concept, that he sought to franchise his clearly successful business model.  Despite the strict rules laid down by the Health Professionals Council (HPC) of South Africa, he still developed one of the most successful brands in the country.

In 2003, after years of legal proceedings, Brian took on the HPC in the High Court over their unrealistic and outdated restrictions.  Needless to say, Brian won – with costs.

When asked why he has been so successful, Brian replied “I have always tested the norm and changed paradigms. I believe that if I can get a concept to be successful it will make money.” 

In the past 21 years, Brian has continued to be innovative and today Spec-Savers is at the cutting edge of the retail industry. They offer on-line purchases, an App that allows you to try on any one of their wide range of spectacle or sunglasses without entering a store and a fingerprint identification system that allows any Spec-Savers store to identify you immediately, confirm your prescription and issue you with replacement spectacles or contact lenses without having to communicate with your original Spec-Savers optometrist.

As an individual, Brian is approachable, humble and well-liked by his staff. His innovation extends to his human resources policies, corporate social investment and environmental awareness.

Consequently, Spec-Savers is the leading optometry group in South Africa today and one of the most well-known brands in the country. There are few shopping malls without a Spec-Savers and a town without one of these franchises can fairly be judged to be small and insignificant.

While their sponsorship of Ironman SA, until recently, entrenched their brand, it is as the new official optical supplier to Cricket South Africa that they will enjoy added visibility (pun intended).

Spec-Savers is, by a very long way, the most successful franchise to originate from the Eastern Cape and one of the few business from this province to have successfully expanded into the rest of the country and beyond its borders.

Statistic: Franchises 246+   

Member of FASA: Yes                      

National: Yes  

International: Yes

 No 2  Dulce

The first Dulce retail store opened in Rink Street in Port Elizabeth in 1984, and because of its success, it saw its first franchisee opening doors in 1987. Over the years the franchisor ownership has changed a number of times. 

In the mid-2000s Dulce sought to expand internationally, particularly into the Persian Gulf area.  This expansions is now gaining momentum to the extent that Dulce has been divided into two parts – the South African and SADC part and the International part.

Former Springbok Rugby player, Kobus Wiese is the South African MD and Mike Pullen the international MD. With over 40 Dulce Cafés worldwide Dulce is third on our list.

Statistic: Franchises 40+  

Member of FASA: Yes          

National: Yes  

International: Yes

 No 3  Mend-a-Bath

With a total of 40 franchises worldwide, Mend-a-Bath is second on our list. Started in 1976 by Ivor Benn, Mend-a-Bath was the first business from the province to franchise itself.

Dave Collins, the current CEO of the franchise, says that all available franchisees in South Africa are in operation and that they are now selling Master Franchises per country around the globe. 

Mend-a-Bath is currently the most successful sanitary-ware resurfacing network in South Africa and their products carry a five-year guarantee. Ivor passed away some years back, but thanks to his great vision and successful business model, Mend-a-Bath continues to grow.

Statistic: Franchises 40+ 

 Member of FASA: No

National: Yes  

International: Yes

 No 4 MSC Business College

MSC Business College has been around for 23 years and was started by Cobus Potgieter who remains the Managing Director to this day. This is also the only franchise in the Eastern Cape not to originate from Port Elizabeth.

To date, 20 MSC Business College campuses are dotted throughout South Africa. Having accreditation from various SETAs and offering accredited business courses for all manner of subjects on a full/part-time basis, MSC Business College has developed a successful model in an industry with plenty of red tape.

Education is key to our country’s future and the demand for the courses offered by MSC College is unlimited.

 Statistic: Franchises 20   

Member of FASA: Yes          

National: Yes  

International: No

 No 5 Brochure Management

Although Brochure Management was established in 1995 in Cape Town its head office today is in Port Elizabeth. Santa Zeiss, who is the current owner, initially started off as a franchisee before buying the franchise ownership from the previous owners.

Brochure Management owns hundreds of display boards positioned in key locations around the country.  Each board has brochure holders stocked with marketing material from clients that wish to make use of these display areas.  Brochure Management refills these boards on a regular basis.  Clients receive detailed information on their distribution, movement and replenishment of their brochure at the selected display sites

Franchisees are allocated specific geographic areas to manage and their can only be a limited number of franchisees in South Africa.

Statistic: Franchises 19  

Member of FASA: No

National: Yes  

International: No

 No 6 Vovo Telo

Matt Repton opened the first Vovo Telo in Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth in 2006. Artisan baking formed the core of Vovo Telo and in the beginning, as the smells permeated the street, people would stop by and buy bread, many of them eating it on the stoep.

Seeing the opportunity, Matt and his team set out tables for their customers and it was not long before the Vovo Telo we know and love is what it is today.

A few years ago Famous Brands, the owners of Wimpy and Steers, bought franchise rights from Matt and more Vovo Telo stores have been opening countrywide ever since. Expect to see this franchise move up the charts.

Statistic: Franchises 13   

Member of FASA: No

National: Yes  

International: No

 No 7 Cousins DVD

Opened a few years back by the most famous cousin in the country, Barry Hilton, Cousins DVD has a few rather unique concepts. All DVD’s can be reviewed, ordered and paid on-line allowing customers to make their choice in the comfort of their home before venturing to the store for a quick take-out.

With Cousins DVD, you need not waste the journey because the movie you REALLY want to watch is out and you don’t need to phone home for confirmation or have your unruly kids make inappropriate decisions.

Thanks to its unique take on this industry and effective business model, Cousins DVD has carved its way into a very competitive industry.

Statistic: Franchises 8   

Member of FASA: No

National: Yes  

International: No

 No 8 Wedding and Function magazine

The first Wedding and Function magazine was published in Port Elizabeth in 2003 by Ricochet Publishing, who also happen to own Business Link Magazine.

Today, Wedding and Function magazine is the largest wedding publication in the country printing over 500 000 magazines annually. Their accompanying website and App are also the most-well used in their industry.

With 7 franchises countrywide Wedding and Function magazine is the only publishing franchise in the country.

Statistic: Franchises 7   

Member of FASA: No

National: Yes  

International: No

 No 9 Dustless Floor Sanding

The Dustless Floor Sanding Co. was started by Eddie Koning in Port Elizabeth a couple of years ago and it offers, well, dustless floor sanding. This is may sound rather simple but in an industry that is notoriously dusty, this is a key selling point. The franchise is inexpensive, easy to launch and can be run from home.

Dustless Floor Sanding can be found in all the major regions of South Africa and we can expect to see this franchise expand during the year.

This is the last of our franchises that have gone national and, although other franchises have more franchisees, we have ranked the national franchises higher.

Statistic: Franchises 7   

Member of FASA: No

National: Yes  

International: No

 No 10 Cassie’s

Cassie’s Pies first opened their doors in 1991 at 52 Sutton Road, Sidwell, Port Elizabeth by brothers Chris and Andre Castelein.

At present there are 12 Cassie’s take away shops throughout Nelson Mandela Bay. Although they were initially known for their excellent pies their menu, today is a lot more varied and they have branched out into the catering business too.

Over the years their branding and shop designs have been upgraded. Andre Castelein remains the current Managing Director. We at Business Link Magazine believe that Cassie’s should be branching out nationally.

Statistic: Franchises 12 

 Member of FASA: No           

National: No   

International: No